Foreign Policy: Any Given Friday

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A combo of reproduction pictures taken on February 2, 2012 in the Lebanese capital Beirut shows portraits of people allegedly killed during the 1982 Hama massacre on a Facebook page entitled "Hama" described as a page run by independent citizens of the central Syrian city. i i

A combo of reproduction pictures taken on February 2, 2012 in the Lebanese capital Beirut shows portraits of people allegedly killed during the 1982 Hama massacre on a Facebook page entitled "Hama" described as a page run by independent citizens of the central Syrian city. Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
A combo of reproduction pictures taken on February 2, 2012 in the Lebanese capital Beirut shows portraits of people allegedly killed during the 1982 Hama massacre on a Facebook page entitled "Hama" described as a page run by independent citizens of the central Syrian city.

A combo of reproduction pictures taken on February 2, 2012 in the Lebanese capital Beirut shows portraits of people allegedly killed during the 1982 Hama massacre on a Facebook page entitled "Hama" described as a page run by independent citizens of the central Syrian city.

Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Amal Hanano is a pseudonym for a Syrian-American writer. She has written extensively about the Syrian Revolution in Jadaliyya and the National.

A woman stands in the middle of a busy Damascus street. Yellow cabs honk and weave around her. Her red dress, splattered with white paint, flows in the wind along with a red fabric banner held up above her head like a translucent shield. A group of people gathers on the sidewalk to observe as she turns side to side, for all to see. As we watch them watching her through our computer screens, we hear a new sound — not a familiar chant of the revolution, but loud claps of extended applause. When she faces the camera, we finally read her words: "Stop the killing. We want to build a country for all Syrians."

Her name is Rima Dali, and she stood in protest alone, armed with a red scarf and a powerful message, in front of the Syrian Parliament on April 8. She would be detained for two days for her dissent.

Dali's action, while brave, would have been easy to disregard as a fleeting incident if it hadn't happened again, a few days later, in front of the Palace of Justice. And again a few days after that, when more people occupied Dali's place and even more onlookers clapped from the sidewalk.

Activists like Dali, who had a strong presence at the beginning of the uprising, are trying to rewind Syria's clock to the early months of the revolution, when the message of selmiyeh — peaceful — dominated the streets. During the past two weeks, despite the regime's relentless violence, Syria protested like it was 2011 again.

During the 10-day lull between the announcement of U.N. and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's six-point plan for a ceasefire and its implementation on April 10, violence sharply escalated in Syria — as it usually does before every international ultimatum directed at President Bashar al-Assad. But since then, while shelling and government attacks have continued in certain flashpoints, the daily death toll has decreased significantly. Within opposition circles, another sentiment was brewing even before the ceasefire: a realization that it's time to reclaim the revolution in order to reclaim the country.

For months, the civic and social activism of these peaceful protesters have been rendered obsolete next to the physical heroics of the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) military operations against the regime's brutality. Peaceful protests in city squares not only seemed impossible, but utterly useless against tanks, shells, and snipers. As armed resistance took its place within the revolution, the nonviolent activists slowly became passive pacifists. In recent days, however, that has changed.

This sea shift has been evident in the change in tenor of the names for the Friday protests. Every week, anti-Assad activists take to the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page where, every Wednesday, they vote on the name of the upcoming day of protest. With more than 444,000 "likes," the page is one of the most popular online hubs of the revolution. In fact, people use the number of common "friends" they have with the page as a badge of honor: If you are pro-revolution and only a few out of your hundreds of friends have "liked" the page, it means you need to find new friends.

On April 6 — Good Friday — the chosen (and very awkward) name for the weekly day of uprising was rooted in Islamic history: It was the Friday of "He who has equipped a fighter has himself fought."

The name was intended as a call for Arab countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia to fulfill their religious duty and arm Syria's opposition. In stark contrast, last year on Good Friday, the Friday was named just that: al-Jumaa al-Azimeh, to express the unity of the Syrian people above divisive sectarianism. This time around, many asked: Why couldn't the same name have been repeated again this year? But the long-winded name had won — by Facebook's version of democracy.

Continued At Foreign Policy

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