About Daraya—a town of fierce hope, whose betrayal is a lesson we must learn from.
Daraya has been a town of fierce hope and inspiration for four years, embodying the values of the Syrian revolution.
In 2011 the people of Daraya took to the streets to demand democracy and freedom from the oppressive dictatorship of Assad. In their hands they carried flowers, yet their peaceful demands were met with bullets. In late 2012 the Assad regime placed Daraya under siege.
For four years the town has defied brutal repression to establish a democratic, pluralist community, upholding the values of the revolution. The town has been democratically governed by an elected local council, who ran services including education, agricultural cultivation, a field hospital, and a public kitchen. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel fighters in Daraya were also subject to the control of this elected body. Freedom of expression has flourished, with dozens of radio stations and free newspapers discussing democracy, non violence and women’s rights. This in a country where voices have long been silenced, through the threat of torture, rape and arbitrary detention.
Daraya exposes the myths that have been cultivated about Syria, in the media and political spheres, that there is no alternative between dictatorship or DAESH.
The betrayal of Daraya by the international community is a potent symbol of the betrayal of the revolution and the lack of international will to do anything concrete to protect civilians.
Time and again the international community has failed to respond to the pleas of the people of Daraya for support and protection:
In late 2011 peace activist Ghiyath Matar was tortured to death by the regime for giving flowers and water to government soldiers. His detention received international attention, his funeral was attended by the US ambassador among others, yet no action was taken to save him and other political prisoners.
On 20-25 of August 2012, over 500 citizens of Daraya, men, women and children as young as eight were murdered in cold blood by Assad regime’s troops and pro regime militias. This was widely reported in the international press but the international community chose not to investigate this genocidal act. (1)
UN plans to deliver humanitarian aid have never been backed by real pressure on the regime, despite the existence of several UN Security Council resolutions demanding that they allow entry. This has amounted to collusion with the Assad regime's nationwide ‘kneel or starve’ strategy. The sole delivery of food from agencies to reach Daraya arrived on June 9 this year. It lasted less than one month and no further deliveries were made. This is how, although just ten miles from UN warehouses, residents of Daraya lived on the brink of starvation, subsisting on one meal a day. Grass soup became a common meal for the children of Daraya.
International measures to save Daraya from its suffering were not taken. The UK cross party call coordinated by the late Jo Cox MP for no bombing zones and humanitarian aid-drops by the RAF to besieged civilians failed, as it was not supported by the leadership of the main UK parties.
Daraya like other rebel held areas has been relentlessly bombed by the Assad regime and its Russian allies, with over 9000 barrel bombs dropped indiscriminately on the town. August 2016 saw the napalming of the town’s last hospital. The women of Daraya repeatedly made public calls for international protection, most recently on the 23 August. Once again their request went unheard. (2)
Daraya is not just a place, the values and ideas that it embodied can not be killed.
Daraya was a town where democracy and pluralism flourished against all the odds. As the fighters and civilians have left, forced out by Assad’s regime, the values and ideas of the revolution and the experience of those that lived them will endure. They are carried with them and by all who choose to support the values of the Syrian Revolution, of democracy, peace and freedom of expression for all Syrians.
Peace and Justice for Syria
Rethink Rebuild Society
Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Syrian Platform for Peace
Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire
Syria Solidarity UK
Syrian Welsh Society