- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Foreign Policy is thrilled to host its annual Global Thinkers gala tonight, which will honor many of the activists and political leaders who made this year’s revolts in the Arab world possible. Global Thinker Razan Zaitouneh, a human rights activist who was selected for her indispensable work bringing the Syrian regime’s atrocities to light, recorded a video message for the occasion that FP will play at the event. Zaitouneh addressed FP‘s readers from Damascus, where she currently lives in hiding.
Zaitouneh emphasized the largely peaceful nature of the Syrian revolution, and outlined the steps that the international community could take to help end of the bloodshed — including severing military and financial ties with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, pushing for a U.N. observer mission to Syria, and launching legal action against top Syrian officials.
The news out of Syria is growing steadily more dismal. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Dec. 1 that the country was in a state of civil war, and that the death toll was "much more" than the official U.N. estimate of 4,000. Every day brings reports of new army defections, and civilian casualties that regularly run into the dozens. If Syria is to fulfill the hopes of the Arab Spring, it’s going to need the world’s help – and more voices like Zaitouneh’s.
Her remarks are transcribed below:
Thank you for giving me this chance to send this message from my beloved city of Damascus. Eight months of our revolution for freedom and justice has passed. More than 4,500 people got killed by the Syrian regime, and tens of thousands got arrested and disappeared.
Many people are wondering why Syrians are sacrificing their lives, and bear all that pain and blood for more than eight months. I would say simply because we have been living such pain for almost half a decade, deprived of our simplest rights and controlled by fear and despair. We face one of the most brutal regimes in the region and the world, mostly with peaceful protests, songs of freedom – chanting for a new Syria and a new future. Discovering for the first time within decades our voices and personalities, and how it feels to bring down walls of fear as we stand for our beliefs.
I’m very proud to be Syrian, and to be part of these historical days, and to feel all that greatness inside my people – who show amazing greatness and faith. We highly appreciate all the help and dedication of those who supported us in any way around the world — from NGOs, to civil society and media, to individuals.
But yet, it is very important to take more actions to help support stopping the bloodshed in Syria. Like cutting all kinds of military and financial support for this regime, put more pressure to have a U.N. Security Council resolution that denounces the violence against civilians, and sending observers to protect civilians, to undertake legal actions against key figures in the regime to hold those who are responsible for torture and killing accountable in front of the International Criminal Court. Such actions will help the Syrian people win their battle in a shorter time, with less victims and suffering.
Thank you to Foreign Policy magazine for choosing me among the top thinkers of this year. We’ve learned that we can all live in a better world if we all stand together and demand dignity and freedom for each and every individual.