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SYRIA: Viral protest songs take on government over crackdown

April 5, 2011 |  1:24 pm

Picture 18 "Statement number one / the syrian people will not be humiliated / statement number one / we sure won't stay like this / statement number one / from the Houran comes good news / statement number one / the syrian people are revolting..."

The lyrics to the latest underground anthem of the Syrian uprising are bolder than most of the chants heard so far in the streets, and could help galvanize a movement that has spread in fits and starts outside the small rural town of Deraa where it began.

"Biyan raqam wahid" or "statement number one" was released online anonymously, and for good reason. The song appears to call for outright revolution and takes on the government over corruption, sectarian fear-mongering and violent repression, accusations that could easily land the artists in jail. (Warning, there is some graphic, violent imagery in the video.)

"We live in silence/ It's been years / how long do we have to stay like this--dead / they are always promising reform and freedom / but it seems there is no will / and opinions are banned" it begins, and later: "we have never been against any sect / we are hand in hand against the fake authority."

"If you ask the blind man he'll tell you it's all clear to the eye / By mind and by force we want to take everything / and whoever doesn't like it can take a hike / you exterminated Hama as if it were nothing / today our rights are in our hands and we will not forgive / you sold the Golan for cheap / you sabotaged the cause and defiled it / history shows that no oppressor ever lasted / We will realize our dream of freedom even if it costs blood / The government is destined to fall / the king either flees or is buried"

So far, the movement has been characterized by vague calls for a general strike rather than a mass convergence on the capital Damascus, the geographical seat of power.

Ongoing demonstrations in places as disparate as Douma, Latakia, Deraa and other areas have been buoyed in part by a sense of momentum made possible by satellite news and the Internet, which have created a sort of virtual Tahrir Square, the area in downtown Cairo that was transformed by anti-government protesters into the base camp and cultural heart of the Egyptian uprising.

In the absence of a physical center for the protest movement in Syria, lists of dead and missing, animated clips and songs are passed discreetly online, helping bolster spirits ahead of Friday prayers, which have become a weekly rallying point for anti-government demonstrations.

Another song by the Syrian activist and musical icon Samih Choucair, which was posted on YouTube just over a week ago and has already garnered more than 100,000 views, and speaks to many of the same themes of oppression and violence as "statement number one."

According to the text of the video, the song, "ya heif" (loosely translated: for shame) is dedicated to Deraa, where scores have been killed and injured.

For shame / shooting defenseless people / how can you arrest young children? / How? And you are a son of my country / yet you kill my children / your back is to the enemy while you attack me with the sword / this is what is happening, for shame, in Deraa, oh mother, for shame.

--Los Angeles Times

Video: "For shame" was written by Syrian activist and musical icon Samih Choucair for Deraa. Credit: YouTube

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