Homs, which has suffered more than any other city during the course of the Syrian revolution, presented its residents with even more of its greatness, including a true revolutionary culture. As death enveloped the city, the band "Freedom Generation" emerged.
The band is composed of 23 young men in their 20s from various parts of Homs, whose goals are made clear in one of their songs: “Freedom is our main demand, unwavering freedom throughout the land.”
Field activism, and cultural activism too
They set about the city with their songs, organizing street activities, writing banners and creating graphics. They keep demonstrators in line, enthusing them through songs of their own creation. But the band’s activities do not stop there, for its members have also sought to politically educate the city’s residents, even teaching them about proper emergency procedures.
Band member Ahmad explained its goal as “to make the world see, and make the regime’s leaders realize, that we are not ignorant and we know what we want. They try to portray us as ignorant, but all we lack as Syrians is freedom and dignity. We are also aware of all the conspiracies being woven against the revolution, and are aware of the plots being concocted in the corridors of Syrian and world intelligence agencies against the Syrian people, their revolution and the Arab Spring as a whole.”
The band began using a local school for rehearsals. One day, they entered the school’s premises to rehearse and decided that they would like to use the school as their headquarters, having spent far too many days going from one band member’s house to another or loitering in the street. Eventually they talked to the headmaster, who happily accommodated them, saying, “I would be grateful to you, because the school, which has been closed for a long time, will be used by young people who know exactly what a city like Homs needs. It will be used by people who possess the courage to stand up to the killing machine that has taught the city’s inhabitants, including its youth, the same lesson of freedom.”
The band’s activities do not end there; they also have worked to document cases of the wounded, martyred and destitute families, as well as violations perpetrated by the regime. Furthermore, they have documented the living conditions of families in the villages of Khalidiya, Bayada and Koussour. A band member identified as A. H. described these activities, saying, “It took us a long time to identify the homes of affected families in these areas; we tracked every house down and now know what they need. We also recorded all of the aid we distributed. This process took a long time not only due to the sheer number of families, but also because of the amount of wanton shelling that hit these areas.”
Life at the mercy of bombs
During lulls in the bombing, the band would expend their energies and talents throughout the city, sowing the idea of freedom. Using the assistance they received, they would prepare their costumes, which carried their name, and then distribute this aid to needy families, after having documented their cases. This aid consisted of medical and food supplies, in addition to heating oil or gas.
These young people, who dedicated themselves and their lives to the city and the dignity of the revolution, received help from no one. They often had to contribute their own money to the band’s fund, which they used in times of need to help others. At a time when Homs could have used any form of help, members of the Syrian National Council (SNC) expressed their intention to give them aid on one small condition: that they attach the SNC logo to their clothes and banners. The youth adamantly refused this condition, preferring to rely instead on their own funds and to keep their old clothes, along with a semblance of dignity.
A.H. asks, “Why did the SNC come to Homs regarding this matter, and why at this critical time? They should have known that we only represent Homs’ youth, and as such, have garnered more experience than others. We have seen other organizations, and talked to the media, but we now find ourselves in the eye of the revolutionary storm. They could have approached us with a little more respect, and not used codes and vague references. We are aware that our resources are small, but we cannot endorse anyone whose name was associated with oppression — even if it were temporary — and we will continue to survive with the little that we have.”
The band members were friends of Abdelbasset Sarout, who, whenever needed, would come to help organize and take part in demonstrations. They are interested in writing songs and performing them at protests. They also have children in mind and have authored a children’s play entitled “The Mysterious Jungle,” which characterized Syria’s plight as “a country transformed into a jungle for the sake of the al-Assad family.”
The play was performed in many parts of Homs, and it ends with the Assad family fleeing from the jungle. However, those involved in the play’s production did not fare well. The director was wounded shortly after one of the shows, as was Muzher Tayara, the cameraman, while the group’s media officer was killed in the Khalidiya neighborhood massacre.
These are young people who have devoted their lives to a revolution that has given them the name “Freedom Generation,” and who have never lost enthusiasm for their endeavors despite all the killing. They remain true to their principles and continue to educate children about “the path that Syria’s revolution is on,” regardless of the child’s identity or origin. These youth remain loyal to their group, despite the spread of indiscriminate death throughout Homs.