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Social Issues

Londoners help Syrian protesters

A Digital Portfolio
February 28, 2012
Londoners help Syrian protesters
By arianawardak

Syrians in London are attempting to arm their countrymen in their uprising against Bashar Al-Assad’s 40-year regime with an unusual type of weapon – smartphones.

In a talk held this month at Western University, Osama Kadi, president of the Syrian Canadian Council, said smartphones are being sent to Syria in an effort to foster citizen journalism there.

“Syria is the ideal example of citizen journalism,” Kadi said.

Wayne MacPhail, who teaches online journalism at Western University, says citizen journalism does not just provide news, it also acts as a bridge between people.

“It’s really easy if you don’t hear the voices of people who are concerned about violence in their own country to label everybody who has an Arab name as a terrorist,” said MacPhail. “It’s really hard to do that when you’re reading tweets from people who are real people and who are fighting back.”

“(Citizen journalism) increases our circle of humanity,” added MacPhail.

Earlier this month, Kadi hosted a dinner at the London Muslim Mosque, which raised over $90,000 to provide food and clothing for Syrian refugees who have fled to the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Mariam Al-Azem, 22, who volunteers as executive director of the council, is one of the 150 or so Syrian-Canadians in London. She feels a personal connection with the refugees because her family sought asylum in Canada almost three decades ago.
Mariam Al-Azem
Photo by Ariana Wardak
Mariam Al-Azem, executive director at the Syrian Canadian Council, is a Syrian-Canadian living in London.

“My family is not allowed to go back under the Assad regime,” said Al-Azem, who was born in London.

Al-Azem, a Western graduate with a double major in political science and business management, says the pictures and videos of demonstrations, taken by Syrians on their smartphones, are then forwarded to news agencies such as Al Jazeera.

“Kudos to the citizen journalists because they are risking everything just so they can show the rest of the world what is happening,” says Al-Azem. “If the government catches them, their relatives can be killed, they can be taken to prison, or be raped.”

Al-Azem says that this will not crush the spirit of the revolutionaries in Syria.

“Social media is letting the people in Syria and outside Syria connect, giving them moral support and letting us see what is happening, keeping us in the loop,” Al-Azem said.

“It’s a way to let the Assad regime know that even if he kills the youth there, there is youth outside Syria that are just as willing to keep this revolution going.”

“The more people Assad kills there, the stronger we feel about getting rid of his regime.”

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About Western Journalism

We're members of the University of Western Ontario's master of arts in journalism program. Our blog represents a common theme in stories through our third term.

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