Raed Fares' protest placards and art helped project the cause of the Syrian revolutionaries to the world. He was murdered last week after escaping several attempts on his life since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011.

In Syria, it has become the norm that good people leave this world far too early.

On Friday, November 23, 2018, Syrian activists Raed Fares and Hamoud Juneid were shot dead from a moving vehicle in Kafr Nabl (Kafranbel), in the Idlib countryside. Far from being dangerous violent criminals, the two men were on their way home from Friday prayer .

The sad reality for Syria’s revolutionaries is that their assassination is just the newest tragedy to add to a long list of atrocities in Syria. Their killers are the enemies of thought who choose as their targets every free voice that dared to speak out against injustice, brutality and corruption in Syria.

Since 2011 Fares had repeatedly survived many attempts on his life as a prominent figure in the Syrian revolution. The messages being carried on the protest banners in Idlib on the day of his assassination may have appeared as nothing more than a sad funeral procession, but even as the people who loved him mourn, they will continue to be inspired by his memory, his passion for their cause and the example he set for them.

All who were fortunate enough to know Fares, Syrians and non-Syrians alike,  said that his emotional side, his big heart, his sense of humour and charming smile were simply reflections of his inner purity and positive energy.

Fares expressed his creativity through videos, skits and protest placards as a means to send his message to the world. Like many Syrians who enthusiastically joined the revolution in 2011, Fares was initially inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings to begin organising weekly protests against the brutal Assad regime, even though he had no previous experience in politics or revolutionary activism. 

In spite of his previous reluctance to engage in politics, Fares never forgot his childhood memory of watching an Assad security agent brutally murder one of his family’s neighbours. He also remembered the terrified people who had fled to his hometown of Kafranbel after the brutal massacre ordered by the Assad’s father in early 1982, when regime forces were sent to Hama to root out Islamists who had formed their political party to oppose the brutality and corruption of Hafez al Assad’s dictatorial government.

When the uprising broke out in 2011, Fares immediately jumped in with both feet. Working as a real estate agent at the time, Fares had dropped out of medical school many years earlier to study English and put his language skills to work creating English banners for the Friday protests that have been held weekly in Kafranbel since the revolution began. 

The legendary English banners he helped design did much to draw the world’s attention to the plight of those under siege in Syria and were widely shared on social media.

While speaking in a past interview about the infamous art projects he helped to create, Fares said at the time: “The biggest project we have going is our radio station, called Radio Fresh FM. We broadcast 24 hours a day with different kinds of programming – news updates, women’s programming, children’s shows, breaking news updates and warnings about nearby airstrikes or incoming airstrikes. We warn civilians when there are regime or Russian helicopters flying in the sky. We let people know which direction they’re headed.”

At the time, Fares said their station was one of the most listened to in all of Syria, with more than 400,000 listeners. He added that they also had three affiliated magazines and a training centre for media activists, journalists and presenters that were subsidiary projects facilitated by the radio station. 

Sadly, attacks on the station eventually led to its closure, effectively silencing the positive voice it had become in the midst of the chaos being lived in by those who remained in Syria.

Unlike Syria’s dictatorial regime, and the extremist groups it encouraged, Fares had high regard for the role of women in Syria. 

“Women have the most critical role in rebuilding Syria and raising the next generation of Syrians – that’s the idea behind the project,” he often said.

When asked to define his motivation for facilitating their many projects, Fares had said, “The goal is to build a homeland. Everybody knows that we live on a farm owned by Assad’s family. Our goal is to destroy that farm and build a homeland in which Syrians can truly live.”

“Assad is responsible for all of the killing, and all of the terror in Syria”, he repeatedly noted.

Well known for his ability to use humour in his art, Fares also produced a widely viewed satirical video in 2013 titled “Kafranbel: the Syrian revolution in 3 minutes” and became one of the Syrian revolution’s most recognised spokespersons and advocates for free Syrians who remained in their homeland.

Both Juneid and Fares were members of a prominent team of nonviolent activists that included Khaled Issa, the media activist who was also assassinated in Idlib in 2016.

Even as the momentum of the revolution has waned, Syria’s revolutionary heroes continue to perish one after the other along with a steady flow of civilians and internally displaced refugees.

In spite of the continued threat, as well as because of the great sacrifices that have already been made, Syrians still committed to the original goals of freedom and dignity will continue their struggle even in the wake of this latest tragedy.

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