The faceless voice of Syria’s War
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Kareem Fahim and Hwaida Saad
In a listless border town, the teenager goes unnoticed, one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled the Syrian civil war, and now lives in Jordan, just five miles from home. But this young man carries a burden—maybe an honour, too—that almost no one else shares.
He knows that he and his friends helped start it all. They ignited an uprising.
It began simply, inspired not so much by political activism as by teenage rebellion against authority, and boredom. He watched his cousin spray-paint a school wall in the city of Daraa with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts.
"It's your turn, doctor," the cousin wrote.
In Syria, tens of thousands of people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have fled the country and the war's brutality has made it difficult to recall, the uprisings' beginnings. After the graffiti, the teenager and his friends were arrested and tortured, setting off demonstrations that, looking back, were the first days of the civil war.
Some of the boys from Daraa are refugees, like the teenager in Jordan, now 17, who agreed, along with his father, to speak as long as his name was not revealed. Their reluctance came partly from shame: the boy's father had given him up to the police, to spare a second son, and the teenager informed on three of his friends to try to avoid the torture he suffered anyway.
Given all that has happened, to his family and his country, the teenager said he had no regrets. "Why should I? It's good that it happened," he said.
Speaking of Assad, he said, "We found out who he really is."
It began with the graffiti.
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