Donatella Della Ratta/The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told /القصة السورية كما يجب أن تتلى

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The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told
Donatella Della Ratta 22 September 2014

Why does the media, despite the incredible amount of mediated content created by Syrians since the uprising, increasingly fail to give a voice to Syrian civil society? Meet our new partners ‘SyriaUntold’ – the group that brings the light back onto Syrian stories, and puts them in their natural context.
Looking inside the uprising This article is part of Looking inside the uprising; a joint project between SyriaUntold and openDemocracy.
In the wake of the Syrian uprising, in March 2011, we found ourselves overwhelmed with a treasure trove of user-generated content produced by Syrian citizens trying to give their account of what was happening in Syria. All of a sudden, a massive amount of information, data, videos, stories and pictures, were being shared on the internet mostly by anonymous users; a truly unprecedented phenomenon for a country where independent news reporting had always been a critical issue.
However, this content was, for the most part, out of context. Two factors created this lack of context of post-uprising content.
Firstly, the nature of the platform where the majority of this material was produced and shared, i.e. Facebook. As a closed environment, Facebook allowed only those who were already networked with or somehow related to the content producer to access that same content. Besides this, the Facebook interface did not allow a proper process of curating the content, which would imply translating, tagging and archiving in order to afford easier access.
Secondly, the subjects who had suddenly found themselves capable of producing and sharing content were not professional media makers. They were citizens who exchanged information and status updates while not being fully aware of a news reporting process in the making; which would have then required them to frame this content within a proper historical, geographical, and geopolitical setting in order to make sense of it.
As a group of activists, academics, and journalists working from Syria, on Syria, our primary concern when we launched SyriaUntold in 2012 was to give a context to this ever-circulating user-generated content being produced by Syrians. SyriaUntold would have selected, translated, tagged, archived, and edited grassroots generated media before delivering it to a wider public, both in Arabic and English. Instead of being consumed as isolated, loosely connected pieces of information, these media would have found a proper framework that puts them in their historical, cultural, and geopolitical context. SyriaUntold would also focus on setting up a proper archiving system for this material. The never-ending circulation of content over social networking sites results in the fragmentation and dispersal of this valuable material. A proper archiving system, together with robust context building, can be used to overcome the problems that arise within a web 2.0 environment.
Therefore, after several months of animated discussions held both on Skype and through face-to-face meetings, we decided that we would focus our work on curating a specific part of this user-generated content, the part that goes largely “untold”. We had already reached the stage where the Syrian uprising was narrated in military-terms only, whether focusing on the regime’s side, or on the armed opposition. The world, and the media, both in Arabic and in English, quickly forgot the “civil” nature of the uprising. Whether individuals or loose groups of activists, the role of those who had started the protest movement in March 2011 by demanding civil rights and calling for the rule of law instead of the absolute power of Syria’s regime and its security services, was being dismissed or marginalised, while the narration of the crisis became both militarized and internationalised, escalating both processes.
Accordingly, SyriaUntold deliberately decided to focus precisely on the marginalised stories generated by these people and movements who are engaged in civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, and who stay committed to civil activism against all the odds. We aim at shedding light on a third subject which is neither the regime nor the armed groups of rebels. We focus on Syrian civil society, key, we believe, to determining Syria’s future. Understanding this category, what it does, what it thinks, how it acts, what it produces and dreams of, cannot be dismissed. SyriaUntold hopes to make an important contribution in releasing sn interpretation of the unfolding events in Syria that is more nuanced and balanced towards civil society, which still constitutes the majority of the population in the country.
In our unique upcoming cooperative project with openDemocracy, entitled ‘Looking inside the uprising’, we hope to add a further step in this process of recognizing the importance of Syrian civil society and its ongoing struggle; and to reach out to a wider audience with original stories from Syria that have so far remained untold.

القصة السورية كما يجب أن تتلى 

الكم الهائل من الأحداث والتجارب الإنسانية التي تختزنها الثورة السورية ولّدت حاجة ملحة لتوثيق هذه الحكايات، لنجد أنفسنا اليوم – ثلاث سنوات ونيف على عمر الانتفاضة- أمام محتوى ضخم أنشأه السوريون علّه يساعد بإيصال صوتهم إلى العالم.
الكم الهائل من الأحداث والتجارب الإنسانية التي تختزنها الثورة السورية ولّدت حاجة ملحة لتوثيق هذه الحكايات، لنجد أنفسنا اليوم – ثلاث سنوات ونيف على عمر الانتفاضة- أمام محتوى ضخم أنشأه السوريون علّه يساعد بإيصال صوتهم إلى العالم.
لذا فإننا نشهد اليوم ظاهرة غير مسبوقة، فسوريا التي لطالما كان الإعلام المستقل وحرية الصحافة فيها أمراً شائكاً، استطاع أبناؤها منذ بداية الانتفاضة في آذار 2011، كسر هذا الحاجز ومشاركة كمية هائلة من المعلومات والفيديوهات والصور على شبكة الانترنت، معظمها تحت أسماء وهمية. لسوء الحظ فإن الجزء الأكبر من هذه المعلومات كانت خارج السياق بسبب عاملين أساسيين:
العامل الأول يتجلى بالمنبر الذي تم من خلاله إنتاج ومشاركة البيانات المرتبطة بالانتفاضة السورية، أي الفيسبوك. فالطبيعة المغلقة لشبكة التواصل الأخيرة، حدت من انتشار المعلومات هذه لتقتصر على مجموعات مبعثرة استطاعت التشبيك مع منشئي ذلك المحتوى، بالإضافة إلى أن الفيسبوك كأي موقع تواصل اجتماعي آخر، لا يلبي الحاجة بأرشفة هذه المعلومات، مما يعني فرزها وترجمتها وحفظها بهدف تسهيل الوصول إليها لاحقاً.
أما العامل الثاني فهو انعدام مهنية المحتوى المتناثر على شبكة الانترنت، ففي أعقاب الانتفاضة، أتيحت الفرصة لجميع السوريين بدون استثناء بإنشاء ومشاركة البيانات، إلا أن المشكلة تكمن بعدم آهلية كثير منهم على تحمل هذه المسؤولية، فمعظم هؤلاء الأفراد هدفهم تبادل المعلومات وليسوا إعلاميين مهنيين. حيث لم يكن السوريون يعلمون حينها أنهم لا يقومون بتبادل الصور والأنباء فحسب، بل يعدون تقارير إخبارية من قلب الحدث، مما كان يستوجب تأطير هذه المعلومات لتتضمن التاريخ والموقع الجغرافي والجيوسياسي.
عند إطلاق موقع SyriaUntold سيريا أنتولد (حكاية ما انحكت) في عام 2012، كان هاجسنا الرئيس كصحفيين وأكاديميين وناشطين نعمل من وعن سوريا، هو توفير سياق لهذا المحتوى الذي يستمر بالتضخم يوماً بعد يوم، فقد بدا جلياً بأن قيمة هذه المعلومات بدأت بالتلاشي بسبب الاستهلاك اليومي لها على مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي. بالتالي وجدنا أننا ومن خلال “سيريا أنتولد” سنتمكن من أرشفة المعلومات التي أنشأتها القاعدة الشعبية السورية وتحريرها وترجمتها ثم نقلها إلى جمهور واسع باللغتين العربية والإنجليزية، حيث يقدم الموقع نظام أرشفة مناسب لهذه المواد، عبر تأطيرها ضمن سياقها الزمني والثقافي والجيوسياسي، لا أن يتم تداولها كأجزاء غير مترابطة من المعلومات.
لهذا السبب، فقد عزمنا بعد عدة أشهر من المناقشات الحيوية أن نقوم بالتركيز على جزء محدد ومخصص من هذا المحتوى، ألا وهو الجزء الذي “ما انحكى”. كنا قد وصلنا بالفعل إلى مرحلة كانت تروى فيها الأحداث الجارية في سوريا بمصطلحات عسكرية فقط، سواء كانت تتحدث عن النظام أم عن المعارضة، كما بدأت وسائل الإعلام الرئيسية بالتركيز بشكل مبالغ على الجوانب الجيواستراتيجية والدولية من النزاع، مهملة كل مطالب السوريين المحقة بالحرية والديمقراطية ومهمشة بدورها كل ما يتعلق بالحراك السلمي، وكأن العالم بأكمله نسي أو تناسى الجانب المدني السلمي من الانتفاضة.
بناء على ذلك فقد قمنا في سيريا أنتولد بالتركيز بشكل متعمد على القصص المهمشة التي ولدت من رحم الانتفاضة من قبل ناشطين منخرطين في العصيان المدني والمقاومة السلمية، والمؤمنين بقدرة النشاط المدني على تغيير نظام الحكم في سوريا رغم كل الصعاب. نحن نحاول الخروج من ثنائية النظام-المعارضة المسلحة عبر تسليط الضوء على طرف ثالث، ألا وهو المجتمع المدني السوري.
نحن نؤمن بضرورة فهم هذه الفئة، فهم أفكارها وهواجسها وطموحاتها فهي اللاعب الأهم في تحديد مصير ومستقبل سوريا. لذلك فإن سيريا أنتولد تأمل بأن تتمكن من المساهمة في تفسير الأحداث الجارية في سوريا بنهج أكثر دقة وتوازناً تجاه المجتمع المدني الذي ما زال يشكل الجزء الأكبر من المكون الديموغرافي السوري.
نحن نهدف في هذا التعاون المميز مع openDemocracy بعنوان “الانتفاضة: نظرة نقدية” (Looking Inside the Uprising)، أن نتقدم خطوة جديدة في سعينا نحو إبراز أهمية المجتمع المدني في سوريا ونضاله المستمر، كما نأمل أن يصل صوتنا الذي يروي قصص مهمشة من قلب سوريا لكل أذن صاغية.
ترجمها إلى العربية: رؤى زيات

The importance of telling Syrian stories as they should be told
Donatella Della Ratta/22 September 2014
Why does the media, despite the incredible amount of mediated content created by Syrians since the uprising, increasingly fail to give a voice to Syrian civil society? Meet our new partners ‘SyriaUntold’ – the group that brings the light back onto Syrian stories, and puts them in their natural context.
Looking inside the uprising This article is part of Looking inside the uprising; a joint project between SyriaUntold and openDemocracy.
In the wake of the Syrian uprising, in March 2011, we found ourselves overwhelmed with a treasure trove of user-generated content produced by Syrian citizens trying to give their account of what was happening in Syria. All of a sudden, a massive amount of information, data, videos, stories and pictures, were being shared on the internet mostly by anonymous users; a truly unprecedented phenomenon for a country where independent news reporting had always been a critical issue.
However, this content was, for the most part, out of context. Two factors created this lack of context of post-uprising content.
Firstly, the nature of the platform where the majority of this material was produced and shared, i.e. Facebook. As a closed environment, Facebook allowed only those who were already networked with or somehow related to the content producer to access that same content. Besides this, the Facebook interface did not allow a proper process of curating the content, which would imply translating, tagging and archiving in order to afford easier access.
Secondly, the subjects who had suddenly found themselves capable of producing and sharing content were not professional media makers. They were citizens who exchanged information and status updates while not being fully aware of a news reporting process in the making; which would have then required them to frame this content within a proper historical, geographical, and geopolitical setting in order to make sense of it.
As a group of activists, academics, and journalists working from Syria, on Syria, our primary concern when we launched SyriaUntold in 2012 was to give a context to this ever-circulating user-generated content being produced by Syrians. SyriaUntold would have selected, translated, tagged, archived, and edited grassroots generated media before delivering it to a wider public, both in Arabic and English. Instead of being consumed as isolated, loosely connected pieces of information, these media would have found a proper framework that puts them in their historical, cultural, and geopolitical context. SyriaUntold would also focus on setting up a proper archiving system for this material. The never-ending circulation of content over social networking sites results in the fragmentation and dispersal of this valuable material. A proper archiving system, together with robust context building, can be used to overcome the problems that arise within a web 2.0 environment.
Therefore, after several months of animated discussions held both on Skype and through face-to-face meetings, we decided that we would focus our work on curating a specific part of this user-generated content, the part that goes largely “untold”. We had already reached the stage where the Syrian uprising was narrated in military-terms only, whether focusing on the regime’s side, or on the armed opposition. The world, and the media, both in Arabic and in English, quickly forgot the “civil” nature of the uprising. Whether individuals or loose groups of activists, the role of those who had started the protest movement in March 2011 by demanding civil rights and calling for the rule of law instead of the absolute power of Syria’s regime and its security services, was being dismissed or marginalised, while the narration of the crisis became both militarized and internationalised, escalating both processes.
Accordingly, SyriaUntold deliberately decided to focus precisely on the marginalised stories generated by these people and movements who are engaged in civil disobedience, non-violent resistance, and who stay committed to civil activism against all the odds. We aim at shedding light on a third subject which is neither the regime nor the armed groups of rebels. We focus on Syrian civil society, key, we believe, to determining Syria’s future. Understanding this category, what it does, what it thinks, how it acts, what it produces and dreams of, cannot be dismissed. SyriaUntold hopes to make an important contribution in releasing sn interpretation of the unfolding events in Syria that is more nuanced and balanced towards civil society, which still constitutes the majority of the population in the country.
In our unique upcoming cooperative project with openDemocracy, entitled ‘Looking inside the uprising’, we hope to add a further step in this process of recognizing the importance of Syrian civil society and its ongoing struggle; and to reach out to a wider audience with original stories from Syria that have so far remained untold.