Students Make History at Aleppo University
by Nuff Silence
Today, Thursday the 17th of May, 2012, was a historic day for Syria in general and Aleppo in particular. United Nations monitors — part of Annan’s plan to bring the “crisis” in Syria to a peaceful resolution— visited the University of Aleppo. They drove through the main gate from the University Square, stopping at a paved parking lot shaded by conifers in front of the Baath Party branch and the University main administrative building. They were received by thousands of students chanting against the regime and demanding the release of detainees.
The scene was overwhelming; the students had been clamoring for months to bring some attention to their plight. Their campus — following the large daily protests — had undergone an Assad-style transformation easing the crackdown on protesting students: a wall was erected to separate the Faculty of Science from the complex of the dormitories; the dormitories were raided in a vicious security operation that left several students dead and injured at beginning of May leaving hundreds of students evicted; security thugs were present all day long on the lawns and leafy areas bisecting and connecting faculty buildings; tear gas had become part of the atmosphere that you breathed on your way into class and on your way out; and an unknown, but definitely large number of students had been detained.
Some students tried to talk to the UN observers, to communicate their angst and anger and grievances, but it was futile. There was little opportunity for exchanging any useful information. The UN cars soon drifted on a sea of students, moving in waves towards the main University Square.The de facto protest grew in numbers and decibels, even though in most faculties it was exam time. Hafez Al Assad’s mosaic wall portrait— his mug that had been sneering down on us for years — was attacked and deformed beyond recognition. With their fearless actions, the students wiped the slate clean for all the earlier generations, including mine, who stood idly by, knowing the score but doing nothing, saying nothing. Today, all evidence and traces of the regime were cleansed from Sahet Al Jame’a (University Square), and were replaced by defiant revolution flags and chants demanding change.
The presence of the UN monitors marked the time and place for the students to come together, from all faculties and colleges, and to converge in the epicenter of the campus. While it is true that the presence of the monitors facilitated unprecedented gathering, it was, beyond doubt, the unbelievable courage, bravery, and determination of the students that ultimately made it happen. This is the University of Aleppo, where the lines delineating different provinces in Syria disappeared. This is the University of Aleppo, where your ethnic origin meant little and your sect was rendered irrelevant. This is the University of Aleppo, where the young minds and ambitious souls refused dictatorship and joined hands in one of the largest and most resilient student movements in Syria since its independence.
This is the classroom of the Syrian revolution, and it’s taught Bashar Assad a lesson: the educated youth are refusing you, they saw through your nonsense and they are unimpressed. This is the University of Aleppo, where the Baath-designed, Assadized educational system broke down and screamed back at the regime, declaring that the battle on the higher planes of knowledge has been settled.
Freedom won. Uncontested.