For just $1 a day, anyone can help a Syrian rebel oust President Bashar al-Assad
Syria: Ahmed Assi dodges bullets and missiles on a regular basis. The 24-year-old has been shot at, wounded, hunted down, imprisoned and tortured. He has spent many months camping in the Syrian mountains “Che Guevara style.” But Assi is not a rebel fighter. He is a Syrian journalist — with a political agenda. “I make my jihad by words, not by violence,” he said.
His mission is not just to tell the world about the plight of Syria’s rebel forces, but also to raise money, which the rebels use to buy more of whatever they might need. Assi works for one of several dozen websites that have popped up in the last year to raise cash for activists and rebels working inside Syria to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
“We raise money for weapons, but armed conflict is not the objective — it is a necessity at this time,” explained Assi, who works with a team of volunteers on the shamfalcons.com website. “The real value of my work will be after the revolution. Information is more powerful than a bullet.”But at $4 a bullet, the going rate inside Syria these days, it will take a lot of fundraising to power a revolution.
Assi’s website posts news about the eight rebel battalions of Jabal al-Zawiya, known collectively as the Sham Falcons. Videos, photos and reports in English, French and Arabic inform readers of checkpoint attacks, the seizure of armed vehicles and weapons, and the death of fallen comrades.Such stories are always followed with a plea to “donors, military experts and weapons merchants.”
Abu Hajar, the website’s developer, said he now receives regular donations from within Syria and from a network of people abroad. Hajar said everything is organized via Skype, which is encrypted, making it the “safest common form of long-distance communication in Syria.” The website is hosted outside of the country and material is uploaded via satellite connections using a virtual private network.
“There are a lot of foreigners that want to come here to help us with our fight, but if they did they would be accused of being terrorists,” Hajar said. “So instead they send us money.”
Many more websites like his are springing up to support Syrian rebel groups desperate for funding for everything from medicine and satellite internet devices to guns and missile launchers.
Another website, Adopt a Revolution, is run by activists operating in Germany and Syria. It seems more like an international children’s aid group than a rebel fundraising organization. All it is missing is a pitch from Sally Struthers as the site pleads for regular sponsors of the “Syrian Spring.”“One activist in hiding needs monthly about 100 euro for daily expenses,” the website reads.
Elias Perabo, one of the websites founders, said the funds raised on their site are not used for weapons, but are instead focused on providing activists with the means of conveying what is taking place inside Syria. For this they need equipment, internet connections and safe houses.
“We have three aims,” Perabo told GlobalPost in a Skype interview, “to bring support to the local communities in Syria, to bring activists abroad closer to Syrian issues and to build an emotional link so people here in Germany can connect with a Syrian community to understand the issues they are facing.”
For the Sham Falcons, with an average price of $1,000 for a Kalashnikov rifle and $4 per bullet, the plea for funding is never ending. “Money is the heart of war,” Hajar said with a sigh. “Without it, we can not accomplish anything.”