Funding the revolution | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 01.06.2012
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Funding the revolution

The uprising against the Syrian President has been going on for more than a year. While the international community struggles to come up with a solution, an organization in Berlin is supporting Syrian protesters.

Elias Perabo spends most of the day hunched over his computer, a lot of time with Facebook and YouTube open. But he's not procrastinating: the 31-year-old political scientist is the founder of “Adopt a Revolution” an organization that's raising global awareness - and money - for the Syrian opposition. Elias spends hours each day corresponding with the opposition, organizing donations and sharing reports from committees in Syria.

“What we do is organize solidarity donations for activists within Syria, for committees of activists in Syria – so you donate to us, and we transfer it to Syria so they can buy cameras, the internet - things they need for their protests,“ says Elias.

Visitors to Adopt a Revolution's website can select the specific group of protesters they want to support - say, Committee Derik in Northwest Syria. Donations are made via PayPal - and a couple weeks later, Adopt a Revolution smuggles the money to them.

Elias had never traveled to Syria until about a year ago, in March of 2011. He was supposed to meet a Syrian activist friend in Damascus, but his friend never showed. It turned out the friend had fled the country after the Syrian secret police came after him. When Elias got back to Germany, he founded Adopt a Revolution to help support the uprising in Syria.

“The idea was to connect the civil society in Germany to the civil society in Syria, so there would be a link,“ Elias explained.

A unique approach

Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Deraa May 25, 2012. REUTER/Handout (SYRIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Protesters have not stopped, despite the ongoing repression

The idea was a huge hit. In the last four months, Adopt a Revolution has collected 150,000 euros ($185,800) - all of it from regular, everyday people rather than corporations or governments.

One of those people, a 44-year-old single mother, herself with her family in Homs, said she'd considered giving to a humanitarian organization like the Red Cross, but ultimately decided on Adopt a Revolution because she liked that they were actively funding the uprising.

Adopt a Revolution's success lies in their unique approach, says Jessica Pröpper, a member of the German-Syria Social Association, which provides humanitarian relief for Syrian families displaced by the violence.

“It's really very effective,” she said of the organization. “And it's hard to get people excited about Syria. Especially with Germans, who often just lump it all together as ‘The Arab World.“

A picture's worth 1000 words

Portrait of Bashar al Assad

Syria's president, Bashar al Assad, is facing an ever-wider rebellion

Adopt a Revolution supports 29 local committees all over Syria. Funding a revolution isn't cheap: each committee needs between 700 and 1000 Euros a month to cover their expenses.

Most of the money goes to the nuts and bolts costs of organizing a protest - memory cards for cameras, Skype credit, mobile phones and SIM cards, as well as posters and paint.

The donations come with one stipulation. The committees can't use the money to buy weapons. Not that they necessarily want to, says Elias.

“The protesters themselves are saying, no we don't want weapons,” Elias said, adding that providing activists with the tools they need to document and share what's really going on is better use of the money than an armed uprising.

“It's much more effective to have one good video than a Kalashnikov (ed. rifle).”

It's been over a year since the protests first started and it's unclear whether there will be peace - much less democracy - in Syria anytime soon. But Elias is hopeful about the future.

“We've heard of a lot of activists saying the last months were so brutal, so terrible for us. On the other side we hear them saying how proud they have been in the last months and they are not going to lose that again.“

Author: Sarah Harman, Berlin
Editor: Jessie Wingard

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