Viewers Respond to The Suffering Grasses
We welcome audience responses to The Suffering Grasses. If you have watched the film, please take a moment to send us your thoughts and keep the discussion going! We can be reached by email at email@example.com.
When Director Iara Lee first released the film and a companion article at the Huffington Post, it sparked a debate around the effectiveness of an armed struggle versus a nonviolent movement to depose the Assad regime in Syria. We received a wide range of thoughtful, informed responses, which we have used to create a forum for discussion. Read on below to see some diverse perspectives.
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy StudiesIt's powerful, comprehensive, and includes all the key contradictions and complications of the Syria crisis—really well done.
Maurice Carney, Friends of the Congo
Great film! I loved it, especially the way hip hop, graffiti, and cartoons were infused in the documentary--truly emblematic of the cultures of resistance.... It was touching to hear the youth in the refugee camps express their desire to return home to their lives in Syria. The complexity of the non-violent resistance versus violent resistance was fully explored in the post film discussion--as courageous as the Syrian people are, they have extremely difficult choices to make.
Medea Benjamin, CodePink
Great footage, great interviews, and great editing. We all learned so much from it. We also had a very lively discussion afterwards.
Dirar H., Syria
The Syrian opposition as represented by the Syrian National Council-SNC (and its defacto armed element, the Free Syria Army-FSA), has been a miserable failure. One can’t blame individual Syrians for joining what they view as an “army” to fight the brutal regime that have been killing them, but people who are ultimately controlling what that “army” is doing, will not produce the results that we progressives would like to see. And as such, we also have the responsibility to not fall prey to their agenda of calling for outside military intervention in the name of protecting civilians.
Many elements of the opposition in Syria have been heinous in their claims, fabrications and exaggerations about regime crimes, precisely for the purpose of calling for outside intervention. Again, one can’t blame an individual Syrian who might exaggerate a situation because he/she thinks that will bring more attention to their plight, but we have to be careful not to make such unfounded or substantiated claims play into the hands of those with the wrong agenda. The regime is brutal enough that we don’t need to fabricate claims or exaggerate events. And the problem with doing so is that it gives the regime and its supporters the chance to deny all atrocities because some (or many) of such claims were shown to be untrue.
Nancy E., Qatar
The screening of The Suffering Grasses here in Doha, Qatar, was a huge success! Even the panelists from the discusion titled "The Syrian Refugee Crisis: The International Community's Moral Responsibility" referred to the film several times.
Judy B., United States
Before we call for sanctions we need to do our best to understand a complex situation where many parties with divergent interests are tearing Syria apart. Pragmatically, we might consider that, if the opposition isn't unified, then it may be better for them to negotiate their various issues with the government, than try to force a unity that doesn't exist. If there is a process of democratization (with international moderators), then that process will bring cohesiveness to the popular demands.
I believe we need to join Russia and China in calling for moderated negotiations between the government and opposition leaders in Syria, and to support a process of reconciliation there. We need to stop arming the FSA and other violent opposition groups because they are a direct danger to the people they pretend to defend, and it is their resistance that keeps the government in military mode. And, we need to enable those peaceful protesters by making sure their voices are heard rather than enabling the violence by demanding the established government of the state defer to an insurgency, which is an act of war. This is a road to peace.
Tugrul K., Syria
I think instead of supporting democracy in Syria, you should support democracy in the U.S.! The west should leave alone the Middle East and the rest of the world--we will be fine. Stop supporting western intervention!
Herman Kumara, NAFSO, Sri Lanka
After screenings for the Southern Fisheries Organization, Youth Movement for Environment and Social Change, Women's Workers Center (Katunayake Free Trade Zone), NAFSO, and other groups in Sri Lanka:
Most of the women shared that they hate how the children's mentalities have been distorted towards the war. Also, there was a comparison of Sri Lanka war and Syrian situation. It was well discussed that in any war the worst hit are the women and children with vulnerable citizens.
The workers were able to recall their nonviolent, peaceful protest which was crushed by the armed forces here and brutally killed their fellow workers and tortured hundreds of workers inside their factories. Sri Lanka had violence for decades and they compared [the Syrian conflict] to the brutal war in our own country. People felt the dictators are everywhere and workers should take nonviolent actions to face them.
Most of the people who attended did not approve of the violence and armed struggle with their negative experiences during the last 3 decades here in Sri Lanka.
Dana G., Syria
It is telling of your passion to tell the truth and stand up for what you believe is right, that you would board the Mavi Marmara for Gaza and then make this Suffering Grasses film. Great job as always.
Mary, United Kingdom
Your film was brilliant. It let the real people speak.
Nabeel R., South Africa
We're very impressed with the objective approach and covering it from the perspective of the plight of the Syrian public at large and understanding the development of the resistance instead of the mass media portrayal of the resistance as rebels.
Sam H., United States
I was quite somber for quite a bit after seeing the film, which I think was good. I think I've sort of insulated from feeling much about Syria because so much of it is so transparently manipulated. But seeing your film allowed me to feel it without being manipulated.
After the film, the discussion was okay. It occurred to me, and apparently to me alone, that one thing to talk about is how there are such limited ways for a country to be independent of U.S. ("Western") dominance. Virtually the only ones who can are the authoritarian, from the brutal (Saddam) to the relatively benign (Castro). Most who are not authoritarian and try to be meaningfully independent get bumped off (Allende, Mossadeq, Aristide, Zelaya). And that's our failure--we don't constrain the US to give the non-authoritarians breathing room, so the ones who survive either operate with limited independence (most of Latin America even now) or are authoritarian (Asad).
Ibrahim S., Egypt
I was lucky to attend the screening of both of your movies (The Suffering Grass and Cultures of Resistance) in Cairo. I just wanted to show my admiration about the way you directed both of your movies by transforming your camera from a tool that informs the audience about conflicts all over the world to a tool that connects the audience to the conflicts all over the world.
Peter P., United States
I reviewed the film and I have to admit that I found it strong in support of grassroots democracy and the issues at play, but there is very little on the US/CIA/NATO 's active involvement in supplying mercenaries and stirring further bloodshed.
So I cannot in good faith show the film without saying that I would in addition want to stress the horribleness of the mercenary side of the issues—Al Queda included—and the foreign influence that have caused a huge increase in the violence. If the democracy movement had remained peacefully nonviolent it would have likely—even when repressed—had widespread growing support. But the immediate expansion of violence, from external forces, as was done in Libya, has resulted in a full blown civil war. It is a terrible tragedy for the Syrian people.
When the revolution started, I was like so many Syrians with a peaceful revolution, and I defended it ferociously. But lately I am not sure that a peaceful revolution is the right one for Syria. I feel that the view of nonviolence works in a country where there is actually a government. Not a country ruled by a sectarian mafia, a group of criminals that would do anything just to stay in power. A non violent movement will be crushed like a bug especially when many countries are willing to see it crushed.
Noor B., United Kingdom
The screening was a great success! Around 50 people attended, perhaps slightly more, most of whom knew little or nothing about the Syrian crisis prior to watching the documentary. We also had a collection bucket to raise money for the charity Hand in Hand for Syria, to which people generously donated and raised almost £300. The feedback from the documentary was very encouraging; I feel that it definitely opened the eyes of many and a lot of people were shocked to realise just how bad the situation is.
Bono S., India
I have seen your film. I wish I could help those refugees who fled. Bashar al Assad crosses all of his limits. At this moment, nonviolence is not possible in Syria. As the evil regime can do anything to suppress the revolution, we can pressure Russia, China, and Iran through nonviolence. If all of the nations' people send letters to these governments repeatedly or boycott their goods until they think to stop the violence. Any individual who is pro-Assad must watch the film. . . . Nonviolence is the last hope.
Valerie F., United States
I went to se The Suffering Grasses this weekend and felt so inspired by Iara Lee's documentary. There were so many things that resonated with me coming from our national liberation struggle in the Philippines. Thanks to the film crew and artists who helped to work on the film!
Alina M., United States
It is a much needed lesson to Westerners who are very ignorant of the ways of the Middle East. The plight of the refugees is daunting. What became clear was the hardiness and stoicism of the people who are determined to make a better Syria and to return. I really enjoyed watching the movie and if the purpose was to entertain and inform, the director accomplished both purposes well.
Tina R., Kenya
The news seen on network television shockingly misses a great portion of what is really happening! I hope this piece is recognized by the film industry--and is widely viewed!
Anonymous, United States
One fellow [in the film] held that the uprising is and should be a purely Syrian matter. I agree. I also know what will be the outcome if all foreign influence, words and deeds, were to end. The Assad government would prevail and become even more heavy handed. If this doesn't happen, Syria will likely be conquered by external forces and lose it's identity. Two bad choices. I've watched some videos and read some articles from folks who support the regime, or at least prefer it over the likelihood of their country being conquered from the outside.
Mohammed G., Egypt
A great film that deserves the support of everyone.
Abbas E., London
I agree with much of what you say. But I think supporting sanctions against Syria or any foreign intervention would simply play into the hands of the US and Israel.
Nonviolence will take a long time, but for sure is the only way of succeeding. Please keep up the wonderful work.
In geopolitics, what is good for the goose is good for the gander: Syria is just a chessboard for the mighty states--the U.S. and the Zionist want to dictate the course of the military front against Israel in any future confrontation (with Iran et al.), and Russia wants to maintain a presence for its fleet in the Middle East. You can be a pawn of the mighty, or simply wash your hands and let this current crisis burn itself out.
Jeff M., United States
Great work. You are taking these revolutionary waves far and wide.
Suad B., Canada
I want to commend you on an earth-shattering documentary. It is mesmerizing. I'm half Syrian and have never been made aware to this degree of clarity about the situation of refugees. Although I've been holding my tears, I couldn't help but cry. You presented the stories wonderfully. I loved the honesty, transparency, and the lack of sensationalism. Hats off and hopefully, inshallah, your efforts will really pay off once Syrians gain their freedom.
Libor Z., Estonia
I have been thinking of how I, one human being, perhaps, could help the Syrians, and a thought or idea came to me yesterday which I would like to share with you. Obviously, I agree with you that the only way to overcome evil is through nonviolent means! That is the only solution! Do you know about how Estonia gained its independence from the former Soviet Union twenty years ago? The answer is . . . through art: music and singing. The entire nation of Estonia unified with song against the Soviets . . . and prevailed. An excellent movie has been made about this, which you can watch at http://www.singingrevolution.com
It is always innocent people that pay the price!
Syria is a designated target country for Washington and Pentagon foreign policymakers, because Syria is the closest ally to Iran. In case of an assault on Iran, Syria is likely to become one of the responses in retaliation, possibly taking the conflict directly to Israel, along with Lebanon and other MENA region countries, depending on their government's leaning... In my opinion, it is the ignorance of the Western populations about the scope, the contingency plan and the detailed strategy for world domination that prevents anybody from making any forward progress in a peace plan. Peace is, quite simply, not the plan. The plan is war.
I loved the trailer. Very clever, beginning by showing a lot of the support for FSA then taking off with the nonviolent message. Winning strategy!
We got the biggest number of people coming to the screening in the history of the venue, and the discussion after the movie was active as well.
Wadi D., Spain
My personal opinion about all this is that there's no way to hold us back. We reached the point of no return long ago, since Al-Assad' s military forces started to kill our countrymen for demanding reforms at the beginning and then, after his repressive policy, calling for the end of the regime. He lost all his legitimacy, if he ever had it--remember he "succeeded" his father as leader of a supposed "socialist republic,"--the first day he ordered the assassination of a kid in Daraaa who with other children had written "people want the fall of the regime."
14 months of a legitimate revolution and more than 14,000 people killed by al-Assad dogs. We knew the way was not going to be easy, but we never expected that it would be so expensive to get our freedom.... Syria will be free!
Rana K., Lebanon
Merci pour ce courageux documentaire the suffering grasses... tres pertinant et touchant.
I am pro peace and against killing and I
know that I don't know whats (really) going on... I think it is always very difficult to enter such a conflict, because most of the people are suffering in these kinds of situations.
The syrian army and the rebels are both engaged in a propaganda war.
Yazan A., Syria
The fact that nonviolent resistance including demonstrations and civil disobedience is accelerating to daily activities across the country need to be emphasized. It is true that violence is also increasing, but the revolution, as I would like to phrase it, should "continue expanding" how it started as a nonviolent resistance, rather than saying should "return back." We should not give a wrong impression that the revolution as it is today is just violent.
Walid M., Pakistan
The Suffering Grasses was seriously soul shattering and heart rendering.
Francis G., United States
What has non-violent demonstration produced in Bahrain? I do not support Assad's crackdown on his population, but it appear many of us in the West have selective vision. Of course, Assad is terrible, but so too are those who deny the Shiites in Bahrain their freedom. Saudi Arabia's tanks (which were supplied by the the United States) are just as potent and destructive as Assad's tank (which were supplied by Russia). In geopolitics, what is good for the goose is good for the gander: Syria is just a chessboard for the mighty states - the U.S. and the Zionist want to dictate the course of the military front against Israel in any future confrontation (with Iran et al), and Russia wants to maintain a presence for its fleet in the Middle East. You can be a pawn of the mighty, or simply wash your hands and let this current crisis burn itself out. While you shake with anger over injustice, just remember those you "work for" who rule the U.S. and Russia are probably sharing a glass of wine at this very minute.
I guess violence is a consequence of recognizing one's inability to modify the current order of things. But we are living through a form of "micro-violence": not institutional, but one that pits the poor against the poor, destroying any attempt to solidarity.
If you would like to know my personal opinion as an Iranian observer, I should suffice it to say that it is high time for the whole living world to act in coordination to terminate that monstrous regime which has turned the land into a grand abattoir, a human slaughterhouse of massive proportions, by whatsoever means possible. If there were other ways of salvaging the nation a while ago, there are no other ways now, no other way whatsoever. The tipping point has long been passed.
Nader S., United States
I enjoyed it, and agree with it. I cannot imagine anything good coming out of this violence if it continues. I don't think, as you point out, the armed opposition is any more respecting or wishing for a peaceful revolution than the regime itself.
I am against US intervention, period. There is no free Syria with US intervention, no matter who wins the civil war. It seems you are pushing a free Syria, with no Assad, and no US intervention. That is a pipe dream. Are you against US intervention? From the clip from this film it looks like you are against US intervention in theory, but not in practice.
Peter P., United States
Well done article, and overall I agree with you. An important part of what is happening there is the involvement of outside forces funded by middle eastern and western powers who are involved in stirring chaos and violence. Former US Ambassador Ford, who was in place just before and during the uprising in Syria come directly from Libya and before that Iraq. I certainly hope that the violence stops, but I believe there are many forces at work keeping the violence in play to bring NATO in.
Paul L., Canada
With the possible, partial and dubious exceptions of Lebanon and Israel, and more recently, Egypt, the Middle East is populated with oligarchs, autocrats, dictators and kings. This is partly because any real attempt at democracy is promptly crushed by the west, because the will of the people is not the will of Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv.
Under such circumstances, it is perhaps a bit much to expect a liberal democracy to flower in Syria any more than it does in Bahrain or Jordan, and we should rather be thankful that not all of the oligarchs are beholden to western overlords. I believe that Syria could achieve a much higher level of popular democratic rule if it were left alone and without the interference of the CIA, the Mossad and the agents of the conservative monarchies.
But what are the chances of that?
Omar O., United States
My eyes welled up with tears reading your analysis. I am pained remembering Edward Said's of this world are no longer among us, that Noam Chomsky's of this world will not be with us for long - to give voice to the persecuted voiceless. To me you are the courage I wish I had but can never have.
As we Afghans says, after reading 'akh-e delem baramad'. It was as the black pain was expunged from the depths.
I agree with your observations. But what is the solution? Now the depression is creeping back in me. Assad, Saddam, Sayed Qutb, Khomeini, Mullah Omar, Afghan Communists. To which banner one can lean? A people without a leader is a mob. To de-mob a persecuted people, leaders are needed that have not emerged among the people since Nasser Egypt, since Daoud Khan of Afghanistan, Mosadeq of Iran, Who is the leader of the Syrians today? The Afghans? Today's Egyptians? The accursed creatures of the Creator shall continue to burn inside the divine cauldron. What the Creator intends Creator knows. Those that believe in divine benevolence might say that the Almighty is cleansing the ignorance from the ignorants.
Salma A., United States
I am so excited about your new documentary and amazed at your political activism.... You are very aware of the geopolitical move to neutralize the Syrian regime, it's the first step in the war on Iran. It also could be the end of demanding the Golan heights to be returned to Syria, and supporting Hizballah in Lebanon. All to the sole benefit of Israel of course. I agree that Palestinians should not support the Syrian regime and most do not. The atrocities that were committed now and before are crimes, but who are we in the West to point fingers at such crimes? It's not until crimes of Israel and the US are treated and reacted to by the same measures of sanctions and outrage that we and the UN can get any credibility and true steps towards representation and liberty can be made.
Palestinians and most Arabs also are very aware and do not support the sectarian divide and tensions in Syria. The Alawite minority that has prospered and dominated Syrian politics, culture and economy is an elite ruling class that needs to be neutralized, but protected with equal rights. How do we get there? Any interference from the US and NATO in my opinion is a recipe for failure, creating mistrust, confusion and also most importantly, allowing for those allied with the US to rise to power. Look at what happened in Lybia? I do not underestimate the US's power to corrupt and control ruling classes to keep a status quo that serves them and Israel. History speaks for itself. There are no short cuts.
The US and NATO should not interfer is my opinion. If a grassroots leadership uncorrupted by the US is not to be empowered, then this revolution is doomed. The revolution should go back to it's grass roots non-violent nature but there is so much chaos now. However, having said that, I do recoginze that revolutions are often armed and maybe should be armed in order to be successful, but when outside forces interfere, they loose their credibilty and often result in more domination and oppression by a new ruling class that serves outside powers.
I think we need to get rid of all the old ideas of revolution. As Einstein said, you can't solve problems with the same mentality that created them in the first place. It never makes sense to me when we protest. It doesnt make sense when we follow any leader. Every person should be his own leader and lead himself first.
Marina C., France
Thank you very much for your very clarifying analysis of what is happening in Syria. I have grown very suspicious of "traditional" press and I take it very cautiously. So I welcome your type of information because I know it it the result of an independent work on the ground and, above all, it is the result of a profound interest in human rights.
We must do everything we can to help the Syrian people, first of all for their own sake, but also for the advancement of real democracy in the region. As you know, and like you, I am very involved in the Palestinian cause and we all know what a great advantage would be a truly democratic Middle East for Palestine.
Rebecca M., Canada
We had a screening of The Suffering Grasses and there were about forty-five people in attendance. This is a lot for a town of 3,500 people. The film is very moving and so helpful in our preparation to receive our Syrian family—a young family of four with parents in their 30s, a 5-year-old boy, and a 1-year-old girl. At the end, I invited people to speak of the impact, insight, questions, and feeling that the movie evoked. Approximately twenty people shared. Then, I mentioned that perhaps we could sing before leaving. (I noted that the film ended with children singing a song of reality mixed with hope.) We sang the chorus of “We Shall Overcome” and “This Little Light of Mine.” It was a powerful event and I thank you and Iara Lee for making this available. We are hoping to find some other opportunities to keep educating ourselves.
Lucas P., United States
I was enthralled by The Suffering Grasses and feel it will really help in educating folks on this history of Syria's conflict and why it is so important they help. Thanks for all the great work you are involved in. I look forward to working together.
Circle of Health International, United States The film provoked a very thoughtful and personal response from our audience, which was made obvious by our panel discussion following the screening. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, so you all should be incredibly proud of the work you have both completed and are still working on. Thanks for allowing us to feature this work alongside our work. It is so important to bridge the relationship between relief work and those documenting it. This was a terrific opportunity for not only that but for actively seeking responses to the problems your film presented.