With Syria mired in sectarian mayhem, a few brave souls still stand as a testament to the possibilities -- and the extraordinary costs -- of nonviolent revolution. When dictator Bashar al-Assad's artillery laid waste to entire neighborhoods this spring, Rima Dali, a volunteer for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, strode alone into a busy Damascus street with a sign bearing a simple message: "Stop the killing. We want to build a country for all Syrians." She repeated her act of silent defiance the next week, and even more onlookers gathered to cheer her on -- a sign that the spirit of peaceful protest that sparked Syria's uprising in early 2011 endures even after a bloody year and a half of civil war. Dali, a 33-year-old law school graduate, was arrested for her activism, but she has refused to be cowed, either by the Assad regime's intimidation or by the spread of extremism within the ranks of the armed rebellion. "We look for hope, day in, day out," she said after her release from jail.
Not all those who have publicly defied Assad have been so fortunate. Bassel Khartabil is, or was, a young computer engineer living in Damascus whose innovative programming skills helped integrate Syria into the online community -- fostering an open-source community in a country long on the margins of the Internet’s youth culture. He was hauled off by Assad's security forces in March, and despite a "#FREEBASSEL" campaign launched by his friends, he has not been heard from since. "The people who are in real danger never leave their countries," he tweeted weeks before his arrest. "They are in danger for a reason and for that they don't leave."DALI Reading list: Le Dérèglement du Monde, by Amin Maalouf; Dictionary of Nonviolence, by Jean-Marie Muller; Positive Approaches to Peacebuilding, edited by Cynthia Sampson, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Claudia Liebler, and Diana Whitney. Best idea: "The means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek." --Martin Luther King Jr. Worst idea: "Al-Assad or we burn the country down." --shabiha slogan American decline or American renewal? American renewal. More Europe or less? More. To tweet or not to tweet? To tweet.