Lebanese journalist Jad Yatim has been working in the field of audio-visual media for the last 18 years. Since 2011, he has focused on the events of the Syrian revolution, on all its consequences and its links with neighbouring countries including Lebanon. He also focused on issues such as seeking asylum, on how host communities deal with Syrian refugees, and other overlapping crises such as security, economy, destabilization and how to improve the relationship between the two sides.
Jad says that Syria as a country was quite strange to him. He did not know it and he did not believe what he was expected to know of it. Initially, when the Syrian army and the pressing security regime were lingering in Lebanon, he only knew Syria through the prism of security services. He could not know who the other people in Syria were who looked like him because at that time he believed they were either afraid of speaking or that they would speak only in order to entrap others.
“The Syrian revolution was a cause for me and not just a story I was covering. This is what brought me closer to the young people who were similar to me. It pushed me closer to my sources who have become my friends. There are common concerns and discussions we speak about” Jad continues. “For example, if Aleppo is no longer a hotspot or a conflict zone, there will be human talk and deeper stories about solicitude, friendship, university, the future and the people. We discovered the existence of many people that resemble us, and this was indeed something to be joyful about. We felt that we were one people with common concerns and common social facets.”
“All this gave us the necessary depth of thought to realize that people who resemble us do exist, and that there are people whose problems and reactions are both comprehensible and acceptable to us even if we do not like those problems and reactions. We have been able to treat those people not as a single bloc, to not deal with them as prosecutors and blame the for the Syrian army’s 30 year occupation of Lebanon but rather to treat them as partners.” Jad continues, “Having said so, our biases come from identity, nationality and borders towards ideas, principles and the cause itself. Whoever joins us is with us whether he is Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian or Jordanian. It does not matter. Whoever does not collaborate with us is on the other side, even if he is from our own family. Comprehension starts from understanding what we have in common, what the political and social demands are.”
Jad's initial impression is that the Lebanese do not hold the Syrian refugees responsible for the Syrian regime and its army's past actions against their country. They make a distinction between the two sides and consider refugees to be mainly victims. There are also the positions of political parties such as the Lebanese Forces, among others, that delayed declaring their pro-revolutionary stance for their own particular reasons. All this made him feel that he was not alone and this gave him greater power to serve vulnerable groups such as women and children.
He explains this further saying, “This prompted us to commit ourselves without fear, especially in the early years of the revolution. It allowed us to learn more about the Syrians and their problems and to struggle with them. Sit-ins and protests were held in Beirut. We did not care about who were Lebanese or Syrian among us. Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians were in this together. The relationship deepened greatly and the political struggle produced strong and genuine friendships”. He continues, “At the same time, there was an abhorrently racist discourse whose tribune came to be Gibran Bassil [Lebanese FM]. There were many who adopted this discourse, which itself was the result of fear from Palestinians. This led us to stand up and stick to our position since this group became even more targeted and we felt we must adhere to it and defend it. I believe that we have created links and safety nets that will establish a future in which we can all live together. Extreme movements come and go but the foundation of the region is not extremist.”