On a sultry night in october of 2011, two young men sit on the edge of a fountain in the city center of Damascus. President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces are present on the streets. Russia and China have just vetoed the UN Security Council resolution intended to force the Syrian government to cease violence against its citizens. That night, the fountains in Damascus slowly turn red.
Ahmed Zaino, a 27-year old architect, sleeps late after his nighttime adventure. But the moment he steps out his door, people in the street rush to tell him: “Did you hear what they did? The fountains are red! Everyone’s talking about it!” Later that day, he hears how the soldiers of Assad’s security forces hustled to shut the fountains down. It takes them a week to replace the colored water.
Two years later, Zaino still smiles when talks about it. He speaks with great excitement about the time he and a friend tossed orange ping pong balls with Hurriyah! (“freedom”) written on them down the streets of Damascus, and how the men in uniform, carrying rifles, ran after the bouncing balls to collect them. “If you don’t want to speak with weapons, you must speak a different language,” he says.
With a small group of friends, Zaino formed a brave and ingenious non-violent resistance movement in Syria in 2011 and 2012. More than once they managed to mislead the army with humor and to offer the Syrians strength and a sense of hope that change might come.
“We know the regime will keep shooting and bombing us. People will die, but if we start shooting back, more people will get killed. We must try to use a different language.”