By Umer Nangiana
All he wanted was peace. He fought violence with flowers and killing of fellow human beings was “impossible.” In return for his peaceful overtures, he was captured, detained, tortured and killed. But his sacrifice did not go completely in vain. It stirred reaction from his countrymen which went on to inspire people even beyond his country’s borders.
He was given the title of ‘Little Gandhi’. The Syrian embassy in Doha and Katara Cultural Village Foundation presented the well-known documentary film, Little Gandhi, by award winning Syrian director Sam Kadi at Katara Drama theatre here on Saturday.
The documentary follows the life of peaceful Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar, who became internationally known as Little Gandhi for his initiative of facing security fire and violence with flowers and bottles of water.
Ghiyath was a key organiser in leading peaceful protests in his homeland Daraya, a district in the suburbs of Syria, against one of the most vicious regimes in the 21st century, inspiring people worldwide.
His brutal torture and death at the age of 26, merely a few months after his marriage with a baby on the way, outraged the international community and erupted one of the most violent uprising in modern history.
“Ghiyath was a model for the educated youth of Syria who preached the peaceful way of demanding and fighting for their rights and their dignity,” the members of the film’s production team told the audience in a post-screening discussion at the drama theatre.
The film features a series of interviews with Ghiyath’s fellow activists who knew and grew up with him, besides depicting the harsh living standards in Syria. It shows how the villages and towns once bustling with life were now in ruins.
The film shows the atrocities committed against Syrian children and peaceful protestors who wanted nothing but their children to live freely in their country. Like them, Ghiyath fought for a better world for his unborn child, one he never met, because his life was taken too soon.
He was someone who fought bullets with flowers, an iconic figure who led the masses of Syrians into a direction of peace, while fighting for their basic human rights that they until now are desperately deprived of.
During each protest that he organised with other activists, Ghiyath laid water bottles for the troops to drink from, attached to the bottles, were flowers and sticky notes reading, “Why are you killing me?”
All throughout the barrel bombs, tear gas, bullets and chemical weapons, protestors continued to march the streets each Friday chanting that they will no longer accept the humiliation that has been brought upon them.
Ghiyath then paid the ultimate price for his bravery. He was captured and tortured to death at the hands of the Syrian government at the age of 26. His death spurred despair and international outrage.
“The film was made to build a better understanding of what the Syrian Revolution is all about and what it stands for. To unveil the truth about the real young educated Syrian heroes who initiated the movement in Syria way before the Arab Spring,” said the team.
The aim was to remind the world about the lives that were sacrificed in order to keep the Syrian movement a peaceful uprising, in spite of the unprecedented violence by the Syrian regime.
It was created with the sense to raise awareness and educate the world about the grave human rights situation in Syria, and it was produced via one of the Transitional Justice Programs sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS).
Little Gandhi, they added, is a source of inspiration and a heroic story that needs to be told and shared with the rest of the world.
The documentary has been directed by award winning director Sam Kadi. Kadi is the writer and director of critically acclaimed feature drama The Citizen. The Citizen was the recipient of five awards on the international film festival circuit, and was named among the “Best 10 Films of 2013” by Examiner.com.
Kadi has been recognized by the prestigious Cinema for Peace for raising awareness of human rights issues through motion pictures, and was invited to speak about the same subject before the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands in 2012.
In 2014, the SHOAH Foundation, founded by acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, chose Kadi as a “Spotlight Juror.”
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