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Reaching out to victims of Syria’s conflict

Young Australians are turning to social media, public performance and charity work to express their concerns about the Syrian conflict.

To help raise awareness about the plight of the victims of the ongoing civil war, a local campaign called ‘Silence is Betrayal’ was created last year. The movement, spearheaded by a group of Australian Muslim youth leaders, has already staged three flash mobs in Sydney.

During one of the flash mobs at Darling Harbour (see above image), participants dressed in army fatigues and aimed fake guns at women and children. As the group of 90 volunteers staged the compelling protest, some of those involved huddled in defenceless position, re-enacting what organisers say is the brutality that confronts civilians under the Syrian regime. As a crowd looked on, the flash mob ended with the release of a banner from the nearby Western Distributor emblazoned with the words ‘Silence is Betrayal’.

When the call went out online from the organisers of a United States flash mob for a group in Australia to organise a similar public demonstration about the Syrian conflict, Sydney’s Mostafa Rachwani sprung into action. Along with some friends, the 22-year-old university journalism student called for volunteers to design the flash mob scene by scene. They also recruited a volunteer filmmaker.

Mr Rachwani, the group’s social media executive, said they wanted to design a campaign which would send a powerful message.

“The main focus was to make it into a video to utilise social media to get the message across,” Mr Rachwani said.

He said the “power of social media” to push their message was highlighted by the 150,000 views that the video of last year’s Darling Harbour flash mob has attracted so far, exceeding the expectations of the organisers.

It was very important for Australians to have a local response about the conflict, Mr Rachwani said, “to remind people of the atrocities that are going on over there, because the media coverage fluctuates greatly, so it’s important to continue to raise awareness and show support.”

'The main focus was to make it into a video to utilise social media to get the message across'

– Mostafa Rachwani, from 'Silence is Betrayal'

The plight of Syrians in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon is of particular concern to the organisers.

Asked about Australians who travel to Syria to join the frontline of the conflict, Mr Rachwani said: “Our focus is not necessarily the battle, but the people in need, the victims. We are not a political organisation; we are a youth advocacy group. We are not here to fight the war but to help the people who are suffering.”

The group has also organised medical packs for Syrians in refugee camps, teaming up with Sydney charity groups to assemble the items which included painkillers, syringes and band-aids.

“We are here for the civilians,” Mr Rachwani said.

“We don’t advocate for a political position but the end of suffering and oppression. We want to help people who are suffering. We sent over 500 medical packs to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.”

The group\'s most recent flash mob about Syria took place in Darling Harbour earlier this year. 

The Point

Young Sydneysiders are using the power of social media to express their concerns about the Syrian conflict

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