Sydney saw flash mobs take a political turn this weekend when nearly 90 people staged confronting scenes in Darling Harbour to raise awareness of the Syria conflict. Miran Hosny reports.
Activists dressed in army fatigues aimed fake guns at women and children participants huddled in defenceless positions, re-enacting what organisers say is real life brutality that takes place under Syrian president Bashar Assad’s regime.
The flash mob held at 1PM on Saturday ended with the release of a banner from the Western Distributor Highway overlooking the crowd stating, “Silence is Betrayal”.
Organiser Mohsen Saleh, 22, said the inspiration for this unorthodox form of protest came from a Youtube video of a similar flash mob in Canada.
“This is much more powerful in my opinion. Silence. Everyone stops and stares,” said Saleh.
Onlooker Fiona Fonti, 30, agreed.
“This is quite striking. With protests, you don’t really know what’s going on, it’s just people cheering and chanting but this is really different.”
Fonti said she was only vaguely aware of the situation in Syria before the flash mob. Other onlookers like Marinke Kat, 26, said they were not aware of the situation at all.
“I saw ‘Bashar’ and was like which country is he from, then I saw ‘Syria’ [on the signs],” she said.
“It draws attention really quickly, because you think ‘Oh what’s going on there?’ and then you stop to take a look. “
With a United Nations estimate of over 9000 dead in Syria since the nationwide uprising began early last year, attention to the cause is exactly what the organisers want.
“People who may have not known what’s happening in Syria will find out, and anyone who is against the murder of children or the murder of innocent people will be shocked to find this information,” said Asme Fahmi, 31, a flash mob participant.
Fahmi said her travels to Syria pushed her to join in.
“I saw how people have been mistreated by this dictatorship. You’re not allowed to speak about the government, you’re not allowed to dissent in any way,” she said.
“The leadership is built upon abuse and torture and fear. It’s just no way for anyone to live.”
The organisers hope that by raising awareness, more people will add their voices in the call against President Assad.
“What we’re trying to say is if you stay silent, you’re taking the side of the oppressor,” Saleh said. “You are not neutral.”
Originally published in New Matilda