This documentary follows the life of 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 organizer in leading peaceful protests in his homeland “Daraya” 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.

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 Syrian heroes who initiated the movement in Syria way before the Arab Spring. To shed light on these brave Syrian activists who, according to them, were inspired by Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi.

To share with the public, especially in the west, these inspiring stories that the international media in general,  intend to ignore in order to justify the cluelessness of the international community who has been witnessing the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.

In order to raise awareness on the grave human rights situation in Syria, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS) have co-produced a feature documentary film entitled “LITTLE GANDHI”.

Although at the centre of the film, Ghiyath is never pictured, instead his comrades recount the beginning of the uprising, and how Ghiyath’s ideas of peaceful resistance to the Baathist tyranny were taken up and acted upon in Daraya.

The film is full of poignant moments as the exiled revolutionaries recount the days of the early protests, their first taste of freedom as they began to shout anti-government slogans for the first time and broke the barrier of fear that had been built around their minds.

Footage of the early protests is shown, and the activists explained how they wanted to keep the revolt peaceful as the best means to threaten the regime. This peaceful resistance was what the regime feared most, and Ghiyath was its champion. His friends recounted his fervent belief that the soldiers would not kill them as they were their fellow Syrians, and that their best hope was to appeal to them as Syrian brothers and fellow human beings.

Ghiyath was a key organizer of the tactic of holding roses on demonstrations, and of giving bottles of water to the police and soldiers who come to repress the demonstrations. In the middle of summer 2011, many of the soldiers were thirsty and dehydrated and gladly accepted the water, although their commanders did their best to dissuade them from taking it by saying it was poisoned. 

Usually the demonstrators would have to leave the bottles of water stood stood in the street for the soldiers to collect as  they moved towards the protests.

The regime’s response to Ghiyath and his comrades peaceful resistance was brutal. Peaceful activists were arrested and beaten and tortured, often to death. Activists took to living in outlying farms surrounding Daraya to escape the constant raids on the city by the security forces, only returning to organize and participate in protests. Eventually Ghiyath and another leading activists Yahya Shurbaji were lured back into the city and captured in a trap.

Several days later, Ghiyath’s horrifically tortured body was returned to his family. Yahya’s whereabouts are unknown, he has not been released nor had his body returned.

Najlaa Al-Sheikh, one of the women activists interviewed spoke about the anger felt by other peaceful activists when news of Ghiyath’s murder reached them. Although completely opposed to using violent means to overthrow the regime, the torture and murder of Ghiyath made them consider taking up arms against it, and drove many to support those groups already doing so.

When asked about the prospects for the future of Syria, Najlaa replied in a poetic fashion typical of many of the activists;  "We have sowed freedom and it will be reaped by our sons"

None of the activists believed the conflict would end soon, but they all felt that freedom would come to Syria, in time.

Kadi, the director has been recognized by the prestigious Cinema for Peace for raising awareness of human rights issues through motion pictures.

Kadi, a Syria native and U.S. citizen, also used Skype to conduct the interviews and direct the entire shoot inside Syria. The digital film files then took over six months to be gradually smuggled out of the country for eventual uploading. The documentary, meanwhile, also filmed in several additional locations in Turkey and the U.S

               “Little Gandhi” is a source of inspiration and a heroic story that needs to be told and shared with the rest of the world.

Director Sam Kadi

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