Many know them as an online hacker collective that has generated worldwide press coverage for bolder and bolder hacks and defacements of government and corporate websites, and a few resulting arrests. But some Anonymous members are activists without borders who continue to play a significant role in the so-called Arab Spring pro-democracy movement. This week a group of anons from Sweden headed for Syria to deliver medical and humanitarian assistance.
Homs, Syria, during the February bombings by the Syrian military loyal to President al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Freedom House
by Jeff Johnston, with additional reporting by Kathlyn Stone
Activists within the Anonymous culture in Sweden headed to Syria this week amidst the chaos and inhumanity to bring much needed medical supplies and equipment to help the victims of the fragmented country.
#OpTripToSyria started trending on Twitter on Feb. 9 and has been gathering worldwide support very quickly. Supporters of the operation have had the chance to donate to the cause through a link on the triptosyria.wordpress.comweb site the anons have established.
For nearly a year, constant protests have been flooding Syria's streets as citizens continue to relentlessly pressure current President Bashar al-Assad to step down. The protests have been hit with violence at the hands of al-Assad's military force. According to the UN, the conflict has claimed more than 7,500 lives.
Motivation for Anonymous's humanitarian mission to Syria had come from various factors, but most notably due to the attacks on the city of Homs.
“I think I had enough when I saw all the tweets from the Swedish activists @SyrienNyheter or more specifically of the babies who died when Assad's militia shut off the power to several incubators,” said an anon who currently goes by the handle TTS.
TTS also related a common creed of the Anonymous culture: that people shouldn't be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.
Anonymous donations have come from all over the world and more than 50 people have contributed. “Donations have come from Swedes, Europeans, Asians, Russians, Americans – you name it,” said TTS.
As of March 4, the anons had raised $2,257 US that they will use to purchase the medical supplies they will be bringing. The supplies will include medical kits, water purification tablets, washcloths and antibiotics and painkillers.
Many followers of the twitter account @TriptoSyria have expressed concern about the safety of the individuals who are embarking on the trip.
“There are a lot of concerns that things might go wrong; we could be killed, captured, arrested or robbed, but we can only aim for success," said TTS. "Hopefully, our actions will inspire other people to do the same thing. Risking everything for what we believe is the right thing to do. And we know that our operation will have some kind of impact whatever happens.”
The team of activists is also well trained. Some of them have gone through military training, and have experience in first aid, trauma handling and CPR. However, they have emphasized that the mission is strictly non-violent.
This mission is still a bold endeavour as the United States and other Western embassies have suspended their actions in Syria, due to the elevated security risk.
On the international scale, Russia and China, two countries that initially vetoed the military intervention, seem to be waning in their support of Assad's regime. Both countries have decried the violence in Syria and have dispatched diplomats to the region this week. Victims of conflict in Syria can only hope that this will help bring direct action from the international community to end the loss of innocents.
For more information, visit triptosyria.wordpress.com.
by Jeff Johnston, with additional reporting by Kathlyn Stone, via@AnonOpsSweden