As the constant stream of media headlines makes clear, the ongoing turmoil in Syria is growing more troubling by the day. Even after more than a half a million civilians have perished under the bombardment of barrel bombs, random gunfire and chemical gas attacks, there appears to be little hope for a resolution.
But that doesn't deter the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's oppressive government. Produced by Al-Jazeera, The Boy Who Started the Syrian War stands on the frontlines of this battle, and recounts the story of one opposition member who set the tone for this raging conflict with a simple juvenile prank.
In 2011, a 14-year old boy named Mouawiya grabbed a can of spray paint, and plastered a message of defiance against the Assad regime on his school wall. At the time, the boy regarded the graffiti as nothing more than an act of youthful rebellion. The authorities saw it differently. "They hung us up like chickens," Mouawiya says of he and his accomplices following their capture. A period of prolonged torture ensued, and soon sparked the outrage of protestors who began to crowd the streets. Security forces opened fire on the gathering masses under orders from the government, and ushered in an era of civil war that continues to this day.
Graffiti may have inspired the uprising, but the writing was already on the wall for many of its participants. Following the Arab Spring if 2010, the country was primed for a revolt against Assad's dictatorship, and a full-hearted embrace of democratic principles. The film features interviews with several key players in this pursuit, including an average accountant who now serves as a leader of the resistance and an educator who teaches defense techniques to the nation's most vulnerable children. The filmmakers also catch up with Mouawiya, who is now a politically conscientious adult who fights alongside the Free Syrian Army.
Featuring harrowing images of structural devastation and unbearable human loss, The Boy Who Started the Syrian War provides invaluable insight into a conflict that continues to threaten the lives of millions, and plague the promise of democratic relations around the globe.