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Icchiku Yamada, human rights advocate stands with Syria: Interview

Interviews | 2018-09-30 19:24:00
Icchiku Yamada, human rights advocate stands with Syria: Interview
   Icchiku Yamada(C L)
Zaman al-Wasl has interviewed Icchiku Yamada, a Japanese researcher and founder of the organization “Stand with Syria Japan” who assured that his people have experienced the horrors of war and have suffered from its pains, so they will never stop standing by and supporting the Syrians until they gain the freedom for which they are fighting.

 Yamada, who currently continues to prepare his master’s degree in Human security at the University of Tokyo, and who is closely interested in the Syrian revolution following its recent developments, was first introduced to the Syrian revolution when he was still in high school in Paris by following the peaceful demonstrations of the Syrians on television. He was touched by the scene of young people, like himself, demanding freedom, justice and dignity, which all human beings yearn for. 

“I knew that the value of life lies in keeping your dignity but I never imagined that some people are still deprived of it under tyrannical rulers. Following the faces of the Syrians and their demonstrations on the screen, I felt there was a voice calling me to partake in realizing these demands and supporting this revolution. Since then, the Syrian revolution has become my own case and my duty is to support it. 



Yamada asserted that in the past few years he has witnessed many scenes of death, and that he confused with the pain of the Syrians which he felt, at a certain point, as his own. He said: “I feel that my freedom will remain incomplete until the day the Syrians get theirs; I have no power over this feeling. And it doesn’t matter that the country is 9000 kilometers away from Japan.” 

Yamada spoke with dismay about the Japanese media’s biased adoption of the news, and about the views of experts and analysts who stand largely in Bashar al-Asad's line, which makes the public inclined to sympathize with the regime and its propaganda. The thing that is yet more shocking is the Japanese government’s support of the regime through its contribution to the so called “reconstruction” launched by Assad. 

But the founder of "Stand with Syria Japan", known as the SSJ, says his organization has succeeded to a significant extent in bringing about changes in the Japanese public opinion on the Syrian issue by organizing several public events that have captured the attention of the local media; lectures in several universities around Syria have also played a role. 

Hence the Japanese public has had the chance to get a different perspective, the perspective of the truth supported by the tragic but deeply human stories of the Syrians, as opposed to the hollow vision presented by either international politics or national interests. 

With every event organized by the SSJ, as claimed by its founder, the organization received positive reactions and phrases such as: "I really didn’t know what was going on in Syria, and didn’t know that there were human beings just like us, suffering to this day merely to live as human and dignified beings."

"I felt their pain and felt their hope; something I could never have experienced through Japanese media" .

Yamada expressed his conviction that the voices that seem few today will increase tomorrow, to weave a Japanese public speech that will rise the Syrian case above what is perceived as correct and that will drive those in power to take a firm stand once and for all against the criminal Assad regime. 



Yamada saw it as natural for the Japanese media to lose interest in the Syrian matter as its focus was mainly driven to the military side of the war (Attacks, battles, bombing), not the real and deepest face of the disaster. Hence, the decline of hostilities reflected the decline of interest. Yet there are hundreds of people coming in big number to the events that we organize till this day, expressing how deeply touched they are by the stories and testimonies they hear. Our organization realized that one of its tasks in this field is to keep Syria unforgettable and ever present in the minds of people, and that is exactly what we are doing. 

As for the difficulties facing Yamada and his team, the Japanese activist describes them as complex and varied, especially that SSJ is the only organization in Japan that adopts the views of the Syrian revolution and propagates them in the country amidst a group of organizations that promote the regime and its propaganda. He added: “can you imagine that because of our support for the Syrian revolution, we’ve been accused of supporting the terrorists, and I’ve personally came under pressure from the Russian embassy because of my pro-revolutionary activities.

In addition, the organization suffers from financial and time-related difficulties. My team and I continue our university studies; hence we do not have the means to organize events that are able to reflect all aspects of the Syrian issue. Our task also requires complete devotion which is hard for us as university students to provide. Not to mention that we have to be extremely careful due to our legal pursuits over terrorist supporting charges especially when we raise funds and collect donations.”

“The difficulty that remains the hardest”, he adds, “is how to reach out to Syria and its neighboring countries. Their recognition of our activities is what is most important to us as an organization. Communication with Syrians remains by far the hardest difficulty.”

Although the age of "SSJ" does not exceed a year and a half which is born in the spring of 2017, Yamada says that his actual work in favor of the Syrian revolution began in 2014, when he was in London, where he came into direct contact with Syrians, through his activity in an organization that helps them. 

"I met some Syrian families in London and that’s when I realized the difficulty of the situation in Syria," recalls Yamada. "I saw the film" Return to Homs," directed by Talal Dirki, which changed the course of my life to 180 degrees. I realized that people like me, of flesh and blood, are being slaughtered simply because they are demanding to live with dignity, and I felt that the film's heroes (Abdul Baset al-Sarout and Osama al-Habaly
 ) were asking me, "Why are you still ignoring our voices ?!"

Ever since that day, I’ve started communicating with Dirkie, and early in 2016 I managed to organize the first public activity around Syria, gathering about 250 people, and continued to organize similar events, relying on my personal efforts, except for some help I got from a few friends on the day of execution.

As the days went by, I felt the responsibility of the task weigh on my shoulders, and I have to look for partners that help me to continue and develop the events. And that’s how the SSJ was born, whose crew is still few but whose collaborators and sympathizers are multiple among which we name : director Talal Derki 
, journalist Zaina Erhaim, White Helmets organization member   Ismail al-Abdullah
 Aeham Ahmad, photojournalist Rami al-Sayed, Ahmad Abu Shaar, a cofounder of the relief organisation.



In addition to these Syrian individuals, Yamada says a huge audience of Syrians heard about and appreciated our efforts and campaigns, even though there is no direct contact between us: Demonstrators raised a sign of thanks to our organization during one of Idlib's recent demonstrations in response to our solidarity with them in the face of threats of invasion and annihilation. And I think that a large number of Syrians were touched by the sight of a 
group of Japanese students holding signs of solidarity with Idlib as a result of a campaign organized by the SSJ. 

This gives me and my organization immense pleasure because we are not only trying to introduce the Japanese people to what is happening in Syria, but also to show the Syrians that there are people in the far end of the world who are in solidarity with them, who are supporting their revolution that calls for freedom and dignity, and who are resisting all kinds of tyranny that the Syrians are exposed to, especially the tyranny of Bashar Assad.”

In conclusion, the founder of the SSJ did not forget to praise the Zaman al-Wasl in its coverage, which he described as excellent, stressing that he follows its English version and supports its clear and the unbiased editorial line in adopting the aspirations of all Syrians to achieve dignity and freedom and to oppose all forms of injustice. 

Zaman Al Wasl- Ethar Abdul Haq
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