11 years ago today, amidst a surge of demonstrations in Syria and a flourishing of new, vibrant political and intellectual discourse among Syrians, al-Jumhuriya website published its first article. Our launch was not preceded by extensive professional planning, as is typical today. We did not conduct «feasibility studies» «visual identity exercises» or «analyses of institutional strengths and weaknesses».

Rather, we were a small group of writers, journalists, and academics who recognized in the Syrian uprising a rare moment of convergence between praxis and thought. We shared the conviction that freedom cannot flourish without the word, and that words are not solely derived from books and well-articulated theories, but also from observing and attending to the tangible details of lived messy reality.

We also shared a dream, that of a democratic and secular Syria, where all citizens could come together to govern themselves, share their resources, and uplift their country. We strongly believed that Syrian women and men like their peers across the world were worthy and capable of such a republic (Jumhuriya). We still hold this conviction. Syrians deserve a new republic.

A lot has changed since. Like millions of Syrians, we have lost homes and loved ones. A few drifted away in search of a better life, others oscillated between anxiety and depression, and some lost their real names and became their pseudonyms. Despite all the loss, however, we have also gained much in the process. We have transformed into a bona fide institution that combines mission with professionalism. Our world expanded to encompass new generations of writers, journalists and readers from all parts of Syria and the Arab World, and we have explored new meanings of freedom and identity. 

Above all, we have learned that common broad convictions are necessary but not sufficient for effective collective action. We have discovered that the words institutionalization and organization sound far too bureaucratic and lacking compared to the effort, imagination, love, patience, kindness, sincerity, and flexibility required for a growing group of passionate democrats to work effectively together – i.e to practice and think truly together without tyranny, splinering, or loss of meaning. This is an arduous undertaking that goes beyond al-Jumhuriya to encompass all of Syria. It requires much more than what is being said about it in terms of ideas and shared experiences. Syria is over a hundred years old today. How many bright experiences of collective democratic action do we have in our history? Not many.

We still have a lot of work to do to become a better and more impactful Syrian platform. Our dream is to have the resources to expand our journalistic output, to include news coverage, more investigations, and more multimedia work. We want to reach new audiences, translate more of our content, and widen the circle of our journalists and contributors from Syria and the Arab world. 

Most importantly, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to avoid the two monsters that threaten any media platform in our world at this moment, like Schylla and Charybdis threatened Odysseus. We do not want to equate freedom with its enemies in the name of diversity,  nor do we want to become an echo chamber where virtue signaling overshadows a real exchange of ideas. In this struggle, there are no ready-made solutions. There is only trial, errors, and trial again.   

Despite the challenges, we are determined to continue in this worthy endeavor and we hope that one day we will publicly celebrate a brand new office for AlJumhuriya in a free new Syria. Until then, here’s a personal thank you to our teammates and fellow travelers in this journey, and to all our loyal readers and partners for their continuous support.