Our Citizenside Reporter Mazhar Tayara, known to us as Omar Astalavista and to others as "Omar the Syrian", died on Saturday (February 4, 2012) in Al-Khalidiya, Syria. Mazhar was hit by shrapnel while trying to help injured people and document the scene to share with communities like ours.
Our editorial staff was contacted by one of Mazhar's close friends shortly after, below is an excerpt from what he shared about Mazhar's life and mission.
"Mazhar was born on July 21, 1988 in Homs where he lived all his life. I met Mazhar in September 1999 in a special school in Homs for gifted students with high marks from the elementary level. We had to pass a general knowledge exam in order to be selected by this school (it is a publicly owned school) and we were classmates for 6 years until we finished high school together.
Mazhar entered the University of Civil Engineering in 2006, where he did training in construction, and he was in his final year of studies before he was killed last Saturday.
Mazhar was single, he had a couple of love stories during his life. :)
He dreamt of continuing his education in France and that is why he learned French. He began alone at first, and then took courses in the CCF (Centre Culturel Français) in Damascus where he reached an advanced level. He also had a high level of English.
'Do you think the revolution will start in Syria?', I asked Mazhar after the first protest in Tunisia.
'Yes, I know Syrian people, I believe in Syria', Mazhar answered.
He didn’t hesitate, he didn’t think twice, he knew that Syrian people would rise against the regime.
Since the first day of our Revolution, Mazhar was ready, he knew what would happen, he wrote a letter for his parents and put it under his bed. 'Tomorrow we have to go to the protest, I can’t sit down and watch it on TV', he told on the eve of the first Homs massacre on the 17th of April.
Mazhar started his revolutionary activities by watching the protests in silence, he was thinking, watching the police, the security forces and the army. 'I have to find a plan for the protest, I think it won’t be long till they are going to shoot at us', he said. And he was right, just a few hours later the army shot live ammo at the protestors and many people were killed that night.
He knew we could not just participate in the protests, we had to do more than that. Mazhar tried to contact all the people responsible for organizing the protests, and he succeeded.
He started to put some money aside to buy a professional camera, then he started to translate some articles from English and French to Arabic and vice versa, and he sent his articles to several media outlets. This activity made him close to some journalists.
During Ramadan, two German journalists from Der Spiegel entered Homs and he dedicated his time to help them. He worked as a translator, car driver and food provider for these journalists. He also helped two British journalists make a documentary about Homs.
He was our eyewitness.
Eventually he saved enough money and he bought a camera. He started taking photos of the protests, he interviewed several activists, and he provided several photos and videos to foreign news media.
Mazhar used to speak with Avaaz (http://www.avaaz.org/en/) regularly and give them updates. Thus Mazhar was part of the introduction of a major Avaaz fundraiser for Syria, which should raise a lot of money worldwide, for medicines etc.
His story will be mentioned at the start of the fundraise and he will be remembered as a citizen journalist who risked his life.
Here is an interview he did with one of the people in Baba Amr when the Arab monitors visited it.
Here is an article he helped write for journalists from the UK newspaper the Guardian.
This is a play by his group for the people of Al-Khalidiya to keep them going and keep the momentum (he was the photographer).
FInally, a video of a tribute to Mazhar in Chicago can be seen on YouTube."
We at Citizenside are very saddened by the loss of Mazhar, whose last contribution to Citizenside depicted Syrian soldiers defecting from the army and joining a protest in Homs. Mazhar explained, "They defected because the army ordered them to shoot and kill peaceful protesters."