'Today we are at the end of a story that is more than five-year-old. A bittersweet story for sure, but one that saw people reach and touch the dream, even if they did not get to experience its full potential. Only six months ago, we were debating what's next for Harasta. We had just concluded the direct elections of a local council, a process that upheld electoral standards within our means--we even had debates among the candidates.
Harasta, to be fair, was not the first to lead the way with direct elections of a local council; Saqba did it only a month before. And so, we were discussing what our next step should be. How to work with the council to increase the participation rate in the next elections, particularly that of women. We decided that the 'Center for Social Engagement"--which was established a few months prior and had taken part in overseeing the elections in Harasta producing a detailed report--should focus on encouraging higher electoral turnout.
We did not know at the time those would be the last elections in Harasta... Harasta today, as those who remain there tell us, is almost completely destroyed. Part of its people has been made, under fire, to leave and go north. They wanted to still be able to smell free air, even if away from home. Another part decided to stay back, even deprived of their basic freedoms. A few days ago, several hundred people in Kafr Batna were filmed demonstrating, chanting "We do not want Freedom anymore!" They, thus, agreed to the trade the regime had asked of them: Their liberty for their life.
And so, as some Harastans choose to let go of their freedom, while others choose to let go of their homes, remember that none of this was actually their choice. They made their decision at gunpoint. Today, as we turn the page on the five-year story of Free Harasta, I only hope for the safety and well-being of its people, wherever they are, and wherever they are made to be. We bow our heads to you in humility and we raise them with pride.'