Why the Umbrella Revolution Is the Most Important Story of 2014

Activist Raed Fares, who came up with the banner protest idea and survived an assassination attempt last January, told Syria Deeply in October that the town weathers daily regime air raids, no running water for the past three years and no power for two years.

A 2012 banner grimly foretold Syria's fate: "World! Your shameful inactivity will reproduce thousands of Bin Ladens." Kafranbel's sign for Christmas 2013? "Merry barrel bombs! Merry terrorist Assad! Merry careless world! Merry big mouth Obama!" Their sign this past weekend: "2015 won't be a 'happy new year' at all while Assad is still killing us and shedding blood everywhere with USA's blessings."

Asked if there is one thing he would tell President Obama, Fares said, "I believe that he, 10 years from now, will consider that his biggest mistake was Syria, just as Clinton did when he stated that his biggest mistake was Rwanda."

When the townspeople gather for a demonstration, the Assad regime begins shelling. That, and more than three years of pleas with no result, have many understandably losing hope. Will the world listen? Is this their interminable fate?

Is this the same feeling Wong, Shum, Chow and the other Hong Kong protest leaders will have in a few years -- crackdowns followed by a world unwilling to stand by their side?

"There’ve been many massacres in Kafranbel and the shelling is ongoing," Fares says, vowing to carry on until the country is free from both Assad and ISIS. "A people who have lived such events will not be deterred and will not be silenced until we get our demands."

And Tuesday in Moscow's Manezhnaya Square, protesters gathered as scheduled to voice discontent with President Vladimir Putin's persecution of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the war on Ukraine, and Putin's general authoritarian rule. Punk band Pussy Riot released a video to draw people to the protest. Russian authorities blocked the Facebook event page and tried blocking off entrances to the square. The square began to fill. Hundreds were arrested. Navalny was promptly seized and returned to house arrest.

"The fact that I have been detained does not mean anything at all," Navalny tweeted to his supporters. "I do not know how to do anything that you do not know how to do."

They're not the only ones bringing out the worst in Putin, from the Euromaidan in Ukraine to the Siberian autonomy movement.

The aspirations and bravery of the teens who took on China this year laid a foundation that will see them through a rocky 2015 and beyond. And hopefully the Umbrella Revolution will unite in spirit all seeking freedom from oppression in the year ahead.