Syrian child Omran Dankish was saved from under the rubble after a Syrian Russian airstrike destroyed his home.
Sadly, Omran’s older brother Ali died in the hospital that day.
A while ago, I was watching an interview with Syrian teenager Yusra Mardini talking about her love of swimming and how she was accepted in a special swimming school in Germany, and her perilous journey crossing the Mediterranean. I was proud, I had a glimpse of optimism that some youths escaped the ugly war are able to present a bright future.
One sentence she said made me smile in irony; she said: I was sad because I couldn’t lift up my country’s flag.
Of course Yusra is too young to remember what happened to the list of talented athletes in Syria, the talented ones who would be able to have a bright promising future, and all was taken away from them either before 2011 or after.
Long time ago, I came to aware the fact that anyone in Syria who belongs to a lower class, or have a lower position at work, anyone poor and belong to a simple family, especially when that person is a woman, one is meant to be jostled by everyone else above his/her social status.
We were driven to believe that this lack of social empathy is in the nature of Syrians. I know better now, that such act to break any creative spirit is a character structured into society by the fascist state. Creativity and talent has no place in the Syrian society because those who show them are prone to deviate from the uniform of society. In Syria, anyone in the spotlight must be recruited and used.
An athlete like Yusra will never find the coach and training she needs in case she was in Syria. As a matter of fact, she must pay for reaching excellence one way or another, or be protected by someone “of a heavy weight,” as we say in Syria in reference to someone can reach deep in the interior structure of the regime. Going international from Syria is a very risky business, the image of the totalitarian regime is important, and the image any Syrian should represents must be in concord with what the regime wants to represent.
Many Syrians didn’t have the means or opportunities to thrive. They were hindered from even pursuing a way upward, from seeking any way to chase a shadow of a dream. Many might not have the aid they need to compete on international level, but they were not allowed to try without a full control.
As a woman, Yusra might not be able to compete as a swimmer. In Germany she is protected from any certain images she might feel ought to show. She is protected from society’s prejudice against women in swimming suits. I read and heard many pathetic comments about what she is wearing, and possibly she will not be protected by the Syrian regime, unless the regime wants to use this issue for its interests. In Germany she is offered training, instructions and support. Things that she would be probably denied from having in Syria. The young swimmer deserved all help, she is talented and smart, and she found them in Germany.
In case Yusra remained in the pre-2011 Syria, the Syria that was in negative peace and emergency laws for more than 40 years, then it is unlikely that she would be able to carry her flag. In case she wanted to hold up a representation of her, then the Olympics flame could be the best representation of her spirit and strength.
Some people gossiped that her family supports Assad regime. The smart girl remained neutral and innocent, she did not contaminate her waters with taking sides and with political views, and she is too young to carry such burden at the time many athletes were killed, arrested, took sides and carried weapons and driven away from their dreams. Yusra and another Syrian swimmer Rami Anis, for the first time in their lives and in many Syrians lives, are going somewhere. Hope is a necessity in refugees lives so they can open up and give their best wherever they live.
So dear Yusra, I doubt that you would be able to hold your country’s flag without losing your freedom to be simply a devoted athlete. Unless you know a high rank officer in secret police or army, chances are you might not be able to get a seat in an airplane to Rio.
In a final note, I respected the formation of team refugees, I just hated the name and would like to call them: Earth Team. I felt a bitterness when the refugees talked about how they wanted to be seen as humans, and that they are just like the rest of the world! Did anyone have any doubt that they are?
How borders and single identities are absurd!
The city of Manbij, located north Syria near the Euphrates river, was freed by Kurdish forces from ISIS. After the liberation of the city, pictures emerged of Kurdish women fighters among the Kurdish forces, helping and comforting the citizens of Minbij who celebrated their liberation by practicing freedoms they were banned from under the threat of ISIS vile sword.
The Kurdish women fighters always make me feel proud to be a Kurdish woman.
He might be seen carrying a huge black bag filled with unknown stuff and crossing the borders, seems suspicious maybe! Joy and smiles is smuggled inside the bag, teddy bears and unicorns.
Rami Adham, a Finnish-Syrian man makes a trip every two months from Finland to Syria, carrying toys to the besieged Syrian children in Aleppo. But even toys are not easy to smuggle, he said that in June 2016, he walked 8 miles carrying a bag of toys through the Syrian borders because it was too dangerous to take a car as Syrian warplanes were targeting the surroundings of Aleppo. Sometimes the toys he brings for some children remain childless due to displacement or death.
Mr Rami said that he started bringing toys after one time when he was in a humanitarian mission to deliver food, he had a bag of toys and when he opened it children gathered around him laughing and shouting, he realised the effect of toys made on the lives of these children.
It is impressive how some people still carry the spark of joy despite all the carnage and ugliness sweeping Syria. A touch of humanity can imprint in these children’s memories and keep remains of hope in their souls.
I still remember that summer day on the 6th of June 2000, when Hafez Assad died. It wasn’t that I couldn’t believe it, or I am chocked or I was expecting anything in specific. I didn’t expect that anything would change. I just sat in front of the TV watching the people fainting from sadness and performing bad crying scenes. But who can blame them, maybe I would burst in hysterical crying act and throw myself on the ground and faint before cameras, either dignity through hypocrisy or humiliation through torture.
The only thing I remember is a deep sense of amusement. Was it decent to feel amused when a nation handed over from father to sun under the claim of “legitimacy!” was it appropriate to feel amused watching an expected charade unfolding in the space of our lives? But it wasn’t all that.
I was amused because “forever” proved to be not valid. In schools and streets and offices and army, everywhere we heard and sang the cheer: “Forever, forever, oh Hafez Al Assad.” Death is sarcastic when it comes to totalitarian fascist “Fathers” of some nations.
I am writing this after I watched a short movie by Abou Naddara group entitled: The King Never Dies. Many people didn’t believe that Hafez Assad could die, we repeated the forever slogan till it became part of life’s facts.
He died, so will other kings, like ordinary people, they die.
In 2012, I participated in writing an anthology entitled: Demanding Dignity. Few days ago, I came across the book again, and started reading the lost hopes and wasted aspirations of Arab activists who dreamt in a better world, including me. I did feel the urge to contact the activists and talk about the current moment, mainly how they are coping with the massive losses we all endured.
Strangely, amidst this ruthless chaos I realized that I passed the phase of despair and anger, I feel hope and despair, I feel movement and stagnation, I feel empathy and apathy, the world of binary concepts and values is tearing my soul apart, and the world of the one path and one god is shattered. We seek a world of an inclusion diverse methods made by singular entities.
The greatness of Arab protests was that people believed in their right of being the stakeholders, there was a sense of normalcy in the unprecedented movements. We saw families participate and children were brought to the protests. It was a celebration of values and love, much different from what the left or “much” democratic countries wanted to see: clear political distinctions. It was the nature and norm against hypocrisy and masks. And what the oppressors took from the people through their scorched land policies was the joy of being a meaningful part of a bigger inclusive ideal. Sounds like what religion supposed to be, but it is not. Religion is what the oppressors want us to believe in, want to impose on us: obedience which is very different from respect; and this will never be forgotten.
We constantly heard Arab ruling junta mocks the uprising against them, mocking the title that we never chosen: “Arab Spring.” They refer to the irony of the name and the destruction and mayhem they themselves brought. They are wrong, the mockery is on them and their actions and not on the uprising of the people who sought they can do better governments.
The World of the Father
I don’t believe in fathers, partly because of a personal experience, and partly because a father in our region does not represent a human being guiding and guarding new paths, the father here represents a god who is able to inflict great destruction and pain if his visions were not followed and his values were not applied. The father who knows better regardless of his nations’ experiences. The pro-oppressors always call the totalitarian head of state as “Father.”
This is why it is crucial for women to raise their voices and take their part in shaping the world they live in. One can see it clearly in MENA, whenever women were visible to the world, more freedoms and progress introduced, as long as women surrendering to their fathers, oppression will endure. There is a reason why better laws are not formed in favor of women in MENA, there is a reason why women must be kept chained in the old molds designed for her even if these chains were made by Armani. An organic authentic woman will smash old molds and concepts, will challenge surrendering to the norms. Fathers must step down so the child can thrive.