“I’m Afraid, Don’t Let Them Take Me,” 2935 Said

You probably heard of Caesar’s case, the man who used to work as a photographer with the Syrian Military Police. He took 55,000 pictures for 11,000 detainees tortured to death in Syrian regime’s detention centers. The victims bodies dumbed in Mezzeh Hospital 601. Among the victims there were children, Christians, and even supporters of the regime. One picture emerged belong to a woman among the tortured and emaciated corpses.

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Rehab Allawi

Her identity was revealed, 24 years old Rihab Allawi, or body No. 2935, used to study civil engineering, was taken from her house on 16/01/2013. Her family didn’t hear anything about her till Caesar’s pictures emerged. One girl was with Rihab in the same cell said that Syrian regime intelligence came and took Rihab at 12am from the cell, her last words were: “I’m afraid, don’t let them take me.”

A number of Syrians reacted by writing numbers on their foreheads and taking pictures in a campaign called: Syrians are not numbers.

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Syrian activist in support of tortured to death detainees in Assad prisons

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The issue of detainees is one of the most persistent matters to be solved in Syria, and the most neglected by the International Community. The Syrian government and armed extremists must reveal the detainees identities, numbers and situations.

Mercy.

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Mary ‘Ajami: A Pioneering Syrian Woman During WWI

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Born in Damascus in 1888, Mary Ajami was one of the first feminists and female writers in Syria and the Arab World. She fought for freedom during the Ottoman Empire, for a Free Syria. She is a poet, a translator (like me) a writer, and started a number of women’s groups and Associations during her life, one is a literary salon called: Damascus Women’s Literary Club. She mastered Arabic and English. Mary was a smart and brave woman that broke the set of patriarchal rules of her time and “was highly praised for her ability to run the intellectual discourse and was acknowledged as a skilled talker.”¹

In December 1910, she started Al-Arous Magazine (The Bride), the magazine’s logo was: Honor was given to women to beautify the earth with heaven’s flowers. The publication of the 32 pages magazine stopped in 1914 because of WWI, during that time Mary started a private school to teach children during the war. She resumed publishing her magazine in 1918, but the number of its pages doubled to 64 pages. In 1951, the man she loved was hanged by Ottoman leader Jamal Basha (nicknamed The Assassin).

Mary was human rights defender, she visited prisons and wrote about the situations of the detainees.  Her articles called to support farmers, workers and soldiers, she also gave private lessons to young women and girls eager for education. Mary was honored in Damascus 1929, she got a number of awards in her life.

Mary Ajami died alone in 1965.

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1- Arab Women Novelists: The Formative Years and Beyond by Joseph T. Zeidan.

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Into Fifth Year of Revolution: On Women’s Heroism & Other Observations

This article was part of a speech I made during Women in Public Service Uganda on the 7th of March 2015.

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“Great social changes are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.” ~Karl Marx

Before the 2011 uprising in Syria, some claim that women were enjoying certain liberties under the rule of the Syrian regime. I don’t know if we can say that there were any liberties for women or men in a country that was in a state of negative peace and was kept under an emergency law for more than 40 years. Before 2011, women were allowed to work and get education, but this was part of the phase that time when leftist parties came to power like Baath as there was no authentic approach in solving society’s issues. Women who worked in positions and participated in public life were only part of the system that used them. Women empowerment issue and organizations were hijacked by specially designed and guided institution called: Women Union, which did nothing but to indoctrinate women and participate in the production of a generation of loyal women, but not empowered. Although handful of women activists tried to start their own organizations, but the majority did not get any support from other parties, most of these women worked on political and cultural issues, not on the grassroots levels.

Women were not part of the decision making process, they weren’t part of making laws, foreign policy, internal policy or even policies related to civil and familial life, nor their own private life. The fact that women did not have their fair share of the economic life in Syria was also a part of women’s exclusion from leading an effective role in public life. There was also an illiteracy gap between boys and girls in Syria, were the number of uneducated women higher than men. Marriage and family was protected by the government and many familial issues were left to be dealt with inside the confines of the patriarchal control of the family, but the nature of the societal culture in Syria was not quite supportive of women. Equal rights of the two married partners were not protected, rather, the institution of marriage by-itself (not the humans that form it) was protected in Personal Status Law. In the constitution, there were some limited articles stating women rights, but as all points mentioning human rights in it, all rights were limited either by the ideological frame of Baath party, or to the family in women’s and children’s rights.

Only in 2002, Syrian Government signed the CEDAW but it showed reservations on: “Subject to reservations to article 2; article 9, paragraph 2, concerning the grant of a woman’s nationality to her children; article 15, paragraph 4, concerning freedom of movement and of residence and domicile; article 16, paragraph 1 (c), (d), (f) and (g), concerning equal rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution with regard to guardianship, the right to choose a family name, maintenance and adoption; article 16, paragraph 2, concerning the legal effect of the betrothal and the marriage of a child, inasmuch as this provision is incompatible with the provisions of the Islamic Shariah; and article 29, paragraph 1, concerning arbitration between States in the event of a dispute.”

Najah Al-Attar, Vice President of Syria, a loyalist to Assad family.

Najah Al-Attar, Vice President of Syria, a loyalist to Assad family.

Bouthaina Shaaban - Political Media Advisor for the President. I see her as one of war criminals in Syria.

Bouthaina Shaaban – Political Media Advisor for the President. I see her as one of war criminals in Syria.

In 2011, Syrians started protesting in the streets. Inspired by the wave of anger ignited in Tunisia, at first, protestors called for reforms. The situation escalated when a group of children in the city of Deraa south Syria, were detained after they repeated the phrase they saw on TV screens that states “People Wants to Topple the regime.”  These children were tortured and there were some reports of sexual abuse. When regime’s security officers refused to free the children, massive demonstrations started demanding their return, and making radical reforms in the security and bureaucratic system, fighting corruption and improving the livelihood of the people. The regime faced the peaceful protests by sending military tanks. The army and police were told to open fire at will, even shooting at funerals and after Islamic Friday prayers in order to prevent any possible protests. Anger waves increased after gruesome images of a child called Hamza Al Khateeb and other children, were released showing them brutally tortured to death after they were  arrested by regime forces. These children were part of a group of people tried to reached the besieged city of Deraa and deliver aid when they were captured by a barricade installed by Syrian regime.

Video: One of the children after his release, signs of torture on his body. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhfu1UCutaU

13 years old Hamza Al Khateeb, tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

13 years old Hamza Al Khateeb, tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

Thamer Al Shari'i - Tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

Thamer Al Shari’i – Tortured to death by Syrian intelligence.

When other cities in Syria saw the massive oppression against this small city, they peacefully took their banners and shouts to the streets calling to stop the security breakdown on the innocents. Men and women from all ethnic and religious backgrounds were part of the peaceful protests, and women were the engine, women organized protests, designed banners, took pictures and videos, documented violations by Syrian regime, and confirmed their existence in every aspect of the new movement. The uprising opened the door for women from the grassroots levels to surge into the wider picture and be part of the movement for change. One of the earliest protests was a women protest. A group of women of all ages from a village located in the costal area cut the main highway demanding that the regime would turn back their husbands and fathers, 4 women were killed after Regime supporters opened fire on these women.

Video: Massacre against the women in Al Marqab village.

In the first several months of peaceful protests, Syrian activists created a network of groups called the “Local Coordinators.” The Coordinators worked to teach people the culture of peaceful struggle, prepared signs and songs for the protests, delivered the aspirations of the people inside and outside the country via social media, worked closely with Syrian civil society groups established abroad to support those who are inside, and demanded the repeal of a decades-long emergency law banning demonstrations. The Coordinators included people from different ideological orientations and carried the hopeful promise of a new, inclusive, and progressive Syria. While this vision of Syria is supported by many, it is not aligned with the regime. One prominent figure participated in the establishment of Local Coordinators was a female lawyer. Kurdish areas were among the first in Syria to protest against the regime, though Kurds always faced oppression by Assad regime, but in the uprising they did not face the amount of brutal crimes because of the regime’s desire to alienate them from the revolution. Women’s active participation in the revolutionary act is not easy in a country that was still suffering from one of the highest rates of honor crimes in the region. Regime forces always used sexual violence against women activists to inflict shame on those women work in public life, this made many men oppose women engagement in the protests and activism. There are incidents saying a number of divorces happened because the wives refused to stay at home and not be part in the movement for change. Women faced oppression not just from the regime, but also negativity from society.

As people reacted to defend their lives and love ones from the unimaginable horrors committed by security forces, the peaceful revolution started to turn into an armed one. Bit by bit, the sound of bullets replaced the voices of demonstrators. But the work of civil society continued during the mayhem of war not just in relief and rescue fields, but in every way possible, inside and outside Syria. When more men joined the armed conflict, more women found themselves responsible to take care of their families and communities. There is an inverse relation between increase in arms and the presence of women in the uprising, under the reign of weapons women were pushed to the back lines. The transformation of the peaceful action into armed struggle placed weighing burden of life itself on the shoulders of women after their men were killed, disappeared or left to battlefields, women in regime areas also suffered from the absence of their men.

The militarization of the revolution did not have the same effect on Kurdish women because Kurdish women have a history in fighting in wars beside men, and after the Syrian revolution, many Kurdish women led the rebels in Aleppo city (second largest city in Syria) against Assad regime forces. Also, there is no environment for extremist thought among the Kurds. In the Charter of Social Contract issued in the Democratic Autonomous Regions (Kurdish self governed areas) on the 29th of January 2014, stated that: Women have the inviolable right to participate in political, social, economic and cultural life. Men and women are equal in the eyes of the law. The Charter guarantees the effective realization of equality of women and mandates public institutions to work towards the elimination of gender discrimination.

After two years of revolution, the Syrian regime used all kinds of weapons, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, ballistic missiles, and there are some reports of using Napalm. One work by civil society was an early alarm system for ballistic missiles. which is a network of activists and rebels work to monitor the timings of the scud missiles fire by the regime and send an SMS to the people in the areas where the missile is expected to fall. On 21st of August 2013, The Syrian regime attacked on east countryside of the capital Damascus, only 3 days after UN investigators arrived to Damascus. Hundreds of civilians died, most report say that the number reached 1000; no one was held accountable for the attack. During and after the massacre, Syrian activists shot and documented the attack, the injured were rushed to field hospitals, and an immediate campaign was launched to spread awareness on how to make house made masks and where to seek shelter in case of a second CW attack.

Video: Devastated father finds his two daughters among the victims of CW massacre.

Syrian activists living outside Syria, men and women, also worked as mediums for delivering the voices of those who are facing the aggression by Syrian regime, and extremist groups later on, being part of the conversation and vision about the future of their country, and working in raising funds for refugees mainly the micro-organizations that are work on local levels mainly in the countries that welcomed large numbers of Syrian refugees. In Lebanon, a group called Basmeh and Zaitouneh, an organization helps women tailors to train and manufactor their work in workshops established for them, in addition to deliver classes in English and other subjects, and help women and men plant and mend their small vegetable farms. In Turkey, a workshop established by a group of Syrian doctors to build prosthesis lower body parts in affordable prices. Another group in Jordan refugee camp started a campaign called “Refugees not Spoils of War” to raise awareness regarding marrying women and girls off to men sometimes much older than these women.

Civil society groups were targeted by the regime and extremists because of their work in bringing people together and spreading the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue among the society. The notion of civil society itself is new to our patriarchal communities. As extremism crawled to the cracks of the extreme violence of the regime, women were further pushed backward, as the extremists seek to control personal lives, and treat women as subjects. Extremists issued laws in the areas they controlled like women cannot go to bakeries to buy bread. Extremists also created extreme women groups to monitor women and even children, one woman recruited by an extremist group threatened a woman activist to slaughter her because the revolution’s flag, rather than the black one. Many Syrian woman used to protest against ISIS carrying banners before the terrorist group’s headquarter in the city of Raqqah north east Syria, they also used to protest against one of the most cruelest regimes in the world. Extreme Islamic groups always consider women as something “private” and leave their affairs to be dealt with by the men in their families. The intentions of ISIS are to force its authority on people by using barbaric gruesome killing methods, and enslaving women and children.

Syria today is a stage for different layers of wars, a war against the people, proxy war as different parties are sponsoring their own war lords, terrorism and anti-terrorism war, a war between survival and the inevitability of death. UN estimates the number of death reaches 230 thousand, and millions of refugees, rarely mentioning the hundreds of thousands of detainees who are tortured in gruesome ways in Assad prisons.

Victims of torture in Assad regime's prisons. 55 thousand photos were leaked by the photographer nicknamed: Caesar.

Victims of torture in Assad regime’s prisons. 55 thousand photos were leaked by the photographer nicknamed: Caesar.

In the war against ISIS, Kurdish women represented the exact opposite of what ISIS represented. Passion for dignity against blind hatred, beauty against ugliness, courage against cowardice. As I mentioned earlier, Kurdish women were always part of the armed conflicts, and they showed an exceptional bravery by refusing to sit behind. Kurdish women created their own groups.

Banner made by the Free Women in the city of Raqqah to ISIS saying: To the state of corruption, you have no shame, take your blackness and leave us be.

Banner made by the Free Women in the city of Raqqah to ISIS saying: To the state of corruption, you have no shame, take your blackness and leave us be.

In the face of the this madness, the role of women was greatly undermined, but many Syrian women refused to be neglected, Syrian women created their own organization breaking the patriarchal frames, and demanded more political participation in the future of Syria. In 2014, Syrian women held a conference in Geneva from 11-14 January and issued “Syrian Women for Peace and Democracy Initiative” urging Mr. Kofi Anan to work on releasing the detainees, open borders for Syrian refugees and allow peaceful protests. Women continue to emphasize their crucial participation in the work for a new Syria. One is Syrian actress Yara Sabri who turned her public FB page into a platform to search for those who are missing and announce the names of those who are inside Assad and extremist groups prisons. On February 2015,  mothers and relatives of those detainees by the Army of Islam militia protested in Damascus countryside calling to free their love ones and condemn their acts that resembles the acts of the regime.

Women representation in opposition groups, women are not real partners in negotiations to end war, transitional justice, peacebuilding and for the future of Syria. Women are the parameter of the success of a state and society, though there should be substantial freedoms and rights in a community so women would be able to fulfill their visions. When I was writing this speech I realized that one of our biggest problems is the inability of debate and dialogue among us. We need to nurture this dialogue, one way is supporting different civil societies including the ones established, managed and work in empowering women. Connecting civil society and benefit from experiences of other nations. Sometime you think and hear that things were better for us before, and if we did not uprise then non of all this death and mayhem would happen. But the answer to this is that Arab tyrants construct their regimes on a thin crust over a deep abyss, their condition is either I or nothing. We heard this in Syria “Assad or we destroy the country;” so would you remain pawned or conditioned by such unjust combination? A slave for a mafia that threatens to turn your space and time into a living hell, unleash the demons of extremism and thugs brought in by different parties? One should know that terrorists are enabled by Assad regime after many were released from its prisons while activists are still tortured to death inside detention centers. There is no other way for peace but to stop the crimes of Assad regime, and his extremists counterparts, start a process of transitional justice and reconciliation. This is why I still call what happened a revolution, it is was an impossible act to change the system and structure.

The international community should stop its attempts to legitimize and impose a criminal of war and criminal against humanity as a partner in peace negotiations, this is others peace not ours.

Currently the most urgent two issues we must address are: Refugees and detainees. In a last note, there is hope given to us by those who live in surreal ugly situations, and they refuse to give up, especially women.

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Our World: Rojava

Originally posted on P U L S E:

Is the Middle East’s newest country a territory called “Rojava”? Out of the chaos of Syria’s civil war, mainly Kurdish leftists have forged an egalitarian, multi-ethnic mini-state run on communal lines. But with ISIS Jihadists attacking them at every opportunity — especially around the beleaguered city of Kobane, how long can this idealistic social experiment last? From the frontlines to the refugee camps, Mehran Bozorgnia filmed in Rojava for the BBC’s Our World and has gained exclusive access and a revealing snapshot of Syria’s secret revolution.

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#ISIS. #Assad. Criminals? Both. Not one. Need to let some steam off. #Syria

Originally posted on rosealhomsi:

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Kenji wasn’t remembered or his killing condemned or his photo plastered in every British neespaper or his mother or wife shown crying .. As the Jordanian pilot was.

Let’s break it down to see why.

Both were horrible crimes and ISIS are exactly like the Assad regime, their tactics are identical and horrifying.

But the Jordanian pilot was in a plane involved in bombing Syria, not only ISIS. He was also bombing the North of Syria that led to 52 civilians: children, women and men being burnt under rubble.

Japanese Kenji on the other hand met many of my friends, he was a humanitarian and caring journalist. He taught them how to survive, he helped them expose Assad crimes and he worked with the children to make them happy in the war.

ISIS killed both.

The one who was in Syria helping civilians was rejected and ignored despite the video…

View original 646 more words

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Syrian Micro-Local-Organisms to Reach To

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Syrian Civil Group called Kesh Malek (Check Mate) designed this poster to protest the criminal actions of extremist group Jabhat al-Nusrah after they executed a woman they accused of committing “adultery”!

A dear friend of mine living in Damascus countryside, started a project to produce biogas to compensate the shortage in fuel in the area. The environment friendly project works by recycling garbage and manure to produce the biogas that is now able to provide the residents in the area with water 3 hours every day.

This project is one local effort among many in the war torn Syria to make Syrians’ lives a more durable. This week I met Dr. Burhan Galioun, a French Syrian Professor of Sociology at the University of Sorbonne, and the former president of Syrian National Council. Dr. Galioun told me something I already realized, which is that the large amount of donation money spent as bureaucracy expenses. Helping local communities and groups is much better for immediate and effective relief, mainly in areas like development and training. Here is a list of Syrian Civil Relief Groups helping Syrians inside Syria and refugees in neighboring countries. These organizations work on the micro level. I prefer to call them Micro-Local-Organisms. Here are a few of these organisms/organizations:

1- Molham Volunteering Team: I came across this group via Twitter calling its followers for a monthly support to an old Syrian woman living alone in Lebanon. This is a small group work to provide aid for refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. They also carry out campaigns to help Syrians inside Syria. The team tries to secure house rents and food, connect people in need with supporters, pay medical bills and secure medication, provide children with school needs.

E-mail: molham.team@gmail.com.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/molhamteam/timeline

2- The National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs: Established in 2012 and based in Turkey near the Syrian-Turkish borders, this organization has its own workshop to build prosthetic limbs for Syrians who lost their legs and sell them with affordable prices to Syrians. This group provides social therapy and rehabilitation. In their own words, “The project is the result of a vigorous effort and cooperation between a group of Syrian doctors, some independent and some belong to prestigious medical bodies.”

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/NSPPL/info?tab=page_info

E-mail: mailto:arthostaff@hotmail.com

Website: http://www.nsppl.net

3- Syrian Eyes: They mainly work in Lebanon to provide aid for Syrian refugees, it is a non-profit initiative started by a group of volunteers and they do not belong to any party. One of their initiatives is distributing wood for heating to refugees. They aim to improve the living conditions of the camps as much as possible.

E-mail: syrian.eyes6@gmail.com

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/Syrian.eyes.sy/timeline

4- Najda Now International: This non-profit organization is based in Germany. It provides treatment for the injured and wounded who are denied medical care, design aid programs for children and mothers, develop curricula for schools in cooperation with international educational institution and supporting the culture of reconciliation and cooperation.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/NAJDA.NOW/timeline

Website: http://www.najda-now.net

5- Bokra Ahla Team (A Better Tomorrow): They are simply a group of youths trying to help Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp in Jordan. During the last snowstorm in Middle East, they started a campaign called: Your Warmth is ours; the campaign aims to gather blankets and means for heat to Refugees living in tents. They also started The Snow Challenge campaign where the youths buried themselves in snow to spread awareness of the suffering of refugees in this merciless winter.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/bbokraa7la.team?hc_location=timeline

Phone No. 00962786378946

6- For Syria: A non-governmental organization works in providing relief, development and aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey and Syrian displaced north Syria. They also work in helping families to start their own projects to support themselves and start training courses for youths.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/ForSyriaorg

Phone No. 00971-556336308

7- Basmeh And Zaitooneh: One of my favorite groups. This is a non-profit initiative started by Syrians based in Lebanon with their Lebanese friends. Their goal is ‘to assess the needs and to fill in the gaps of humanitarian assistance. After the initial assessment phase, efforts have been concentrated in areas where the needs appeared to be most urgent.” Part of their wonderful work is creating a sewing workshop where Syrian women can make and sell their handmade products online and during organized showcases.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/basmehzeitooneh/timeline

9- Bihar Relief Organization: A non-profit organization works to provide aid to refugees in Syria mainly Kurdish populated areas. One of their main goals is working for peacebuilding. One of their latest activities with UNICEF is distributing hygiene kit baskets in the city of Aleppo north Syria.

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%AB%D9%8A%D8%A9/505704679474386?sk=timeline

This list will be updated whenever I search more micro-local-organism.

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A Short Story: Tourism in Syria

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A drawing by Syrian Cartoonist Ali Farzat: “Tourist Rental”

Summer is here finally, Camila and her husband John already made up their minds on where to go next. It was the new hot destination for journeys: Syria. All of their friends already went there and talked about all fun and sunny things they did. Everyone was talking how this place became civilized and progressed, all because of the works of this blue eyes president and his classy extravagant wife.

The moment their airplane landed in Damascus airport, the couple were surrounded with smiling faces and welcoming sentences uttered in a broken English accent. Their passports stamped fast and they peacefully walked to pick up their luggage, the baggage handler unloaded their luggage, they thanked him and gave him a tip. When they got out from the airport building they approached a kiosk to ask how they can reach old Damascus, from what their friends told them, they will find many intimate, authentic and cheap hotels. No need for reservations, just take a map and go to their desired place, this place is the next new adventurous tourist attraction. They decided to take one of the airport taxis, the employee in the kiosk told them that public transportation was banned from taking orders to the airport, instead, a private business is providing the trips for security reasons and to organize the movement. The private business company was owned by the president’s cousin.

Meanwhile, 50 year-old worn out Abu Ahmed was waiting under the scorching sun in his small town square in Damascus countryside. He is a construction worker, and there are hundreds like him across Syria – and increasing – sit everyday in known places waiting for the small Suzuki to come and pick some of them up to their next construction site. It has been a month since his last job, his age and skinny body rarely qualifies him to be picked up by workshops managers, but whatever he makes no matter how trivial can help in one of his days. Several Suzukis came and went, sunset approached and the men that were unlucky to be chosen today decided to go back home. Abu Ahmed took the main public transportation – a small white vans called micros- to his house made of mud and bricks about 15 minutes dusty walk from the last micro station. He used to own a small nice house in Kafr Souseh area, before it became desirable by real estate comapny and kicked many people, including him, out of their homes to improve the landscape of the city, they erected fancy buildings and houses in the place were his house was and sold them in prohibited high prices. The real estate company is owned by the president’s cousin.

When Camila and her husband John, arrived to old Damascus, they smelled Jasmine and wowed by the history crawling under and between the walls. Many people lived, died and passed through this place. The taxi driver dropped them before a hotel called The Arbor Yard. The moment they entered, smiles lightened up their way in, the lobby was a yard shadowed by vine leaves and centered by a small fountain surrounded by red and white roses. Arabesque furniture was everywhere, the place looked like Ali Baba’s castle. The hotel which is owned by the president’s cousin, had vacant rooms and the prices was unbelievably low compared to hotel prices of other third world countries they visited before. The room was exquisite, everything was designed like a typical damascene house, heavy bed made of shiny brass, a tiny balcony oversees the hotel’s lobby only two people can sit there in the morning sun for some healthy breakfast and a cup of Turkish coffee. What Camila loved the most were the electric oriental lamps on both sides of the bed, she decided to buy one for her house from the old Al-Hamidiyah Souq.

It was Wednesday, and Amina, the mother of five is ready to go to the Wednesday flee market in her slum area. All used and cheap things are sold for the low-income workers and the poor. After her first 4 children went to their local school, she took her youngest to shop from the flea market. When they passed one of wooden carts selling plastic toys, her child started nagging for one, she was persuaded by the nagging and her guilt to take one toy as the last toy they bought him was one year ago, and these Chinese toys are much cheaper than the local cheap ones. The owner of the Chinese plastic toys cart used to own a small workshop for making toys, he was put out of business since the president’s cousin started an import company and opened the entire small country for massive Chinese trade. Amina bought the cheapest toy in the pile to hush her child, she thought that it will be damaged after two weeks anyway so why does she want to spend money lavishly! As she was walking away from the cart, a hassle started, some sellers left their goods and started running, others carried whatever they can and fled with it. The police was here and their moody raid this time took over all toys in the place, it was the captain’s son birthday. One of the police cars hit Amina and her son, and drove away as if the mother and the child were just thin air.

Camila and her husband John, spent the night in a bar called Ornina, also owned by the president’s cousin. They did not expect that the country was open minded like that, people from different religions and backgrounds gathered for a dance and a drink. The place looked like a cave, a space carved inside stone. They listened to eastern music under the dim lights and heard giggles and laughs getting louder by the power of booze. They too laughed and danced, made a couple of new friendships who told them that they will take them to see an eternal view, and will drive them back to their hotel. The couple said they will go with them, so at 3am they left the bar and headed to Mount Qasioun. They reached an area where many cafeterias lined up and some cars with lovers inside them making out. The city of Damascus was laying before them like a seductive woman inviting them to explore her treasures. The city lights scattered to the horizon seemed like they were imitating the lights of heaven. They went inside one of the cafeterias and ordered chocolate fruit salad. Up there, time seemed static, till the sunrise owned time. Their new friends advised them to visit Palmyra ruins, they will enjoy a Safari trip there.

At that night, Nour was waiting for a costumer in one of the cheap notorious hotels in Marjeh Square, an ironic place that hold the reputation of martyrs square and a prostitution hub. She escaped her house after her father planned to kill after when he discovered that she is seeing someone. Like many, in the small town where Nour grew up, openness and development did not reach their community that is proud with its same old patriarchal authority, the authority the is ruling the entire place. She had no path to flee through but this, nothing to do but this. She was owned all of her life. She always thought of what will happen to her when she withers and she becomes a dispensable asset for her current owners. Death is always an option. At her final though she was ordered.

Camila and her husband John took the next Safari trip with a tourism company – also owned by the president’s cousin – to Palmyra. They stayed in a desert hotel not far from Palmyra’s notorious prison. The couple will spend two days in this place, the first day they went to see the ancient ruins of hundreds of years old city as the tourist guide told lovely stories about the history of this place, they took many pictures and rode camels. During the second day, they fooled around in a Bedouin tent, drawing henna on their arms, eating sensuous food, watching belly dancers, smoking sheesha and making more friends with other tourists. The sun and air were oozing freedom and delight. They promised that they will come back again.

Raji spent many years in Palmyra prison that he cannot remember how many. He rarely saw sunlight in the underground chambers of that dungeon, and hardly breathed air. He was tortured with a hot rod carving shapes on his arms, his skin was shook many times with thick stick hitting his belly and back, he was electrified and only ate rot food. They took pictures of him naked and vulnerable. Raji was accused of terrorism after he called for a democratic elections in his country and cursed the president. One of his friends filed a report about him, and since that time he was incarcerated for an aeon, no dawn to reclaim time.

Like all joyful hours, they pass quicker than a finger snap. Camila and her husband were in Damascus airport for their trip back home, they went through the Free Zone, also owned by the president’s cousin, to buy some sweets and gifts for friends and family. Smiling and loving, officers and employees were so nice. On the other part of the airport, Hummingbird was in line for her flight. Free Zone prices was above the reach of average Syrians. It was her turn for inspection, the officer treated her roughly, searched her stuff and emptied half of her bag, then told her to buzz off. Hummingbird never knew how this place is still standing still despite all its madness, and she vowed that she will never come back.

—-

In December 2014, Camila was strolling her baby in her neighborhood garden in Dubai. She sees her neighbor Hummingbird coming her way. Usually they say hi to each other, but never exchanged a long conversation. Hummingbird said hi as usual, Camila started a sudden chit-chat: How are you today, you know I never asked you where you are from?

Hummingbird: Syria.

Camila: Oh really! Oh I am so sorry for what is happening there, things were so peaceful and nice. You know, I was with my husband few years ago before all this war, and we had a wonderful time. I miss that place. Oh I am really sorry. Those damn saboteurs ruined it for everyone.

Hummingbird: damn.

Hummingbird did not know if her neighbor was sorry for her sorrow or for the lost of a great tourist attraction.

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An Absurd Letter to My Sister

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I hate it when life leaks between your fingers. The stream of life pushes everything you know away from you, the stream never stops, but it is unfair that you were the one to stop. Time works in strange ways, your time is frozen, mine is interrupted, but never parallel nor meet, and I hate that too.

You always took care of me, as an infant I was in your custody as our parents were almost never home. You were a child too, but this image of you hanging me on your waist and heading to our friend’s house in the neighborhood is persisting in my memory. Your first experiences in cooking started by making me taste your creations, I was a child with a huge appetite, I ate everything and this might encouraged you to carry on with your culinary efforts regardless the results.

You always tried to find yourself. In the past years you thought you did, but it led you to a damp cruel place. I really hoped that you do find you, I wanted you to find peace within, I prayed that you might collect your remains and create something exquisite, but in that country we were doomed to not reach our ends, like mice we ran inside the wheel for eternity. The salvation for me was to leave elsewhere, you were still shaken and distracted, and you somehow felt that in that unpredicted place the odds might stand beside you, in that place the odds are full of hate and grudge, they hate breathing and change.

We all were perplexed and heartbroken when you refused to be prepared for the worse. The worse happened and you are not alone in it, we are all in it, still perplexed and heartbroken. One thing we know for sure, you are the brave one.

I miss you dearly, and I am still waiting for the day when you take off your cloths, free your hair tangled in the tree boughs in the middle of the roaring river of your life, then let the current carries you naked to a new pond, a calm and a clear one.

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Khaled Hosseini Meets Inspiring Young Syrian Refugees

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Leeches Of The Syrian Revolution

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About the Syrian uprising, I always said: The Revolution revealed many nobel angels but more dirty opportunists.

What the Syrian situation revealed was the depths of humans’ nature. When the uprising started, I took a side, and I believe in taking sides which is something I learnt during the course of events of the Syrian uprising. Plus, it is in my nature to take the stand of the weak and oppressed. I am a victim of authority myself and will never support it after I self freed me, it is my duty to show the way for those willing to self free themselves.

Some took the side of the oppressor, and this stand I can also fathom. But the pathetic ones are those who claimed that they support the people’s aspirations (in particular those working in media) so they can gain fame and money. The opportunists who traded with people tragedies and wounds, those who held a rotten heart to climb up the stinking ladder. I met many, and they don’t even have the decency to hide their ugly faces before my awaken sensibility. Just few days ago, one opportunist who used to claim of being part of the revolution to gain popularity and please others, was telling me that it is over and we should shut up and go back to your homes, and we are not worthy of freedom! Those words were said just like that, cold blooded, from a suspected person who saw the ordeal of Syrians as an entertainment material for personal progress, and the goal was achieved. This came from a person wearing a brand and have reached a high position with untalented means, only by riding the back of Syria’s agony, sucking the spelled blood of the people. I raised my eyebrow and walked away because I was this close to scream. They gave us a bad image and hijacked the representation of the people just to find a better opportunity.

Yes, these people are many, and sometimes I feel their numbers might be far more than those who are sincerely working to make things a little bit better. Maybe their evil voices are louder.

So many leeches feasting on the Syrian body at a time many lost everything to find a way to change.

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