I wrote this article in June 2011, a few months after the start of the Syrian Revolution. It came to my notice as I was compiling my notes on the tragedy of the children of Syria, those who were and are caught in the conflict and the seven stages of hell they have been through: imprisonment and torture; massacres; displacement, hunger, cold and sickness; disfigurement, loss of limbs and disability; psychological impairment and lastly: bereavement and loss of family. In addition, it stirred memories and visions of the first few months of the Revolution and why it came to be.
You shall not kill the children
The manner of the death and torture of the child Hamza in March 2011, described by many legal organizations as a crime against humanity, has shocked us all and demonstrated a terrible example of the untold horrors that the dark sick psyche of the psychopath can inflict on the innocent helpless victim. Such sacrilegious acts of barbarism are only committed by serial killers, the criminally insane and the hunted accursed evil creatures of the night. To imagine that a thirteen year old child was captured and surrendered to prison by his captors where unspeakable acts of cruelty were committed on his body is more than we can contemplate, even in our worst nightmares.
This happened in Syria, a country where children are loved dearly, where fathers and mothers will move the very mountains in order to protect their children, will deprive themselves of proper sustenance and the mere necessities so that their young ones are fed and sheltered. It happened in Syria where the majority of the hard working people lead a life of drudgery and patient hardship, with almost nonexistent political rights and more than often infringed human rights. This silent majority find solace and the incentive to go on living in raising their children decently. Their lives, punctuated by the struggle for daily bread and endless difficulties, are only lit by the smiles of their children and the joy they bring to otherwise unfulfilled unrequited lives at the edge of meaninglessness and loss of purpose. They live for their children and in their children.
It was in Syria that the stage was set for the murder of a child of Syria. I wonder how the president would have reacted if Hamza was his own child, not a child of an ordinary father and mother. Would he have grieved and wailed? Would he have thought that that was the end of the world and that even death cannot heal him? I do recall seeing the president on TV, in his last appearance in Parliament, stand and say in some part of his speech, , that if a child in trouble calls then he is to be responded to immediately (not his literal words). Well, hamza from behind the grave is calling. Is there anybody listening in the corridors of power? Will his president rush to his succour? Death has become a way of living in Syria, an ordinary occurrence. But why is it so? Why are the Syrians dying? And why is Hamza dead and dying every day that his killers are not brought to justice? Was Hamza a traitor in disguise, was hamza an infiltrator. Was he in the pay of a foreign government, was he a secret agent, an armed dangerous saboteur? Why was he kidnapped, arrested and …the rest is silence.
Hamza was killed in custody, according to most narratives, in the prison , a detention centre or a make shift underground cell ,run by the security forces , at the hands of men employed by the government whose salaries are paid by the people. It is common knowledge that the power behind the throne in Syria is the Mukhabarat, the intelligence and security Services, all seventeen branches of them. They are the real rulers of Syria, supported by some factions in the army. They are trained to be ruthless undiscriminating,g sadists, sophisticated torture machines rarely equalled and blood thirsty tools of domination above all notions of decency and human values. They are also above the law. They are untouchable and immune to punishment. Over the last forty years they have been the scourge of Syria, the stuff of which nightmares are made, always on the move, always ready to teach the populace lessons in submission and subservience. Sheep safely graze, was the motto. As long as the people remained sheep they had nothing to fear, as long as they knew and believed they were sheep they could walk safely. Thus the myth of safe Syria, safe neighbourhoods and safe streets came into being. The irony was that the people did believe this myth of safety. But the tragic truth was that they were only safe as long as they accepted the invisible walls of their imprisonment and pretended they did not see them. It took only one act of defiance for them to discover that their brave new world was a sham, an unadulterated falsehood.
How safe was Syria for the children of Daraa, how safe was Syria for hamza and his fellow murdered children? Even as we speak now, how safe is Syria for anybody who does not declare For those who have not given their souls to the regime? Never the less, Syria shall be the country of the free! Mark my words, Syria shall be the country of the free and its people will walk tall and dignified, no matter what it takes and how long it takes. Rulers of Syria, you have taken charge of an ancient country, a cradle of civilization, once the seat of a great empire, a proud great country, and humbled it beyond recognition. It should have been the country of the proud, but you made it the country of the sheep, which sees no evil hears no evil and fights no evil, except the evils the regime sees fitting. Where is Syria, I beg you point it out to me and the likes of me. Syria dies everyday that your shadows of injustice, cruelty and oppression darken its horizons. If Syria were alive, Hamza would not have died his pitiful devastating death. If Syria were not chained to iniquity and the dark hell of the Mukhabarat, the death of Hamza would have brought the perpetrators to justice, to trial. An inquiry into his death would have been called for and a fair trial would have been set in motion. Therefore, the honour of Syria stands compromised because of the death of a child, a dark dark deed that shames not only Syria but every human being in the world.
If Syria were free the children of Daraa would have been allowed their chant of freedom. They would have left school on that eventful day and gone home to their parents in peace. Instead, they were captured like criminals, imprisoned and tortured because of some anti-government graffiti they left on the walls of their school. We must always remember that this stupid despicable act on the part of the authorities against the children was what first triggered the Syrian Revolution. The rest is history. The fact that the people rose in defence of their children is something to be proud of and to be kept in the collective memory of the nation. I cannot think of a cause more noble, or one worth remembering for all times to come.
And, thus, it came to pass that the Syrians found a voice. It was because of the little children, the little children who were the first to declare something they were not taught, something alien to all the indoctrinations forced upon them: a rebellious expression of will seeking new destiny. For years and years the Syrians bent their heads and walked in bondage thinking they were doing it for their children. But, where are the children? They are in prison delivered to the torturer. So the Syrians learnt how to say No. They at last have discovered that the safety of the sheep is unworthy of them and thus were saved by their children. The children who wanted to be free. How sweet is the word freedom, how infinite in its mightiness, how indestructible in its fragility? Syria’s revolution is a revolution started by children. What a privilege? And it is a revolution which has derived its impetus from the untimely horrific death of a child, because of the desecration of innocence.
Alisar Iram, June 2011