Break the wall of silence There are Syrians who deserve to be heard A Bulletin by ARCHumankind
May 2015 Third issue
of syriac culture
Youssef Abdelke, artist paints Syriaâ€™s pain
Syria is a kite
After a quarter-century, the dream of being reunited
Crimes perpetrated against Syrian children !1
Editorial By Paulo Casaca After a quarter-century the dream of being reunited By Ghalia Shahin
Syria is a kite By Iman Ibrahim
Crimes perpetrated against Syrian children By Khisal Al-Baroudi
A severed head does not sing By Maan Alhasbane
Youssef Abdelke, Artist paints Syria's pain
The genocide of Syriac culture (video) By Shabo Talay
My Mythical Country (poem) By Suzan Al Mahmoud
In the web
The crumbling of the Iranian Expeditionary Force in Syria By Paulo Casaca
According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran*, four of the most important commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Expeditionary Force in Syria, seen in this recent photo together with Qassem Suleiman, were killed in Syria. Suleiman is the head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations branch of the Iranian terror central outfit. Moreover, dozens of members of the Lebanese Hezbollah – the Lebanese branch of the IRGC – have also been killed in the war in Syria, whereas Bashar al-Assad himself was forced to publicly recognise the loss of positions of the Iranian-backed forces. Elsewhere in the region, the Iranian forces are also experiencing severe setbacks. Iraqi regular troops and Iranian-sponsored militia lost recently control of the capital city of the Iraqi state of Ambar in the Western tip of the country, while the Iranian sponsored militia in Yemen is now facing the determined opposition of a coalition of armed states. Popular resistance to the Iranian control of Yemen is also growing. In early 2011, when peaceful protesters demanded freedom and democracy in Syria, the Iranian regime saw the challenge as a golden opportunity to tighten its grip on the tyrannical Assad dynasty, destroy the Syrian intelligentsia and liberal elites and to strengthen fellow Jihadi organisations of Sunni extraction. This happened after the apparently successful strategy that it has been following in Palestine and elsewhere. For a long time, Iran supported Jihadi organisations of Sunni affiliation to fight for the destruction of Israel. The same logic was pursued with milder success with organisations like Al-Qaeda and other terrorist outfits in Afghanistan and Iraq. The strategic embrace of less military engaged Jihadi outfits within the Muslim Brotherhood circles followed the same logic. The Iranian theocratic structure has shown a considerable capacity to integrate Shia communities residing out of the country, in organisations it creates. The nearly complete control of the Lebanese Shia population by the Iranian-led Hezbollah or by Amal (which became a Hezbollah satellite) is the most striking case. In Iraq the integration of Shia in a single structure commanded by Tehran, which was tried by the “Superior Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq/
Photo, courtesy of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
Badr Brigades” in the early eighties did not succeed as such, but Iran has a firm grip over virtually dozens of Iraqi Shia groups dominating the country. Different degrees of success of integration have been achieved in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan or India. However, the creation or sponsoring of Sunni affiliated terrorist outfits whereas being quite successful in destroying elites in Sunni Muslim societies and terrorising the West in Afghanistan or in Palestine, led to incontrollable situations, with these groups challenging now directly the Iranian representatives in Iraq or Syria. Other than the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran is now using mercenaries from Afghanistan and Pakistan – mainly through the Shia connection – in its expeditionary forces, as most of Iranians show very little interest in combatting for the expansion of the theocratic empire. It is certainly an irony of history that the Iranian theocracy seems yet more threatened by terrorist outfits it created or sponsored than by the West, against which it has always struggled. The crumbling of the Iranian Expeditionary Force in Syria opens a new chapter in the troubled trajectory of this martyred country. To combat efficiently the Jihadi aggression in Syria or Iraq, it is absolutely crucial for the West to understand that those who put the movement in motion will never be useful to have as allies. Brussels, 2015-05-19
* http://www.ncr-iran.org/en/news/terrorism-fundamentalism/ 18308-photo-shows-four-irgc-top-commanders-killed-in-syria
After a quarter-century the dream of being reunited By Ghalia Shahin
Nawwar & Maan
The last few moments before meeting them were so heavy; he felt as if his heart was going to jump out of his chest. This is how Maan Alhasbane described the minutes that preceded the airplane’s landing in Istanbul. Those last few minutes were the only thing between him and the moment he would meet his niece for the first time, Marwan’s daughter, after a long time of forced absence by the Syrian regime for refusing to bear arms in Lebanon. He was deprived from seeing his family for 25 years, which was an easy task for a regime such as the Syrian one. At the end of 1980s and in the context of his compulsory enlistment in the Syrian military, Maan refused to be transferred to a camp of the Syrian army in Lebanon. He was, and still is, convinced that the Syrian presence in Lebanon was a form of foreign occupation, not protection. As a consequence of this stance, he was arrested and taken to a disciplinary centre of the military intelligence where he submitted to different types of torture. Subsequently, they decided to send Maan to Lebanon once again, where he threw his weapon on the floor, sticking to his position. Maan just hated guns and he did not want to carry any. When speaking about his time in the disciplinary centre, Maan says “I was crucified naked for several days in the disciplinary yard with a temperature that never went above zero degrees. No food was offered to me. I was screaming: Oh Marwan, my brother! I would feel him next to me holding me tightly and keeping me warm for a few seconds. His presence next to me at all times was my sole consolation and comforting hand. The only that helped me return and hold myself together restoring some of my strength. Until this moment, the spirit of Marwan is here, embracing me.” Maan’s suffering did not end here. His refusal to bear arms in Lebanon led him to the martial court, where he was accused of high treason. There, one of the officers shot him in the left foot; he was then transferred to a field hospital and before recovery he was sent again to a disciplinary centre. Once again, he was submitted to torture, which led to a fracture in his spine that left him unable to walk for long period of time.
He said: “I was following Facebook constantly in order to get any news about Marwan. That day, I got a message from a friend who was wondering whether the news was true; I did not know what she was talking about. I started searching till I found out about his death, my brother’s death under torture. That moment, I lost my soul and life; I lost my teacher, friend, and the brother who always helped me rise up. I was not able, after that, to comprehend the tragedy. In fact, I am still unable to comprehend it. I might never do”. With the help of some friends, Maan was able to flee Syria in 1989. For the next few years he was unable to contact his family. Only five years after his departure Maan found a way to communicate with his family. Afterwards, Maan made his way to Belgium, where he never stopped defending the people of Syria; he was responsible for an organisation that fought for democracy, freedom and human rights for many years. In addition, he worked with many organizations to expose the crimes and human rights violations of the Syrian regime. With the beginning of the Syrian revolution, Maan felt hopeful again. Yet, that hope was short-lived; the Syrian regime took away from him a part of himself. They arrested his brother, Marwan, who died after being tortured for 23 days. Maan narrates to the “Arabi Al Jadeed” newspaper how he received the news.
Yara & Maan
The martyrdom of human rights activist Marwan forced his family to leave Syria to go to Turkey because they were facing constant threats and were followed by the regime. In the new country, Maan was able to see Marwan’s children for the first time in his life. Yara, the youngest daughter of Marwan, said: “We always talked with Maan on the phone or via Skype, but seeing him right in front of me at Istanbul airport was a completely different thing. I did not even have to try to recognize him among the other passengers. Once I laid my eyes on him, I just had an inexplicable feeling. I saw Marwan, I saw my dad in front of me and I jumped to hug him”. “Holding her for five minutes melted the ice of a quarter century. No words can do justice to that moment”, said Maan. Despite the windy weather and the three cancelled flights, Maan continued his exhausting trip from Istanbul to Gaziantep to meet the rest of his family. The twenty-five year wait to meet his family was just enough. He arrived late at night and found Nawwar, his niece, waiting for him in the street in front to her house. When she met him, Nawwar saw her dad in every detail of him. She said: “Maan has dad’s features: his eyes, his smile and his voice. When he was getting out of the car, I felt as if the whole neighbourhood could hear my heart beating. Seeing Maan brought us back to life.” “I would love to tell the whole world that Marwan’s soul is still present with us; he still talks to me and listens to my problems as always. Marwan never disappointed Syria or me. And his family will be the closest to me as long as I live” Maan said. The suffering of Maan Alhasbane is no different from millions of untold stories of Syrians after 2011, stories of displacement, diaspora and drowned boats. All of them had to leave home, settle in new countries and leave their families behind. Yet, many of them did not lose the hope of returning to Syria one day.
Translated by: Manar Chabouk http://www.alaraby.co.uk/society/2015/2/8/الشمل-لم-وتحقق
Marwan’s family on Skype
By Maan Alhasbane
Syria is a kite By Iman Ibrahim
The elegant cemetery was the first image captured by my camera... I didn’t know that –“the cemetery“ would be a luxury we do not deserve....
I have never been a ruminant creature, but the only question which can be asked in this place is: what would you have for lunch today? The past I love is tattering, and I can’t darn it or knit another one. House: My tedium, which gave me all what I have now. Hotel: Slow pointer doesn’t feel bored. Street: The sight of footers with crowding emptiness. City: Strange like a myth. Country: A tight rope drags me to the huge square of tedium. Through the spy hole of a rough wooden door, I peek with an eye which doesn’t see anything but defeat, and nothing else. In this prison, I read about prison, a novel written by a prisoner, and I leave it for the next prisoner, then I will continue writing my own novel from prison and about another prison.
Identity: I wish I wasn’t Syrian, that feeling which woke up in spring 2011; it is turning now to a disabled feeling stigmatized with yellow pity, among all of these oblations on the altar of the wasted time. I do not have a good definition for identity, I wasn’t born in Syria, I didn’t spend my childhood in my homeland, I didn’t get my education in its “camps” which are-metaphorically-called schools, and the “hostages”, dressed in military uniforms, repeat hostile slogans. I have an identity card, a passport, official papers and certificates, all have the eagle logo. I am forty now, and I still do not know how to be a “Syrian citizen”, I don’t respect the flag, which I have never saluted or drawn, I haven’t learned the National Anthem “by heart”, which glorifies the killers (the Syrian Army). Nothing is gloomier than flags being sold on sidewalks; their street vender calls the passers, reminding them with boring slogans, which he himself is bored of repeating them. The youth’s eagerness is the only thing that reminds him with his survival. They don’t know they are buying the pole on which they will be hanged on, while that cloth will be trampled by everyone during the funeral. Homeland: a black lie which can’t be white anymore.
About fear: There is no visitor to open the door to; you just open it to see if there is a knocker you didn’t hear. You can’t distinguish between the sounds of heavy rain drops and firing, they both make you run and gasp. Silence is accompanied by everlasting fear, and the few words are dabbled with salty water. The cold coffee you forget while thinking of tomorrow, the days that look all the same, no difference between 6 am and 6 pm. To die with body cancer or soul cancer doesn’t change the dark end in the narrow space, the mirrors which won’t miss you or become sad, whether you stand against or you don’t. The blind eye sees very well that it didn’t lose much, the nose that smells the rot of dead bodies whose heads were eaten by dogs. That nose cries when the air brings its favourite scent and loses its sense for a while. And they tell you about the “death of eternity”, which doesn’t come to an end… In the past, when I watched an American scary movie, I was astonished by the number of victims killed by a criminal who has nothing to do but to kill – as in most movies- and I used to believe in them more than in stupid love films, in the end I knew that all this death was just a game. Today, while watching this long Syrian movie, I realize where this absurd came from, as Bashar Assad – apparently – used to watch them intending to convince us they are real with no “the end”! The eye of the killer sees clearly the victims’ weakness, but the bullet or the knife is nothing but a disloyal silencer of a bare dream. Laughter talks and whispers, everything seems to be terrifying in this night, the night itself feels dreary and awe. You didn’t think of taking a last photo of the place, or of you. You didn’t remember to carry your album. Why would you need to have souvenirs and photos in places that don’t resemble you? If you went back, you wouldn’t find what you left, and if you found it, it would be a place that doesn’t belong to you anymore.
Exodus: And as the sibyl once said: You will cross three rivers, and three seas. You will pass away, and your fellows will become three. My life was just like a puzzle, with all those tiny details which draw my face. Those days became like dry crayons, and like echeloned wooden boards, as quiet as scarecrows, scattering dust, the chocking dust of memories. Between the Iraqi Ba’ath –after the Iraqi invasion to Kuwait and the Syrian Ba’ath, who exiled us from “our homeland”, here we are now looking for us in expulsions. “Your happy days are gone with the wind”, says an Iraqi soldier gloating over us on one of the military checkpoints in the Kuwaiti streets, as we were leaving it broken-hearted in 1990, to the “Syria of Assad”.
Diaspora: War: Makes you an open manuscript, with no commas or even full stops. Decampment: To leave your gun charged with bullets, and you depart carrying the lust of the last sight. Exile: To regret for the rest of your life for not shooting yourself. Misery: Is all what was said above plus your death, leaving others to choose your grave stone, waiting the death of your beloved ones to not feel lonely. If you are a refugee and you are assaulted by a citizen, you should then apologize, promising to travel to hell immediately, or highly laugh and smile to him, trying to convince yourself that this citizen didn’t mean you, but another citizen who was there by coincidence.
Dear Syrian: There is no solace to be presented to you, not even an asylum where you can hide from being humiliated, from your decampment until your “no return”.
by Maan Alhasbane , Gaziantep, 2015
Crimes perpetrated against Syrian children By Khisal Al-Baroudi Unfortunately Syrians’ tragedy did not end at the borders of Syria. Syrian immigrants carried with them their pain, scares and poverty after they lost their jobs, houses and every belonging they had. As we all know there is a large number of Syrians in Turkey, spread around its cities as well as its country-side. According the UNICEF report from February 2015*, more than half of the refugees are under 18 years old. These are children who left their homes, schools and innocent dreams behind in the war. After all the suffering they were exposed to in Syria they are now being exposed to several types of suffering in Turkey, such as communication problems with other children because of the language barrier, which also makes applying for schools to continue their education very difficult. The previously mentioned UNICEF report also states that “most Syrian refugees have exhausted their own resources after years of displacement” which is increasingly leading to coping mechanisms such as child labour in Turkey. I have met some of these children here where I live in Bursa in Turkey. When I asked a young Syrian boy called Majed how old he was and the reason why he was selling tissues in metro stations, he told me that he was 8 years old and that he sold whatever he could to help his mother to support his three younger siblings since they lost their father in the southern Aleppo province the year before. It was war that forced Majed to work and to put his childhood on hold. Ali, a 14-years-old boy who works as a waiter in a tea salon, showed me that there are other reasons for young children to work. I asked Ali if his mother would like to help to support the family by working from home, since I knew that his father is unable to work for health reasons. He replied in a sharp tone: "Our women do not work!”. His answer made me think of a video** that went viral on social media networks about a little Syrian girl who sells tissues all by herself in Istanbul. When the policemen tried to approach her to tell her to leave and sell her things somewhere else, she panicked and started crying loudly because she was afraid of the policemen. The policemen were confronted to another surprise when they took her home and they realised that her mother was there, taking care of the housework, while her little girl was in the wide streets of Istanbul – where anything could happen to her – trying to earn some money for the crowded household. On my way to my favourite coffee shop I cross paths with another case of children working on a daily basis: two young boys carrying big boxes on their backs. One day, my curiosity got the best of me so I stopped them and questioned the oldest one on what they were doing.
He explained that they do this every day; they collect plastic bottles and sell them to recycling factories to earn some money. I asked: "Is it enough though? Is it worth all that hard work and pain?" to which he replied: "Thank God sister, we are managing" with a peaceful smile on his tired face. Despite these stories, I still see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. It is also important to make the case for the more positive elements I encountered, such as the support brought by the Turkish community. A friend of mine who works with Mulham Volunteer Team***, a Syrian organisation, gave me hope when she told me about their activities and programmes for Syrian children here in Turkey. The team is helping by taking care of children in assisting the medical cases which are refused by local government hospitals, by providing medical care, both in terms of trained doctors and medication. They also organised a carnival for the orphans in Gazi Antep with a clown, a theatre show, gifts for the children as well as other activities and games. These examples are taken from my personal experience but I have no doubts that there are several other similar stories all around Turkey as well as in other countries. In my opinion, we are all guilty of inertia in this crime perpetrated against the Syrian children. I would like for all of us to take a moment to think about how each and every one of us can put an end to this catastrophic situation. Governments, citizens, entrepreneurs and parents are all responsible. Start with yourself! !*UNICEF,!“Syria!Crisis:!Monthly!Humanitarian!Report”,!February!2015! h"p://www.unicef.org/appeals/ﬁles/UNICEF_Syria_Crisis_Report_February_2015.pdf ** h"ps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2qHearOmEw&hc_locaNon=uﬁ&app=desktop P***Ph"ps://www.facebook.com/molhamteam?fref=tsP
Photo by Maan Alhasbane , Gaziantep, 2015
A severed head does not sing
By Maan Alhasbane In the seventies, my father had a greengrocery store inside our main house, fronting onto a central square, very popular in our neighbourhood. His “debtor’s book” was as thick as a phone book and it even included debts of people living in nearby neighbourhoods. My father used to identify his customers in a very peculiar way. He would write “mother of A”, living “next to the water reservoir”; the “father of B”, living “at the side-door of Annojoum Cinema”; the “mother of C”, working at the Mallak Bakery; the “father of D”, janitor of Iskenderun School; Latifa, mother of the blond-haired boy, and so on. Regrettably, he slipped on a banana peel in the shop and broke his pelvis. He lied in bed motionless for six months. My mother suffered a lot taking care of him, and she also had to spend many hours in the shop dealing with the “debtor’s book”. It was not an easy task, considering that she was illiterate. Even though she was not willing to cease fighting and she made a lot of efforts taking care of him and the shop, in the end she was defrauded of a lot of money. Finally, she had to give up and was forced out of business. The “debtor’s book” remained as a painful reminder of useless repeated visits to addresses buried in it, as needles in a haystack. Finally not a single debt was recovered. The house had three fronts, the one with the shop facing the square and two confronting streets leading to it. The square was large and I always loved it. I can still remember the weddings of Turkmen living around the square. They could go on for days and days with colourful outdoor decorations and loud folk dances. Interestingly enough, the square had several names. It was called the “Mud Square”, during winter, since it was covered in mud. In summer, it was called the “Eid Square”, from the name of the feast that was taking place there.
The “Eid Square” was our favourite one, even though it was not extraordinary. It had very simple wooden swings and there were many sellers of boiled broad beans and chickpeas as well as sweets. The gambling games were very elementary. One of them, I recall, was based on the simple act of throwing a Syrian Franc in a bucket of water with a small cup in the middle. Even without having a great talent one could win ten piasters as prize. Nevertheless, I was never successful at it, and I would always be the first to run out of money, having to leave the Square, wishing that the following day I would be luckier and win some pocket money on the “Eid Square” gambling games. Once, already after the closure of the shop, three days before the Great Eid, a man knocked on the door strongly and insistently, as if a catastrophe was about to happen, and he almost tore it down. I clung to my mother while she opened the door. I was surprised and wondered how this little man could have knocked on the door so strongly. “Sister Umm Ghassan,” he started, “we want to rent the space of your shop for the four days of the Eid. What do you say? What? Don’t worry about the rent; we will pay you twenty pounds per day. What do you think?” The idea of receiving a rent was tempting at the time, and my mother did not take long to accept the offer. The shop had already been closed for a long time, and nothing was left there, because my family and the mice had already taken care of what was left. “We’ll make the “severed head cinema” for the children during the Eid!” he said, as if he was guessing my mother’s thoughts on the reason why he needed the shop. “A clean and simple business: a box with a curtain. We put the severed head inside the box, and then it sings and talks. Any boy, who would like to talk to it or feed it, can do so.”
By Maan Alhasbane
By Maan Alhasbane
He summarized the business in two sentences while my mother was listening to him in amazement. “Oh, my God, a severed head? How is it going to talk and eat?” asked my mother. “That’s the secret of our business, Umm Ghassan!” he said with such a discontinuous laugh that sounded like the Soviet army truck ZIL. “What? So do we have a deal? OK deal! Deal, Umm Ghassan, you do not need all this time to think.” He knew that the shop location in the Eid Square was perfect for business and he could make a lot of money while all his capital was nothing more than a wooden box and a severed head. Three days of fear and dreary dreams disrupted my night sleep. And how could it be otherwise? I was ten years old, and my imagination focused on the questions I could not explain. I had no choice but to wait anxiously to see a severed head talking and eating. The bangs at the door on the first day of the Eid frightened me: they reminded me of the little man and the severed head. That day was the day that I felt more disturbed and scared. And then again the short man knocked at the door and said “Good morning, Umm Ghassan, Happy Eid. We need the key to bring the box inside the shop before the arrival of the people. You know, this is the secret of the business!” I was standing close to my mother when she opened the door and handed him the key. He was driving a Suzuki pick-up and while parking he brushed it up against the shop entrance. The box was not as I had imagined, in fact it required no efforts to be held. It was a box with four short legs that matched the size of Abo Fidaa, the name of the little man. It was a black box with high wooden walls on three sides and a black curtain on the front. In the middle, there was a hole that created sufficient space for a head. As I waited to see the severed head, I was paying attention to every single detail. Fear and curiosity overwhelmed me and my imagination was running wild. He placed a black curtain on the inside of the shop window and chose the perfect spot for his box. He looked at me as if he would be saying: “Get out! It’s the secret of the business!” I was imagining to hear this sentence tens of times, while the passers-by asked with surprise about the opening of the shop after months it had been closed down.
I went outside of the shop full of the kind of disappointment that only a child that fails to discover such a precious secret can feel. My well-known stubbornness did not help me at all. I went home to put on festive clothes for the Eid and to prepare myself so that I could be the first one to get Eid’s pocket money and go to the square. In a few hours, Eid Square brimmed with children. The clothes they were wearing had so many many mismatching and faded colours, which reflected the fact that they were poor. Abo Fidaa did not forget to advertise his “Severed Head Cinema”. And once again, he insistently and vigorously knocked on the door of our house. I hurried to open the door, and he immediately offered me a job. I became the first one to work for him in his advertising campaign. “Look here,” he said, “what’s your name?” “Maan”, I answered. “Great! You are a hero”, he said, “look, these are two pounds for you as Eid’s pocket money, and you will have another two pounds by the end of the day, OK?” “OK”, I said. “Go to Eid Square and, with the highest tone of voice you can reach, scream out loud: “The Severed Head Cinema! Come on children! Come and see the head of Osman from Sudan! A severed head that speaks, eats and sings! Come and see! It’s just for a quarter of a pound! A quarter of pound!” It was not difficult to learn by heart what he asked me to cry out. I rushed to reach the Square and I started my new job. I called and opened my arms out pointing at the shop. Children coming from everywhere gathered in the Square. I waited until there were enough children and then, I ran towards the shop with a multitude of them following me. Then, I repeated this operation over and over again. Every child entering the shop came out in amazement talking about “Osman, the black head from Sudan!” I was eaten up with curiosity. I was advertising a show that I had not seen and the day was approaching its end while the Square was almost empty. I gathered my strength and ran with the last group of children to the shop. I stood against the short man and shouted, “Uncle Abo Fidaa, if you don’t allow me to see the show of Osman, I’ll give up.” How could he refuse while I had been working for him since the morning? I said to myself.
However, for him my request sounded as if I wanted to prevent him from making a living, disrupting his gains. His looks and voice felt as if a blade was penetrating my soul, “Go to hell! I don’t want you anymore”, he shouted at me. I stepped back feeling a lot of hatred. I took out of my pocket the two pounds that he gave me and I threw them at him and ran away. I stopped and watched him cursing me, “Nasty boy!” he shouted. When he entered into the shop to continue his work, I ran inside the house. I could not explain to anyone what had happened. It was really annoying me, the fact that I had wasted the first day of the Eid holiday without getting any entertainment and losing the money earned. When I was a child, I used to run up to the roof whenever I felt upset, I made a mistake or I caused a catastrophe. I knew that my mother would think about climbing the stairs after me tens of times without daring to do so. The roof was wide, and she knew that I would have run in every direction to escape, and thus she abstained from going there to avoid a waste of time and not managing to catch me. I did not imagine that the day would end up like this. For three days, I had been thinking about the severed head with anxiety and fear that faded away when the first group of children started to say with astonishment how someone approached the head and put a sweet in its mouth. I was thinking, “How could I miss this chance? How could I not see Osman’s head?”, but Abo Fidaa would have not forgiven me for having thrown my pay at his face and he would not have allowed me inside the shop. I also never thought about apologizing to him and I thought that Abo Fidaa was a criminal who had cut the head of a boy from Sudan and he had brought it to Damascus to show it to children to get their money. Nonetheless, I was still angry and curios because all of the other children had seen it thanks to my efforts, while, at that point, I was sitting alone on the roof above the shop, watching the youngsters getting out with astonished faces, repeating extraordinary facts about Osman and what he had sung, eaten and done.
I sadly lowered my eyes, and “Oh, my God! There it was! There was the chimney above the shop!” I moved as fast as lightening and I reached its top. It came out right over the box, on the opposite corner from the audience. It was covered with a dirty and blackened piece of cloth. I did not care. I moved it and looked down. Suddenly, I figured out the secret of the business. I saw Osman’s head sticking out of the hole in the box, while his body was hiding behind it. “Oh, my God! Osman was only a child!” I thought. The colour of his skin was the same as ours, but his face was painted black. Abo Fidaa was a cheater, I suddenly realized. I did not think for a long time. The happiness coming from my discovery was incredible. The only thing that I could think of was revealing his trick and recovering my respect. I went down to the kitchen, filled a big jug with water, returned fast to the chimney and poured the water over Osman’s head. I then waited and watched. Osman jumped up and showed his wet body to the children. Laughs and screams followed my act of pride. The children that were there shouted, “He’s a child! A child like us! Liar! Liar! A severed head! Oh! Oh!” At that point, I could not escape anywhere, as the roof was my permanent shelter. The joy of having revealed Abo Fidaa’s secret was incredible for me. Abo Fidaa went out of the shop like a crazy man, while shouting, cursing and threatening the children. Their laughs and sarcasm made him take his box and leave the shop. He did not dare knocking at our door as usual. Actually, I was sad to see Osman walking behind him completely wet, but I was happy that I found out that he was not a severed head. My mother lost the money of the rent and I lost two pounds of the Eid’s first day of work. Thirty-four years have passed from that day, but the joy for the victory against Abo Fidaa is still present. And where are you now Abo Fidaa? Come and see the heads being cut in Syria on the cry of “AllahuAkbar” while groups of children are watching. Translated by: Farah Al-Shihawi Edited by: Laura Berlingozzi
By Maan Alhasbane
Youssef Abdelke Artist paints Syria's pain Youssef Abdelke is a Syrian leading artist. He is a respected engraver and outstanding draughtsman, as well as a great observer of contemporary phenomena. While being precise and methodical in his approach, there is also a poetic side to Youssef’s work. With an extensive artwork that has been decades in the making, his focus has ranged from highly political social satire to meditative still life pieces that are unassuming yet powerful. Therefore, his work has inspired many young and emerging artists in the Arab world. He was born in Kamishli, in northern Syria in 1951. Since the late 1970s, shortly after graduating from Damascus University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, he has been living in Paris. In 1986 he received a diploma in etching from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts. In 1989 he obtained a PhD in Plastic Arts from Université Paris-VIII. All the paintings are made by Youssef Abdelke.
THE GENOCIDE OF SYRIAC CULTURE BY PROFESSOR SHABO TALAY The Syrian regime marginalized the Syriac community in the country, preventing it from using its language and from celebrating its history and identity. This was done throughout the whole rule of the Assad dynasty, in spite of its claims of being “the protector of Syria’s minorities”. During the ongoing Syrian revolution and the spread of militant Islamist groups, including ISIS and the Nusra Front, the injustice and suffering faced by the Syriac community has only worsened. ISIS and the Nusra Front have attacked Syriac villages, killing many of their residents and kidnapping their young women, forcing the survivors to flee their homes. ISIS and other militant groups also destroyed Syriac churches, historic buildings and archaeological sites; numerous statues from the Assyrian civilization were also destroyed the same way the Mosul Museum in Iraq was destroyed. In this video, Shabo Talay talks about the Syriac language and cultural identity since the First World War to the present day. Talay is a professor of Semitic studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Professor Shabo Talay
Watch the video “A cultural genocide”
My Mythical Country
No god can save our souls The bird of death Has landed on the body of the beloved It will not leave before finishing its meal Neither the blue sky, a witness to the crime Nor the trees, the wood for the furnace Nor the water of the rivers, the tombs of the dead bodies None can declare the end Only man Can… !! But… ?? He remains a wandering monster, among the dunes of his old rage Blind, without insight How can an angry person see? Here, where the blood of brothers is mixed with the blood of strangers The thin line Between night and day Is but an illusion In my mythical country A new age where dawn is dark is starting Can darkness erase darkness? The sacrifices are greater than the altar And prayers are mere boring rites Is there a place for the shy flower of love in this stormy country? Is there a carpet to worship beauty that hasn’t yet been burned By the fires of the temple guards? All temples have fallen Will the human spirit rise Free within us? By Suzan Al-Mahmoud Translated by: Abdulla Fadel
Olive Branch Organisation
Our Story Interview of Sohaib Al Zoubi by Maan Alhasbane April 2015 This campaign helped us to build strong bonds between children, their parents and us. We distributed coats, woollen hats and shawls to 500 kids who were stuck in a camp on the Syrian-Jordanian borders. This camp was in very bad conditions and no one knew about it as it was ignored by the media. We also celebrated the Eid holiday with the children in both Dara’a city (South Syria) and Al-Zabadani (Rural Damascus). The Festival was full of joy. Our goals were to draw a beautiful smile on the faces of 300 children at the time of war, to distribute 1000 school kits with stationary, and to have the children plant 300 olive and eucalyptus trees so that they could learn about the “culture of planting and sowing”. Moreover, the children celebrated their mothers to show appreciation to the magnificent role that mothers have within the community. Your activities have a deep meaning and leave an impact in various fields. What can you tell us about your projects? Our Projects are: The First Olive’s House of Education and Entertainment It is located in Dara’a, Saida Village (South Syria). This was the greatest leap for the organisation. We aimed at establishing our first school with a kindergarten and a psychological support centre. In this place, 600 children receive education, entertainment and psychological support. The school is supplied with all modern means of education: - Projector with educational and cultural material - Library with a vast variety of books - I.Q. games.
Beautiful dreams of peace and love are always embraced by the people who work putting their heart and soul into it, and by the people who believe that “when you sow, you shall reap”. By sowing hope and happiness in the hearts and minds of the Syrian children, Olive Branch has emerged as a much needed response in the Syrian Spring. What has helped Olive Branch to blossom? Three young people had a small beautiful dream filled with love, peace and hope. It was a dream at a time when the war had killed every glimpse of hope. This dream started with only 10,000 Syrian Pounds (around 100 $). We bought stationary packages and we gave them to the children who stopped going to school because of the war. The idea started to encourage those children to continue with their education, and then it evolved into being the first project where a group of college students volunteered to teach children in their own houses. This project was called “My room is a classroom”. So, who nourished this dream to make it real? We are a civil humanitarian organisation that cares about civil society and thrives to build and develop a stronger community. The organisation was created by motivated young people who come from different backgrounds and different sectarian doctrines. It was founded on 23 November 2012 and it worked for a few months. Afterwards, the organisation stopped working for a while due to unfortunate circumstances, as some of the workers were arrested by the regime and three others became martyrs (namely Mohammad Alnabelsi, Abdurrahman Alnabelsi and Omar Alnator). Thanks to a very deep belief, the rest of the people continued to work as a group, and almost a year later, on 24 August 2013, they made the second attempt to make the organisation start working again, and they succeded. How did you launch your campaign? The campaign was led on a four-stage basis: -Raising signboards -Distributing drawing tools among children -Giving gifts to children who participated -Setting up a gallery where children and their parents could go in Dara’a City (South Syria).
Mobile Bus The "Mobile Bus” is a very creative idea to bring education and entertainment at the doorsteps of children’s houses. The bus is equipped with multimedia technology and it is decorated with cartoon pictures to make it a safe and child-friendly space. The bus also provides psychological support given by welltrained staff. The idea came out of the need to find cheaper means and more effective ways to reach out to the children living in remote areas. The bus has proven itself to be one of the alternative educational methods targeting a large number of children. In fact, so far we have been able to reach 400 children. Olive Branch Farms One of our sustainable projects is to recreate a green work environment in damaged villages. This project created job opportunities, produced a sustainable source of food, and reduced the migration rate in the targeted areas. Relief and Aid Campaigns We launched more than six reliefs and aid campaigns in Dara’a city (South Syria) and nearby villages. We provided more than 6,600 families with food baskets and essentials. The number of beneficiaries is more than 25.000 persons, with 65% of children below the age of 15. Which are the main areas covered by your projects? Most of our activities are carried out in the south of Syria in spite of the difficulty of movement because of the bad conditions, but we also cover the following area: - Dara’a City and Villages (South Syria) - Al-Zabadani and Al-Tal (rural Damascus) - Al Quneitra City (South West Syria) We are also expanding to other places in Syria. The organisation consists of 10 members in the management team and 210 workers whom share the same passion to create a better world filled with love, peace and hope. To contact Olive Branch
The school is managed by experienced and wellqualified staff that has done a great job in educating and supporting children. This school was an example that we later took as a reference for 9 other similar projects. Rainbow Magazine We issued a children’s magazine to connect with them in different ways. We made 2,250 copies on a monthly basis, and distributed it among all the children in our schools and in other areas that we could reach. The magazine has a very colourful content and it is filled with educational and entertaining stories and activities. The magazine gained a very high popularity among the children and their parents, and that is why we are going on with this project, and we have also a plan to expand it. In our schools we saw how much the children loved the magazine. The teachers also have an “open day” (once a month) during which the magazine is read and discussed in the classroom (as the only topic of the day). “I deal” project This is a very important and well-experimented psychological support project that it’s called “I deal”. A group of children attends several classes and through different exercises, the children can learn how to deal with war’s consequences. Within the group, the children can find a place where they can learn the meaning of love, peace, and co-operation. So far, 200 students attended this program. To develop this project, we established the first “Alzaytoon House for Children’s Support” in Al-Ajami village in Dara’a (South Syria). Olive Culture Centre Al Quneitra City (Southwest Syria) In coordination with Bassmah Organization for Psychological Support, we established the first Culture Centre in Al Quneitra City. The Centre offers a variety of activities and courses such as: - Language courses (English and French) - Computer skills courses - Photography and drawing courses - Musical instruments courses - Sewing courses - Different workshops.
Director of Public Relations in the headquarters in Lebanon Huda Abo Al Qassem Email: Habokaasm@gmail.com Public Relations in the Germany Office: Sohaib Al Zoubi Email: Sohaib.firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE WEB
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies The Lost Generation, Syria’s Children on Universal Children’s Day http://dchrs.org/english/File/DCHRS_Universal_Children_Day_Statement_En.pdf
Death Toll since the Beginning of the Syrian Revolution http://dchrs.org/english/news.php?id=1982&idC=2#.VRKKnVyprFI
Naame Shaam SILENT SECTARIAN CLEANSING The Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria http://www.naameshaam.org/report-silent-sectarian-cleansing/ Naame Shaam calls on US and allies to refer Syria massacres to International Criminal Court http://www.naameshaam.org/naame-shaam-calls-on-us-and-its-allies-to-refer-syria-massacres-tointernational-criminal-court/
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Breaking news from Syria, video reports , 24/7 comprehensive coverage http://www.syriahr.com/en/
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