IF I WERE YOU Edited by Elena Manfredi
FIRST PART Together to support freedom and respect to human rights of Syrian people
This book has been designed and cured by Elena Manfredi. It is of propriety of the designers and of the authors of the stories. Images are taken from the website Stock Exchange and used in this book considering the images licence agreement. First printed in London College of Communication in May 2012. Typeset in Din Bold, Din Regular and Bell Semi bold of different point sizes. Paper Fabriano Bioprima 85 gsm
WHAT IS GOING ON IN SYRIA Syrian uprising is an ongoing conflict part of the wave of the upheaval throughout the Arab World. It started in January 2011 as a form of protest to ask the resignation of the President Bashar al-Assad, his under-ruling Baâ€™ath party and the end of the dictatorship run by his family since 1970. Since then hundreds of killings and arrests have taken place, through bombing indiscriminately and killing men, women and children. Until now have been reported the death of more than 9000 people, mostly civilians and at least 14,000 others detained (UN data). Syrian security forces have been committing crimes against humanity, including killings, torture, rape, imprisonment, and other forms of severe deprivation of liberty and disappearances. The action of the International community has been slow and still not resolving.
WHAT IS THIS PROJECT
"If I were you" is an experiment that empowered a mass of geographically separated people to collaborate in supporting individuals who are experiencing the worst time of their lives in this exact moment in which you are reading this. I gathered sentences from people all over the world to whom I sent different stories of torture (18 in total with different titles to differentiate them) described in a report published by Amnesty International titled “I wanted to die”1. Each of the people were asked to read one of these stories and imagine to be the person that lived the torture in that exact moment and to write one sentence in first person. I linked the received sentences regarding the same kind of torture and created a short story with them. The creation of a single story is the result of the collaborative work of a group of people who don't know each other. To amplify the involvement of participants in these torture, they have been asked also to describe what kind of coulours, images and shapes they imagined while they were reading the stories of the 19 people. These answers are gathered in the appendix. 80 people from 11 different countries and 16 different cities took part in this project to create an awareness campaign to support Syrian people in their fight for freedom. I would like to thank everyone for their involvement in this project; without them it would not have been possible.
The eighteen pieces of narrative which are on the left side of the book come from some of the Syrian detainees tortured between February 2011 and March 2012 interviewed by Amnesty International in Jordan. You can read and download for free the whole report on Amnesty International's Website under the name of “I wanted to die” published in March 2012. 1
FORCED TO WATCH THE RAPE OF ANOTHER DETAINEE
FORCED TO WATCH OR HEAR TORTURE OF OTHERS CUTTING WITH BLADES BEING HELD WITH A DEAD OR DYING PRISONER
WHAT CAN YOU SEE …
“I am immobilized on the ground and the only thing I am thinking about is that I want all of this to stop. I cannot think of anything else but pain …”
“The anger that is rising inside me is equal to the dismay. I don’t know what to do …”
“Fluid anger and pain drip hot on my chest and on my abdomen, constricting my lungs. I can hardly breathe …”
“I am petrified, I can hear my heart beating in my head — the pounding in my temples …”
“I was destroyed by thinking that having expressed one of my ideals and having said what I thought, would have brought me to a series of atrocious sufferings and finally to death …”
“I am scared. I can feel that what is happening it is escaping my ability of understanding …”
“I feel breathless. I am nearly paralysed, sensation of cold and damp …”
“It took a while to sink in, but the stench of the corpse slowly filled my nostrils and realization of my situation crept up on me …”
“I was hidden. I was shaking. I prayed to God to keep me away that smell of death, even though I knew that soon I would been embraced in it…”
“Emad” 20 - al-Zabadani and Damascus, Syria / activist with the Local Coordination Committees of Syria 20
“On the second day I was taken to the interrogation room … Four security men threw me to the floor and started beating me violently with electrical prods, wooden sticks and wires and kicking me. During all that they were insulting me, threatening to rape my mother and sister … I made sure not to scream although the pain was unbearable.”
“I am immobilized on the ground and the only thing I am thinking about is that I want all of this to stop. I cannot think of anything else but pain … then they start to threaten my family and the fear adds to the pain, uncontrolled and so strong that it paralyses me … no, it’s not happening … not to me, not for real… I am thinking about how to find the right position, I need to foresee where they are going to hit me next time …I feel violated in my human being value and in myself, with a lot of fear and making a big effort to contain my anger and my hate. Why is it so hard to love and much easier to hate? Because the hate that we have got inside is so big that needs of big braveness to be touched … I feel completely empty, in pain, not knowing if I still want to live or rather just die.” Maria 24 - Rome, Italy / Student and part-time worker — Paola 25 - London, United Kingdom / Student — Angelo Piepoli 34 - London, United Kingdom / Researcher — Eros Salustri 55 - Rome, Italy / Psychologist — Sarah 25 - Vienna, Austria / Graphic design student
A dirt, sandy and desolate road. Angelo Piepoli 34 - London, United Kingdom / Researcher
Paola 25 - London, United Kingdom / Student
Love between two people.
Eros Salustri 55 - Rome, Italy / Psychologist
“Ghazi” 22 -Dera'a, Syria / Decorator
“They took me to an interrogation room in the basement. The officer said ‘bring Khalid’… I was at the back so couldn’t see Khalid well, but they pulled down his trousers. He had an injury on his upper left leg. Then the official raped him up against the wall. Khalid just cried during it, beating his head on the wall.”
FORCED TO WATCH THE RAPE OF ANOTHER DETAINEE
“The anger that is rising inside me is equal to the dismay. I don’t know what to do. I could try an extreme gesture because it is impossible to remain immovable … but at the same time I am frozen by the screaming of my brother. I could keep on living, but I am already dead in my soul. What do they want from me, why do they let me see all of this? The fear and pain is feeling me up. I am closing my eyes and but the pain turned into tears and they are running from my eyes. The whole feeling is coming up to my throat and i feel like i want to vomit and i hear screams in my head so loud so true. I cant stop repeating ‘Stop it!’ I curled up and inside of me I shouted all my fear and my anger.” Fabio 25 - Ancona, Italy / Student & worker — Serena Menichelli 40 - Rome, Italy / Religion teacher — Zhanel Dissimenova 27 - London, United Kingdom / Graphic designer student — Francesca - Rome, Italy / Teacher
BLA Fabio 25 - Ancona, Italy / Student & worker
“Adnan” 35 - Khirbet al-Ghazeleh,Syria / painter
“One by one we were taken for torture. The first session they beat me, with cable, and suspended me upside-down and beat me all over my body for two hours. On other days they did the same upside-down beating, and the dulab. In the dulab they took it in turns beating me with cable, one at a time until they tire. I had the dulab several times.”
“Fluid anger and pain drip hot on my chest and on my abdomen, constricting my lungs. I can hardly breathe … I am scared: they and my own hate will make me choke. I am hung upside down, I can see the blood flooding from my wounds mixing with the dust on the ground, and stamped on with the filthy shoes of my torturers … I can see my blood mixing up with dust … I cannot recognize my own thoughts while they’re doing this to me — I only know pain and terror … I never want to to wake up again.”
Paola Girardi 51 - Rome, Italy / Primary school teacher — Ervin Esen 29 - Istanbul, Turkey / Graphic Designer — Blanka 31 - London, United Kingdom / Student — Giulia Conte 23 - Rome, Italy / Student — Isaak Liptzin 22 - New York City, US / Photographer
Everywhere becomes tinged of sullen red glows. Paola Girardi 51 - Rome, Italy / Primary school teacher
Giulia Conte 23 - Rome, Italy / Student
A dark, reddish brown. Ervin Esen 29 - Istanbul, Turkey / Graphic Designer
“Al-Shami” 40 - Damascus, Syria / civil engineer & opposition activist
“At my second interrogation I was kneeling, blindfolded. ‘Did you write everything (in your confession)?’ I was asked. I said, ‘Yes’. For 60 seconds he read it, then said, ‘You didn’t understand us’. Then I felt my feet struck with a plastic stick, for five minutes. I couldn’t believe they were doing this to me, I am a civil engineer, known in my community.”
“I am petrified, I can hear my heart beating in my head — the pounding in my temples. Fucking bastards … you can beat me, even kill me but you will not stop our ideas … I am convinced they are going to kill me. I am terrified for my life and safety, but also filled with pain at the thought of my daughter being told that I have been killed … the fear is paralyzing my frozen bones … I can’t understand where these torturers find the hate and anger in their souls to make them capable, and probably even enjoy, inflicting pain on other people … I hope to die, to not suffer.”
Maria Cristina Fiocchi 57 - Rome, Italy / Teacher — Giancarlo Cipollone 61 - Rome, Italy / Employes from national rail — Valerio Ciriaci 23 - New York City, US / Film maker — Katya Cofino 34 - London, United Kingdom / Teacher — Charlie Behrens 33 - London, United Kingdom - Graphic designer & film maker
Black darkeness and military figures.
Charlie Behrens 33 - London, United Kingdom - Graphic designer & film maker
Valerio Ciriaci 23 - New York City, US / Film maker
“Mousa 26- Dera, Syria / perfume seller & activist
“I was hanged from the metal handcuffs on my hands attached to the wall. This hugely strained my hands and was very painful. I also suffered the ‘German chair’ torture method and while in that position I was given electric shocks. I was also hanged from the window and my feet did not reach the ground for a few days… By the end of it, I lost my sense of pain even that caused by electric shocks.”
“I was destroyed by thinking that having expressed one of my ideals and having said what I thought, would have brought me to a series of atrocious sufferings and finally to death. I was asking myself if it was worth fighting for a strong idea and then loose the love of my family, everything that I built during times of deprivations … my human dignity … maybe yes, but I was loosing my fight and my life. I hope something will change and my sacrifice is not in vane … I wanted to run … see my wife and kiss my little baby girl before I closed my eyes for the last time … The pain crept me over: I left myself.”
Jennifer Massaccesi 28 - London, United Kingdom / Sale assistant — Divya Rani K. V. 24 London, United Kingdom / Student & Freelancer — Anna Melorio - Rome, Italy / Teacher
Divya Rani K. V. 24 - London, United Kingdom / Student & Freelancer
PRISON, SHACKLES TORN CLOTHES. Divya Rani K. V. 24 - London, United Kingdom / Student & Freelancer
Anna Melorio - Rome, Italy / Teacher
“Musleh” 29 - Deir al-Bakht, Syria / Arabic language teacher
“I heard the screams of those being tortured for 24 hours a day. While in the cell we were busy praying for the safety of those who are being tortured.”
FORCED TO WATCH OR HEAR TORTURE OF OTHERS
“I am scared. I can feel that what is happening it is escaping my ability of understanding … I don’t know what to do … the only thing I have left is to pray. Why is this happening to me? What have i done to deserve this? I am scared and I only want to see the sun and hug my friends again. It is almost worse to hear the screams of others and having the fear of being next, when you are tortured you are in to much pain to think. The fear is the worst.”
Francesca Fiorucci 33 - Pesaro, Italy / Looking for a job — Benjamin Rider 27 - London, United Kingdom / Student and freelancer — Valentino Bianchi 23 - Rome, Italy / Student — Cathrine Brekke 22 - Oslo, Norway / Student
Valentino Bianchi 23 - Rome, Italy / Student
Francesca Fiorucci 33 - Pesaro, Italy / Looking for a job
Just rectangle that is the opening, and the room is square. Cathrine Brekke 22 - Oslo, Norway / Student
“Karim” 18 - al-Taybeh, Syria / Student
“They used to take eight or nine of us to interrogation, where around 25 to 30 people would be beating us… During one session I saw the death of a crucified man because they slashed his body with a blade. One of the slashes was deep and near his heart causing his death.”
CUTTING WITH BLADES
“I feel breathless. I am nearly paralysed, sensation of cold and damp. Right after that sight ended, I realized what really happened. I would like to harm them, this multiplied by thousands of times. I hope to die soon. God please … let me die.”
Giorgia Calcari 25 - Rome, Italy / Student — Arianna Carboni 25 - London, United Kingdom / Student — Luca 24 - Rome, Italy / Student — Federico Platania 41 - Rome, Italy / Employee — Massimo di Comite 50 - Rome, Italy / Employee
Federico Platania 41 - Rome, Italy / Employee
A room with a black background and inside, blurred, a hanged or bounded man with bare thorax, dark skin and hair. He is dirty and wounded, no blood, hanging head.
Giorgia Calcari 25 - Rome, Italy / Student
Abu al-Najem 40 - Dera’a, Syria / decorator
“One night I was placed in a solitary confinement cell with what looked like a corpse. I did not realize that at the beginning as the cell was quite dark. I thought that someone was lying by my side so I stretched my hand to touch him and that is when I discovered that it was a plastic bag with a zip with what I assume was a corpse inside it. I was kept there for what I thought maybe two days.”
BEING HELD WITH A DEAD OR DYING PRISONER
“It took a while to sink in, but the stench of the corpse slowly filled my nostrils and realisation of my situation crept up on me. A multitude of emotions filled me physically and mentally, one after another. Mostly a deep scarlet rage, but this was tempered by a chilling fear and a morbid curiosity of what they wanted from me … Bewilderment … it’s hard … Is this really happening? What they might do to me. The darkness was gnawing me, I wanted to see my surrounding, I was feeling the ice inside me … I was scared, but I had to resist.”
Peter Burnside - London, United Kingdom / Financial journalist — Andrea Lombardi - Macerata, Italy / Student — Luca Arrasich - Rome, Italy / Employee — Stefania - Rome, Italy / Teacher
Peter Burnside - London, United Kingdom / Financial journalist
PENTAGON. Luca Arrasich - Rome, Italy / Employee
Abd al-Baset” 41- Dera'a, Syria / Information Technology
“I was hiding in the bathroom at the ‘Omri mosque when it was raided by the security forces on 23 March. I hid behind the door but they kicked it and found me. They pointed the Kalash at my head, pulled me down and then attacked me. So many of them, 10, 15, 20. They beat me with rifle butts, sticks... They kicked, smashed my head with the Kalash rifle butt, pulled me along the tarmac outside, I was bleeding heavily, they stamped on me. One asked his officer ‘Shall I kill him?’ The officer said, ‘No! We’ll need him’. I was passing out, I couldn’t see, from blood or what I don’t know. I was so, so cold. I was taken on a stretcher to the security branch. A doctor there put stitches in my skull with no care and with no anaesthetic… and put something like vinegar on it which made it hurt" even more. I was barely conscious for two or three days. When I was released I was carried by other detainees.”
“I was hidden. I was shaking. I prayed to
God to keep me away that smell of death, even though I knew that soon I would been embraced in it. The stickiness blended with cold and fear and I cried. The pain of my body was penetrating in my spirit my red blood was flowing along my body and drying as a I was falling in an endless well beaten by the impact of the wind on my bones. I couldn’t breath, I was choking, at one point the pain was so overwhelming I could barely feel them hitting my head and kicking my ribs. I was dead.”
Leonardo Suozzo 24 - London, United Kingdom / Graphic designer — Martina Paukova 29 - London, United Kingdom / Illustrator — Vittoria Magrelli 23 - London, United Kingdom / Student — Luca Rosean 26 - London / United Kingdom / Graphic designer
Leonardo Suozzo 24 - London, United Kingdom / Graphic designer
Infinity of falling. Vittoria Magrelli 23 - London, United Kingdom / Student
WHAT CAN YOU SEE? While you are reading the torture: What colour can you see? What image? What shape?
THREATS Maria: Gray — An overthrown chair — A square. Paola: Beige/Light Brown — A brick wall — Rectangles. Angelo Piepoli: Green — A dirt and sandy road desolate — A triangle overlapped to a pentagon. Eros Salustri: Red — Love between two people — Triangle. Sarah: Black and yellow — A cold, damp, empty room — A lot of lines.
FORCED TO WATCH THE RAPE OF ANOTHER DETAINEE Fabio: Black — Dark room with a half naked man on his knees and with a band blood-stained around his head — An outline of a triangle with a circle inside. Serena Menichelli: Green — A mirror — A rectangle. Zhanel Dissimenova: Ultra violet purple and blue — Bricks — Squares and polygons. Francesca: Orange — A field — Triangle.
DULAB Paola Girardi: Everywhere becomes tinged of sullen red glows — Rubble everywhere of houses burned to the ground from an explosion of a nuclear bomb — I can see broken lines and pointed triangles. Ervin Esen: A dark reddish brown — A birthday cake — As for the geometrical shapes, I would describe them more like rough cutouts from a paper, circular but with uneven edges. Blanka: Grey — Crying man who has a beard — Circle (but only a black stroke). Giulia Conte: Grey — A corner of a tall wall in a dark and cold room — Cube. Isaak Liptzin: Dark orange — Rust in dark room — Triangles.
FALAQA Maria Cristina Fiocchi: Green — Seaside — Hexagon. Giancarlo Cipollone: Black — Prison — Cone. Valerio Ciriaci: Purple — A Syrian cop — Triangle. Katya Cofino: Mono — Red — A laughing uniformed bastard. standing at the rear end of a pleading man in Muslim prayer position (not because he is praying but because he is forced into that position to be tortured) — No shape. Charlie Behrens: Black darkness and military figures — Blue lights in my eyelids as if I have just seen a camera flash — Lines.
GERMAN CHAIR Jennifer Massaccesi: Black — Profile of a boun ded man in the dark — Pentagon Divya Rani K. V. : Black, Grey, Blue, Rust Red — Prison, shackles, torn clothes. Unshaven faces, smoke, blue sky outside the prison window — Lines and bars Anna Melorio: White — Icy desert — Square.
FORCED TO WATCH OR HEAR TORTURE OF OTHERS Francesca Fiorucci: Green — A deep and dark well — Circle. Benjamin Rider: Wet grey — Dark steel black, off white grey cream, the kind of white that has been waterlogged — No really other than the squares, rectangles of the cell walls and doors, the square of the window, the thick lines of the bars, the drippy semi-circle of waterlogged. Valentino Bianchi: Green — Truncheon — Pyramid shaped. Cathrine Brekke: Mostly black, some red and some yellow — A dark cellar like. room — I am in the corner and all I can see is some light from an opening door on the opposite corner — Just rectangle that is the opening, and the room is square.
CUTTING WITH BLADES Giorgia Calcari: Black — a room with a black background and inside, blurred, a hanged or bounded man with bare thorax, dark skin and hair. He is dirty and wounded, no blood, hanging head. I cannot see any geometrical shapes. What I can see of geometrical shape is the corner of a steel colour piece of furniture. If I make an effort I can see a white square with a white outline on a black background. Arianna Carboni: Green — Profile of a man — Triangle isosceles. Luca: Black — A wooden base stained with blood and enlightened with a really strong artificial light — A place where the tortures happen. Federico Platania: Black — Dark room — Triangle. Massimo di Comite : Red and black — The image of the room where I am tortured — A square.
BEING HELD WITH A DEAD OR DYING PRISONER Peter Burnside: Red damp — Dark walls — Mainly blocks like bricks but bigger. Andrea Lombardi: White — Light — Circle. Luca Arrasich: Green — The old Syrian flag — Pentagon. Stefania — Black — People full of blood on the ground — Triangle.
BEATINGS Leonardo Suozzo: Vermillion red — Cracks in a wall — Circle Martina Paukova: Dark green — Stone floor — Irregular pentagram. Vittoria Magrelli: Red of blood — Infinity of falling — Dark and round of the well Luca Rosean: Black, with hints of purple caused by the pain — Clockwork orange — Whirl.