In gloominess of the nothingness.. Here they are (2)
Freedom is not my demand (1)
Written by :Luna Watfa
Translated by: Diane Lockyer
A question constantly circulating in social media, buzzing like a humming bee in my head: What are your demands?
Intuition tells you that freedom tops the demands sought by detainees, but at this stage in the hell of the prison where you fall a prey to your executioners’ practices, you are ready to compromise for freedom because you realize how far-fetched the idea is. The situation you find yourself in now is more important than freedom. Finding enough space to toss your exhausted body on striving for unattainable sleep; a few analgesic tablets perhaps to relieve you of the severe pains from beatings; sufficient food to eat, sun and air, a clock … and to put it in one single word: You…. You above anything else!
The very last thing that comes to mind is getting out of the security branches for several reasons. The most important is that you are aware of how investigations in the security branches are carried out. You realize that your journey with them has just begun, and from that moment on, you have completely disappeared from the outside world. It does not matter who you know and who knows you, nor the extent of your contacts and outside relationships. What you should worry about now is how much evidence they have against you in their possession which will determine how long the investigation will take and the methods they will use to put pressure on you.
Why do you think of evidences? And how your conscience turns to a condemnation that you fear?
Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, arbitrary killings and detentions have been carried out on peaceful demonstrations simply because someone had a social network account. So the question arises and you begin to wonder if what you are doing may be used as proof against you and putting you in danger of being arrested? The answer to this question can be found in a realistic reading of the history of al-Assad’s rule in Syria over the last forty years where many cases have been documented through history and detainees’ narratives. Those forty years of al-Assad’s rule have become synonymous with tyranny, oppression and unjust laws similar to a sword hanging over the head of all those who dared to openly, or in whispers, criticize the ruling regime or even tackle the question of the corruption that plagued the regime. So as not to get bogged down in this long history, let’s simply highlight the four years of the Revolution to see how any kind of activity whatsoever in civilian relief work can be targeted, or even a written word in an attempt to clarify the truth without its being falsified as evidence and condemned under Syrian law.
Since the issuance of a legislative decree to set up a Terrorism Court to condemn terrorism, numerous labels have appeared under the cover of fighting terrorism including the financing of terrorism, turning relief work into what was termed terrorist acts, demonstrations, legal counsel, research on intellectual and political organizers seeking to overthrow the government, banners with slogans at demonstrations undermining the prestige of the State and weakening national sentiment – an endless number of charges. Yet, despite all those charges, the Terrorism Court until recently was unable to determine how long a detainee could legally be held thus avoiding the wrath, outwardly at least, of international legal organizations and humanitarian organizations. So, by not defining an arrest as such, some detainees became mere forgotten numbers and some lost the luxury of having a number because their files were missing in the Court Office
What I had practiced in relief, media and legal work during the revolution is not more nor less than any Syrian, who inspired by his/her conscience and refused to surrender to fear, had done. It was when I saw people displaced from their homes, in the streets with starving children, men who had become so oppressed and humiliated a teardrop would fall from their eyes, women reciting a mourning prayer every day, and others I participated in lifting their coffins whose hands were lifting coffins of the formers who died yesterday. Since the beginning of the revolution, relief work started like a ray, sometimes dim and terrified in other times, because the security forces considered the displaced populations there as a popular incubator of terrorism that deserved to be exterminated entirely and those who helped as partners deserved prosecution.
“ They’re just children. I was feeding them because they were starving,” I angrily replied to ‘Jameel’ the security policeman who and his squad had just arrested me and described me as terrorist who deserves the toughest punishment.
” These kids are just like the offspring of those who killed my brother!!” he replied in the same angry tone.
” And what is their sin? Do they deserve to die of starvation? Aren’t they just children?”
“ Yes, they deserve to die because they will grow up and kill me and my family as well – all of them deserve to die!
Saeed was watching me from behind indicating that I should remain silent. Jamil had come out and Saeed began talking very calmly. “Although Jamil is Christian and I am Alawite, I personally don’t think you committed a crime. When I pass by tents for refugees in the gardens after finishing my work here, I buy bread for them from my modest salary. The difference between you and me is that I am with them and you are not so I will not be held responsible and no one considers what I’m doing as a crime. In any case you have hurt no one. Have faith that God will not harm you. “
I didn’t need Saeed to reassure me I had not committed a crime that warranted an arrest, but what he said was a confirmation of something more serious than the case of an individual’s arrest. The act itself is multifaceted. It is permitted when you are affiliated to some party ( theirs) and you can do what you believe is right as long as you are not afraid of being held accountable, while it could be otherwise an evidence for condemnation. You know that when you start relief work or media activities, you can be arrested at any moment, and you can’t help that terrible feeling of terror going through your mind, especially after the leaked photos of hundreds of detainees who had died under torture. And I had been arrested just two weeks later. Is it courage or fear? It was a question akin to walking a fine tightrope. Do you do what your conscience dictates you to do and tell the truth, despite the risks, or do you remain silent for your own safety fearing a possible arrest? It is a question, however, that is constantly lived with all of us, but seeing a child suffering from hunger or a detainee who died under torture or the pity of losing one’s soul were enough to mirror the picture and personalize what you see whereas you picture your beloved ones in the same condition, and to be human against all odds and fears. Being a human means feeling their pain and not remaining silent confronted with their tragedy.
Detainees had died under torture and that had happened just two weeks before I was arrested. prison in not that place which was pictured by the multiplicity of narrations of prisoners who experienced detention in the course of the revolution, because talking about such experience was hard-pressed for those who went through it, thus having a clear conception about it is almost impossible. I am in a place I am seeing for the first time where the real issues are not just bad food, insults or torture. There are many details that a detainee is sometimes unable to remember for the pain they evoke, and preferably to be simply forgotten sometimes.
“Give me your identity card and don’t make a scandal” and then “Come with us”. My arrest started with those two sentences. On the way to 40th Branch, I was not blindfolded yet, only a scarf they wrapped my head with. There were two large cars and at least 10 security force members and security equipment’s enough to capture the entire homeland as though It required a full security branch to arrest a single opponent. Their fear of our humanity was as much as our fear of their barbaric ways.
Once I had been taken and forcibly entered into one of the cars,I looked at the people who gathered in one of Damascus squares, hoping the moment would come when all those people would react as one and prevent a young woman from being arrested in this way, but they remained silent not uttering a word, but their faces were swallowed by silence and gloom, the very same faces that had raised with such fear for long years.
What you have now is to maintain your composure and tenacity as much as you can, because you knew in advance that one day you might fall into their hands when you chose to walk on that taut tightrope. Your composure provokes them, so they strive by all means to get to your weak points, which vary from person to another indeed, but once they get them- which often happen- your life as you know it would reach its end, to start a new life entirely, a life of tedious steps, blocked horizon and blurred destiny.