Syria: A Lovers' Meeting, Postponed Indefinitely

“This is the story of how cheap our lives are in a land ruled by money and weapons.”

Syria: A Lovers' Meeting, Postponed Indefinitely

“This is the story of how cheap our lives are in a land ruled by money and weapons.”

“A male dinosaur says to a female dinosaur, ‘Give me a kiss.’

“‘No,’ she says, ‘I don’t want to.’

“‘Well,” he says, ‘that’s why we became extinct.’”

I used to burst out into loud, unaffected laughter every time I heard him tell this cheesy joke, which had become a shared thing between us.

I’d always answer with a touch of meanness, “Oh, just be quiet.”

I loved him – no, I adored him and every small detail about him, from his fondness for the colour brown to his love of cats.

For his part, he never forgot to bring me my second great love – a lily – every time he came to see me. We lived in two different cities, he in Damascus and I in Latakia.

And then the uprising began.

We fell out and separated for a while. He called to check on me and I told him I was going to a demonstration.

I don't know why I told him that. I had never taken part in a demonstration in my whole life and I had never cared before.

“Please take care of yourself,” he said.

We went back to talking all the time, dreaming together, and building a future for the children we hoped to have. One of our plans was that he’d carry me off after the revolution succeeded. At the time, there was no Daesh [Islamic State] and no Jabhat al Nusra.

I began to fear for him more than I feared for myself, waiting for three pm every Friday just to hear his tired voice tell me that he was back from that day’s demonstration.

I would always be upset and offended if he was late in visiting me.

“We love one another, but not in wartime,” he’d say. “Be a little easier on me, please, things are really difficult right now.”

At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. I still remember the week he traveled to Deraa to try to cover events there. He returned with a great sense of failure. He had been unable to document anything because the situation was so dire.

Some time later, he told me that the family who had hosted him there all died when their neighbourhood was attacked by military aircraft.

I still remember how I burst into tears once when I heard his laughter, the laughter I’d been robbed of the right to enjoy, even in between the demonstrations and funerals and deaths. Our separation made everything worse, each of us at the other end of the country.

I understood how the state had categorised us according to our identity cards when a soldier asked to see our documents. He looked at my ID which said I was registered in Latakia, and returned it with a kind smile.

Then the soldier looked at the other ID, placed his hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re a good guy, huh? You won’t be causing any problems, eh?”

My love sent a bouquet of lilies to my workplace through one of his friends. I called him and asked, “So does this mean you won’t be coming for your birthday? Don’t you want your gift?”

He promised he’d come the following month. I sent him the gifts – small things I’d picked up here and there, among them a tiny Koran to carry in his pocket.

“Do you want me to keep it with me wherever I go?” he asked.

“Please, I don’t want you to go anywhere,” I said. “Please stay with me.”

We were planning to meet on a Sunday, a meeting that had to be postponed several times because of the situation.

I tried calling him on the Thursday. It was September 20, 2012. His line was dead. Friday passed, then Saturday. His mobile phone was still off, and the landline just rang and rang.

I asked one of his friends, and was told that maybe he’d gone to document what was happening. I felt slightly relieved, because I knew how important it was to him. Maybe everything had happened so fast that he hadn’t wanted to risk a hostile conversation that would have ended with me upset and our rendezvous postponed again.

But on the Monday, his friend came bearing different news.

“Abu Walid took him from his home on Thursday evening,” he said. “A security patrol came by and took him and all the electronic devices they found in his house. They even took his guitar, as his mother watched. She stood helplessly by and had no idea what to do. She was forced to watch as they wrenched her son from her.”

At the beginning, they told me I had to wait 60 days. I counted those days in hours and minutes. Then they said six months. My friend told me he could be imprisoned for up to five years if the case went to trial. They told me to wait for a presidential pardon, as it was possible he’d be released under some sort of amnesty.

And that’s how two whole years passed. My heart was gripped by fear, knowing he was at the mercy of people who had no compassion. Was he suffering? Being tortured? Did he remember? Was he still all right?

Our greatest ambition became to find out whether his case would ever come to trial, or even where he was being held. Was he still alive? Where was he?

It’s been two years and five months now. This is no longer a story about awaiting the return of my beloved from prison. It is now the story of how cheap our lives are in a land ruled by money and weapons. It is the story of the thousands of oppressed and disappeared, the murdered and destroyed. The story of dreams we build and nurture, and how they are snatched away by arbitrary laws in a country ruled by a leader who inherited it from his father in “free, fair and democratic” elections.

Hamada, my love, I will call my son by your name. And I hope he will be your son. I pray to God that you are safe, and that you will return one day.

This story was produced by the Damascus Bureau, IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists. 

 

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