Nasrallah’s blood-soaked road to Jerusalem

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In early March of this year, about 6,000 smuggled photographs of torture victims in Syrian regime jails were leaked on the internet and published on various web sites.

The eyes of parents, siblings, partners and relatives of Syrian detainees became transfixed on their screens. Sorting through pictures of hardly-recognizable corpses, they wondered if they might find a trace of their loved ones.

Known as the “Caesar” photographs, in reference to the pseudonym of the defected Syrian sergeant and forensic photographer who smuggled the images out of Syria, the photographs inevitably lead us to question the morality and ethics of disseminating graphic portrayals of dead bodies on the internet.

Important as it is, however, any normative debate in this case would sound almost preposterous and a form of intellectual temerity once we realize that what those pictures revealed was the tragic fate of at least tens of prisoners whose destination had been unknown for months or even years.

It is, without a doubt, unspeakably painful to first learn about the fate of a son, husband, or sister through a leaked photograph on the internet. Yet for those who spent months and perhaps years begging prison guards and intelligence officers for a scrub of information about their detainees; for those who were repeatedly blackmailed by informants throughout the search; for those who waited in vain and oscillated between hope and despair: for them, these images, harrowing as they were, represented a rescue from endless nights of waiting, releasing them from the indefinite confinement of the shackles called hope.

More “fortunate” Syrians learn about their family members’ death under torture through a phone call made by security services, one in which they are told to come and pick up the identification and any personal possessions the deceased has left behind. Victims’ bodies are not delivered back to the family for proper burial; the official cause of the death remains “unknown;” and people are deprived even of the right to mourn their dead or clutch at a physical evidence of their loss.

But with hundreds of thousands of imprisoned and forcibly disappeared Syrians, many do not have the “privilege” of learning about the death of their loved ones first-hand.

They are either forced to wait and hope, or be left to the mercy of serendipity and, as happened with the Caesar photographs, find out about their death through a leaked image of the corpse.

Since the publication of the leaked torture photos in early March, tens of victims were identified by their families. Those included at least 65 photos of Palestinian refugee victims recognized either by their families or by activists. The names of these victims were documented by the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria in April. The London-based monitoring group, tasked with documenting human rights violations inflicted upon Syria’s Palestinians, had published a report earlier in March entitled Photos Massacre that listed the names of 39 Palestinian victims of torture and forced disappearance. Their corpses were identified through the leaked images.

One of the most widely circulated photos was that of a corpse, apparently belonging to a Palestinian refugee, with a tattoo of the map of Palestine emblazoned with the colors of the Palestinian flag.


Attached to the corpse, a scrap of paper displaying the torture victim’s number—the coup de grâce toward the obliteration of personhood in Syria’s myriad dungeons.

Being confronted by such a wildly symbolic image, it becomes impossible to not wonder: What if that image belonged to a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli occupation jails? Would Palestinians and pro-Palestinians who currently support the Syrian regime react otherwise if the caption on that picture were altered and if it stated that he was killed in an Israeli prison rather than in a Syrian one? One could be forgiven for assuming that, had this man died in an Israeli jail, his picture would become iconic among Palestinians and supporters of their cause, and would be pointed to over and over again as yet more proof of Israel’s brutality and Palestinian defiance in the face of it.

Yet as it stands, neither the photo of the slain Palestinian prisoner whose arm bore the Palestinian map tattoo, nor the photos of tens of Palestinians killed under torture in Syrian regime jails have caused outrage or defiance in Palestine or among Palestinian solidarity activists. They were not killed by ISIS or the Israeli occupation, but by the Syrian regime that still enjoys the support of large segments of Palestinian political factions, public opinion, and many left-wing circles associated with the Palestinian cause. And therefore, Palestinian victims of the Syrian regime had the misfortune of falling to the “wrong perpetrator.”

It is precisely the identity of the perpetrator that deems the images of Palestinian torture victims in Syria invisible, changes their status from revered martyrs and heroes to contested numbers, and renders their plight unworthy of our solidarity.

Since the eruption of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, more than 400 Palestinian-Syrians have been killed under torture in Syrian regime jails. When this fact is presented to Palestinians who support the Syrian regime, some of them dispute it, some have the audacity to dispute it and even claim that those mostly innocent civilians and peaceful activists had been actually killed by ISIS or Nusra front. Others simply say that, “Now is not the time; there are more important things to talk about.” For them, those thousands of Palestinians who have been either killed, imprisoned, or displaced by the Syrian regime are a superfluous group that needs to be dislodged, overlooked and sacrificed for a “greater cause”—that is, the liberation of Palestine—as if the liberation of Palestine means anything when Palestinians in a neighboring country die in their thousands while we look away.

Thus, when we affirm that our freedom and dignity as Palestinians cannot come at the expense of others, including our fellow Palestinians, we are described as naïve. They ask that we regard the deaths of fellow Palestinians at the hands of the Syrian regime and the siege, destruction and shelling of their camps little more than irrelevant minutiae that must be shrugged off for far more significant geo-political considerations.

Hassan Nasrallah says that the road to Jerusalem goes through Syria. The revered resistance leader must know what he’s talking about.

Little does it matter that this road is paved by the blood of hundreds of thousands of Syrians; little does it matter that taking this road means treading upon the dignity and rights of a people who have historically supported our cause like no other—and not thanks to the regime but in spite of it. It doesn’t even matter that Hassan Nasrallah’s road is filled with the corpses of Palestinians killed by the regime or that his compass is directed towards perpetuating oppression and monopolizing resistance.

One has to be pragmatic, they tell us, and we do not have the luxury of choosing our allies according to our ideological convictions. This is used to justify siding with and cheering on the Syrian and Iranian regimes and Hezbollah, just as it was previously used in the 1980s to support Saddam Hussein. “He scared the hell out of Israel!” they told us. This was supposed to be sufficient to make us overlook the fact that he gassed thousands of Kurds to death or that he committed unspeakable atrocities in Kuwait.

Just as we are today being asked to overlook the suffering of Syrians and Palestinians at the hands of the Syrian regime for the purported “greater cause,” we were being encouraged to chant for Saddam and hang his pictures on the wall. He too, they said, was an enemy to Israel.

One of the many problems with this approach is that we only apply it to ourselves. We express our indignation if another oppressed people strikes an alliance with the US or Israel; we delegitimize an entire people’s uprising base on the fact that they received funding from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. (Incidentally, this was the very same Qatar that the “resistance” showered with gratitude not so long ago.)

We hypocritically deny them the very same pragmatism that we adopt to rationalize our support of oppressive regimes. We fail to understand that for Zabadani’s Syrians, Iran and Hezbollah are occupying forces trying to uproot and ethnically cleanse them, precisely the way Israel has been doing to us. We fail to understand that the Syrian regime and its allies have become to them what Israel and the United States have been to us. And so we do not take a minute to put ourselves in the shoes of Syrian resistance fighters in Zabadani who, for two months, have somehow thwarted a far more superior military force, backed by non-stop aerial bombardment.

If we continue to believe that Hassan Nasrallah’s road to Palestine is the only one open to us, we do not have the moral ground to condemn those who falsely or misleadingly claim that their road to salvation is through peace with Israel.

Combatting all the no-longer-ulterior agenda to normalize the relations between Syrians and Israel cannot be achieved by supporting Assad and Nasrallah. It starts with explicitly and vehemently refusing that our cause be used to condone the killing, humiliation and subjugation of Syrians; it starts by re-affirming our commitment to Syria’s liberation of all forms of oppression. It starts by realizing that our liberation struggle cannot and will not treat Syrians as pawns.

Unfortunately, Palestinians will continue to be killed in Syrian regime jails and so will Syrians; Palestinian camps will continue to suffer under Syrian regime siege and so will Syrian towns and cities. True solidarity with the Syrian people and with Syria’s Palestinians requires us to stand firm in the face of the regime that carries prime responsibility for this.

And for one, our solidarity must be principled rather than selective; it has to be based on the universal values that the Palestinian liberation struggle and the Syrian revolution are based on. It cannot be modeled on the identity of the oppressor, or dictated by the tone of Hassan Nasrallah’s speeches.

قصة امرأتين


“كانت أفضل الأوقات، كما كانت أسوأ الأوقات، كان عصر الحكمة، كان عصر الحماقة، كان عهد الإيمان، وكانت حقبة التشكيك، وكان موسم الضوء، وكان موسم الظلمة، وكان ربيع الأمل، وكان شتاء اليأس، وكان لدينا كل شيء أمامنا، ولم يكن لدينا شيء أمامنا، وكنا نتجه جميعا مباشرة نحو الجنة، وكنا نتجه جميعا مباشرة في الاتجاه المعاكس – باختصار، فإن تلك الفترة كانت كالفترة الحالية، حتى أن جزء من السلطات الأعلى صوتاً، أصرّت على أن يتم اعتبارها، بالخير أو بالشر، أنها بالمقارنة الأفضل دائماً”*

كان هناك جنود أجانب يطلقون قنابل مسيلة للدموع، والرصاص المطاطي، والذخيرة الحية على محتجين غير مسلحين في فلسطين.

وكان هناك جنود محليون يطلقون الرصاص الحي وقذائف الهاون على المتظاهرين العزل في سوريا.

وكان هناك طائرات بدون طيار تقصف الأحياء السكنية في غزة، مدمرة أبنية بأكملها، دافنة الأطفال تحت الأنقاض.

وكان هناك طائرات الميغ تلقي براميل متفجرة على الأحياء السكنية في حلب، مدمرة أبنية بأكملها، دافنة الأطفال تحت الأنقاض.

تجري أحداث قصتنا القصيرة في قرية النبي صالح، قرية صغيرة تقع في شمال غربي رام الله في الضفة الغربية المحتلة، ويبلغ عدد سكانها ٥٠٠ نسمة، وبستان القصر، وهي ضاحية في مدينة حلب، ويسكن فيها ٦٠٠٠ نسمة.

في السابق لم يسمع بهما أحد وكانت تلحفهما طبقة من الظلمة، النبي صالح وبستان القصر صنعا لنفسيهما اسما كبيرا بفضل إصرار المظاهرات غير المسلحة التي ينظمها سكانها.

أطلق سكان النبي صالح أولى مظاهراتهم في كانون الأول ٢٠٠٩، للاحتجاج على التوسع الاستعماري المستمر، والسطو على الأراضي بواسطة جيش الاحتلال الإسرائيلي، ومصادرة مصدر المياه الرئيسي في البلدة، عين القوس، بواسطة المستوطنة الاستعمارية في حلاميش. مذاك، وسكان النبي صالح يتظاهرون أسبوعيا ضد الاحتلال الإسرائيلي على الرغم من القمع الوحشي والذي لا يقتصر على القمع خلال التظاهرات. فقوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي تشن حملات عسكرية ليلية وتعتقل تعسفا مواطنين من سكان القرية وهي وسيلة لترويع القرويين لترهيبهم بهدف حملهم على الخضوع.

ولم يشهد حي بستان القصر أولى المظاهرات الواسعة ضد نظام الأسد في حلب فحسب، ولكنها كانت من الأمكنة الأولى في سوريا حيث يهتف ويرفع المتظاهرون لافتات تنتقد انتهاكات ترتكبها مجموعات ثورية مسلحة.

كلمات هذه الأغنية، التي تتضمن عبارات تنتقد عمليات النهب والخطف التي يرتكبها عناصر في الجيش السوري الحر، ويردد المتظاهرون هتافات تطالب بالحرية وبإسقاط النظام البعثي، تجسد، كلماتها، بالفعل، التفكير النقدي والوعي الثوري الذي يميز المتظاهرين في بستان القصر، حيث يتكلم المتظاهرون بجرأة عن انتهاكات مجموعات ثورية مسلحة وبوجههم، في حين لا يتخلون عن جوهر الثورة. بستان القصر شهد واحدة من أكثر المجازر دموية في ٢٩ كانون الثاني ٢٠١٣، حين عثر على أكثر من ٦٥ شخص أعدموا وأيديهم موثقة في نهر القويق.

أطفال النبي صالح وبستان القصر غالبا ما يقودون الهتافات في المظاهرات المتعاقبة. “لا أحد يخبرهم بما يقولونه”، يقول أحد الناشطين في النبي صالح. “أطفالنا ولدوا ضمن واقع حيث لا خيار أمامهم إلا المقاومة”.

وقد لا تفضل المنظمات المدافعة عن حقوق الأطفال واقع أن يقف الأطفال في فلسطين وسوريا في الخطوط الأمامية أو أن يرموا الحجارة على الجنود، مخاطرين بحياتهم، ولكن في هذا الجزء من العالم، ليس لدينا امتياز يسمح بالحفاظ على براءة الأطفال. فالطفولة الآمنة وغير المسيسة هي من الكماليات التي يُحرَم منها الأطفال.

المظاهرات الشجاعة والملهمة في النبي صالح وبستان القصر تتقاطع لناحية تعرضها لقمع شرس على يد الاحتلال الإسرائيلي وجيش النظام السوري على التوالي، ولكنها أيضا تحظى بتغطية إعلامية واسعة وأصبحت مقصدا لناشطين لدرجة أنهم يظهرون فيتشية تجاهها.

نريمان تميمي التي يبلغ عمرها ٣٧ عاما، هي امرأة من النبي صالح. وهي أم لأربعة أولاد، وكلهم يشاركون في تظاهرات القرية الأسبوعية، نريمان اعتقلتها القوات الإسرائيلية ثلاث مرات منذ عام ٢٠٠٩. زوجها وشريكها في النضال هو باسم تميمي، وهو مدافع كاريزماتي عن حقوق الإنسان ومنظم للاحتجاجات. باسم يلتزم النضال من أجل الحرية، الكرامة والمساواة في فلسطين التاريخية.

كل من باسم ونريمان يؤمنان بشدة بالمقاومة غير المسلحة. نريمان، هي أكثر من مجرد “زوجة باسم”. هي منظمة للتظاهرات، وتعمل مع منظمة بيتسيلم المدافعة عن حقوق الإنسان حيث تصور وتوثق المظاهرات في قريتها. في ١٧ تشرين الثاني ٢٠١٢، وخلال تظاهرة في النبي صالح ضد العدوان الإسرائيلي على غزة، نريمان صورت إطلاق النار المميت على أخيها، رشدي تميمي. رشدي، البالغ من العمر ٣١ عاما كان رقيبا أول في جهاز الشرطة الفلسطينية وأب لطفلة في الثانية من عمرها، وقد أطلق جنود جيش الاحتلال الإسرائيلي عليه ثمانين رصاصة. بعد يومين، مات متأثرا بجراحه في مستشفى برام الله.

وكما لو أن خسارتها لشقيقها الحبيب لم تكن كافية، كان على نريمان أن تتعامل مع المأساة بعيدا عن زوجها باسم، والذي كان يقضي عقوبة بالسجن لمدة أربعة أشهر في سجن عوفر العسكري في ذلك الوقت. باسم اعتقل قبل ذلك بأربعة أشهر بسبب مشاركته في تظاهرة، وكان ذلك اعتقاله الثالث عشر، وقد حصل هذا الاعتقال بعد مرور خمسة أشهر على اعتقال سابق دام ١٤ شهرا في سجون الاحتلال. منزل نريمان وباسم هو هدف للتدمير بأمر مما يسمى “الإدارة المدنية” في إسرائيل- التي هي كل شيء إلا مدنية- وقد جرح أولادهما عدة مرات على يد قوات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي. أثناء سجن باسم، كانت نريمان تواجه الجنود الإسرائيليين الذين كانوا اقتحموا منزلها عدة مرات، حيث فتشوا الغرف بوحشية، وروعوا الأطفال، وصادروا كمبيوترها المحمول. عام ١٩٩٣، باسمة، شقيقة نريمان، دفعها مترجم في محكمة إسرائيلية من أعلى الدرج، مما أدى إلى وفاتها. ورغم كل محاولات الاحتلال الإسرائيلي لسحق إرادة العائلة ومنعهم من الاحتجاج، ومع ذلك، يستمر صوت نريمان يصدح عاليا خلال التظاهرات. وعدستها، أيضا، لم تتوقف عن تسجيل جرائم إسرائيل.

مهى غرير، امرأة عمرها ٢٦ عاما من حرستا في ريف دمشق. تحمل إجازة في الأدب الإنكليزي، مهى هي شقيقة المدون البارز حسين غرير وأرملة الشهيد والناشط والمدافع عن حقوق الإنسان مصطفى كرمان. منذ بداية الثورة في سوريا. ساعدت مصطفى في كل المشاريع والمبادرات التي أطلقها. مصطفى التزم بشدة بالنضال من أجل الحرية، الكرامو والمساواة في سوريا. آمن مصطفى ومهى بقوة في المقاومة غير العنفية. “لا أخجل من القول أن مصطفى بنى شخصيتي”، قالت لي مهى. “بالنسبة لي، مصطفى هو أكثر من حبيب، كان داعما، ورفيقا وأخا. لا أريد الكذب والقول أنه كانت لي أحلام سابقة قبل الثورة، ولكن عندما اندلعت الثورة، شعرت بانتمائي إلى سوريا، وكان لي الكثير من الأحلام التي أردت أن أحققها مع مصطفى”.

في ١٦ تشرين الثاني ٢٠١٢، وخلال التظاهرة الأسبوعية في بستان القصر، سقطت قذيفة هاون على التظاهرة في وقت كانت فتاة صغيرة تغني للحرية. سقط عدد من المتظاهرين بين جريج وقتيل، ومن ضمنهم مصطفى. لقد قتل بعد بضعة أسابيع من زواجه من مهى. “كان يبعد عني ثلاثة أمتار حين سقطت القذيفة. لحظات قبل تعرضنا للقصف، طلبت من صديق أن يلتقط صورة لي مع مصطفى كما لو أن قلبي كان ينبئني بأنه على وشك الرحيل”، كما تذكرت مهى. “عندما أصبح الوضع الأمني أكثر خطورة، طلبت من مصطفى مغادرة البلاد. رفض في البداية، ولكنه وافق في النهاية بسببه حبه لي. وكان من المفترض أن تكون التظاهرة الأخيرة لنا في بستان القصر، لكن سوريا شعرت بأنني سآخذ معي أحد أغلى أبنائها، فضربتني به”.

كما لو أن فقدانها لحبيبها لم يكن كافيا، كان على مهى أن تتعامل مع مأساتها من دون شقيقها حسين، والذي اعتقلته قوات النظام السوري دون تهمة أو محاكمة منذ ١٦ شباط ٢٠١٢.

نريمان ومهى لا تعرفان بعضهما البعض، ولكن قصصهما تتشابه إلى حد مذهل. هذه الألفة ليست مصادفة غريبة، لأنهما تلخصان نضالات شعبيهما. فأحلامهما تحطمت وقلبيهما مزقهما نظامين فاشيين. حتى الآن، كثيرات هن النساء السوريات والفلسطينيات، مثل مهى ونريمان، يقفن شامخات ومتحديات.

* تشارلز ديكنز- قصة مدينتين

ترجمة الصديق وليد ضوّ
نُشر في موقع المنتدى الاشتراكي في لبنان – المنشور
المقال الأصلي

A Tale of Two Women

Budour Hassan
Arabic version (by Walid Daou)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

There were foreign soldiers firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition at unarmed protesters in Palestine.
There were local soldiers firing live bullets and mortar shells at unarmed protesters in Syria.

There were drones dropping bombs on residential neighbourhoods in Gaza, destroying entire buildings and burying children under the rubble.
There were MiGS firing TNT barrels on residential neighbourhoods in Aleppo, destroying entire buildings and burying children under the rubble.

The events of our short story are set in Nabi Saleh, a tiny village north west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank with a population of just over 500, and Bustan Al-Qasr, a neighbourhood in Aleppo city with approximately 60,00 inhabitants.

Once unheard of and engulfed by obscurity, both Nabi Saleh and Bustan al-Qasr made a big name for themselves thanks to the persistent unarmed protests organised by their residents.

Nabi Saleh residents launched their first demonstration in December 2009, to protest the ongoing colonial expansion, land theft by Israeli occupation forces, and the confiscation of the village’s main water supply, Ain al-Qaws spring, by the adjacent Israeli colony of Halamish. Ever since, Nabi Saleh residents have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli occupation despite brutal repression that was not limited to violence during protests. Israeli occupation forces carry out constant night raids and waves of arbitrary arrests as a means of terrorising the villagers and intimidating them into submission.

Not only was Bustan al-Qasr one of the first Aleppian neighbourhoods to hold large protests against the Assad regime, it was also one of the first places in Syria where protesters chanted and held signs criticising abuses carried out by armed rebels.

The lyrics of this song, wherein several stanzas criticise lootings and kidnappings by the Free Syrian Army as the chorus repeats the demands for freedom and the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime, perfectly embody the critical thinking and revolutionary vigilance that have characterised Bustan al-Qasr’s protests: Protesters vehemently speak out against violations by armed rebels in their faces, while never abandoning the essence of the revolution. Bustan al-Qasr witnessed its single bloodiest massacre on 29 January, 2013, when over 65 people were found executed in Queiq River with their hands bound.

The children of Nabi Saleh and Bustan al-Qasr often lead the chants in their respective demonstrations. “No-one tells them what to say,” said an activist from Nabi Saleh. “Our children are born into a reality where they have no option but to resist.”

Children’s rights organisations may not like the fact that the kids of Palestine and Syria stand in the front lines or throw rocks at soldiers, risking their lives, but in this part of the world, we have no such privilege of shielding the innocence of our children anyway. A safe and de-politicised childhood is a luxury that our children are denied.

The brave and inspiring protests in Nabi Saleh and Bustan al-Qasr are met with excessive violence by the Israeli occupation and the Syrian regime respectively, but they also draw widespread media attention and have become favourite destinations for activists to the degree that they have been somewhat fetishised.

* * *

Nariman Tamimi is a 37-year-old woman from Nabi Saleh. A mother of four children, all of whom participate in the village’s weekly protests, Nariman has been arrested by Israeli soldiers on three occasions since 2009. Her husband and partner in struggle is Bassem Tamimi, the charismatic human rights defender and protest organiser. Bassem is committed to the struggle for freedom, dignity and equality in Historic Palestine.

Both Bassem and Nariman staunchly believe in unarmed resistance. Nariman, however, is much more than just “Bassem’s wife”. She is a protest organiser in her own right, working with the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tslem in filming and documenting the protests in the village. On 17 November, 2012, during a protest in Nabi Saleh against the Israeli aggression on Gaza, Nariman filmed the fatal shooting of her own brother, Rushdi Tamimi. Rushdi, a 31-year-old police officer and a father of a two-year-old girl, was shot with 80 bullets by Israeli occupation soldiers. Two days later, he succumbed to his wounds in a hospital in Ramallah.

Nariman and her son Waed, at Rushdi’s funeral

As if losing her beloved brother was not hard enough, Nariman had to cope with the tragedy without her husband Bassem, who was serving a four-month sentence in Ofer military prison at the time. Bassem had been arrested a month earlier for protesting; it was his 13th overall arrest, which came less than five months after he was released following 14 months in occupation prisons. Nariman and Bassem’s house is subject to a demolition order by the so-called Israeli “civil administration” – which is anything but civil – and her children have been injured several times by Israeli occupation forces. During Bassem’s imprisonment, Nariman had to put up with the Israeli soldiers invading her house at dawn repeatedly, violently searching the rooms, terrifying the children, and confiscating her laptop. In 1993, Bassema, Nariman’s sister-in-law, was pushed down the staircase by an Israeli court interpreter, which resulted in her death. Despite all the attempts by the Israeli occupation at crushing her family’s will and deterring them from protesting, however, Nariman’s powerful voice continues to bellow during protests. Her lens has not ceased to expose Israel’s crimes, either.

* * *

Maha Ghrer is a 26-year-old woman from Harasta in the Damascus countryside. An English literature graduate, Maha is the sister of prominent Syrian blogger Hussein Ghrrer and the widow of martyred Syrian activist and human rights defender Mustafa Qaraman. Since the start of the Syrian revolution, she helped Mustafa through all the projects and initiatives he created. Mustafa was strongly committed to the struggle for freedom, dignity and equality in Syria. Both he and Maha staunchly believed in nonviolent resistance. “I don’t shy away from saying that Mustafa cultivated my personality,” Maha told me. “For me, Mustafa is more than a lover; he was a supporter, a comrade and a brother. I don’t want to lie and say that I had dreams about Syria prior to the revolution, but when the revolution erupted, I felt a sense of belonging to Syria and I had many dreams that I wanted to achieve with Mustafa.”

Maha and Mustafa
Maha & Mustafa, few minutes before his martyrdom

On 16 November, 2012, during the weekly protest in Bustan al-Qasr, a mortar shell hit the protest as a little girl was singing for freedom. Several protesters were killed and injured, including Mustafa. He was killed a couple of weeks after he and Maha got married. “He was three metres away from me when the shell fell. Moments before the shelling, I asked a friend to take a picture of me and Mustafa as if my heart had told me that he was going to leave,” Maha recalls. “When the security situation got terribly dangerous, I asked Mustafa to leave the country. He rejected at the start, but finally agreed under pressure because of his love for me. That protest in Bustan al-Qasr was supposed to be our last, but Syria felt that I was going to take with me one of her most precious sons, so she beat me to him.”

As if losing her lifetime love was not enough, Maha had to cope with the tragedy without her brother and role model Hussein, who has been detained by the Syrian regime without charges or trial since 16 February, 2012.

* * *

Nariman and Maha do not know each other, but their stories are strikingly similar. This familiarity is not a peculiar irony, for these two women epitomise their peoples’ struggles. The two women had their dreams wrecked and hearts shattered by two fascist regimes. Yet, like myriad Syrian and Palestinian women, Maha and Nariman stand tall and defiant.