The massacre will not be hashtagged

in Aljumhuriya.net

sd

He was arrested along with six of his comrades on 30 December, 2013, in a raid by Syrian security forces on their home in Damascus. It was his second arrest in as many years.

A founding member of the Revolutionary Syrian Youth, a nonviolent leftist collective based in the Syrian capital, Imad was arrested for the first time in November 2012. Almost three months in detention, thirty-seven days of solitary confinement, and non-stop torture might lead many to capitulate. Imad, then aged 24 and with little political experience prior to the Syrian uprising, held firm and did not wilt under interrogation.

Shortly after his release, he left Syria for Egypt. But he couldn’t stay away from his country and so decided to go back.

By then, Damascus had become even more strangled than before; if holding or organizing protest actions had been extremely difficult in 2011 and 2012, by 2013 it had become virtually impossible.

It was during Imad’s first arrest when his friends created a Facebook page demanding freedom for him and for the two fellow Revolutionary Youth activists taken prisoner with him.

Creating Facebook pages demanding the release of detainees was common during the first two years of the uprising. Their creation in itself illustrated a remarkable change in a country where political detentions before the uprising used to be cloaked with the utmost secrecy and censorship. But it was also a testament to the lengths that Syrians had come and of the various cracks they managed to break in the regime’s previously impenetrable wall of fear.

But the Facebook page created following Imad’s second arrest, this time with six of his friends, was quickly removed at the request of the detainees’ families. This time around, they said, they did not want any noise or publicity. A seemingly small detail, one illustrating a new shift taking place in Syria.

As the revolt eventually gave way to civil war, the initial sparks of hope and buoyancy were quashed and transmuted into utter despair. The cracks that Syrians had made in that impenetrable wall had all but faded, giving way to even greater fear: fear of the mere mention that a son or daughter had been detained; fear of demanding their release; fear of merely uttering their names.

Of each of Imad’s friends, news of their death under torture began to trickle in, one by one. Indeed, six of the seven who were arrested on that night, including Imad, were killed in this way.

It’s not uncommon to feel helpless when we hear that detainees are being tortured to death in another country, knowing that this has been the fate of thousands of civilians since 2011. But helplessness assumes a whole new meaning when our lips have been fused together by fear—this, to the point where we are unable to talk about those who have been killed; we cannot honor their memory, mourn their loss, pay them tribute, tell the stories, share their pictures.

****

Here in Palestine, we have the opportunity to take to the streets in solidarity with political prisoners, scream our lungs out for them and get tear-gassed, shot and beaten in the process. We also have the chance to share the stories of our martyrs and pay them the homage they deserve.

In Syria, a country ruled by the tyranny of fear and silence, having a name is a curse in life and in death, and even sharing the stories and names of most victims is never taken for granted. This explains why we couldn’t write Imad’s last name and why so many of Syria’s detainees, alive and dead, remain unnamed. Not just because they are too many to be documented, but also because many fear to simply name them.

In this sense, forced disappearance in Syria doesn’t just target people’s bodies; it also targets their names, memory and legacy. It renders hundreds of thousands of people nameless, almost annihilating their very existence and stripping their loved ones of any tangible evidence to clutch at after their death.

In her essay in The New Enquiry, Genna Brager explains that forced disappearance is not just a euphemism for state murder, but a “necropolitical creation of disposable classes whose disposal is intrinsic to capitalism.” Brager’s deconstruction of the apparatus of disappearance as used in Latin America during the 1970s and the 1980s echoes in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

In Syria, the forced disappearance apparatus doesn’t only seek to conceal evidence, exonerate perpetrators, and intimidate the survivors. It also operates to subsidize the Syrian regime’s prison industrial complex. The numerous security and intelligence services use the information they withhold as a bargaining chip, misleading families and exploiting their need, powerlessness and vulnerability, eventually forcing them to pay millions of SYPs for the evidence that will never come.

Fear, silence, exploitation and intimidation become essential to the perpetuation of forced disappearance as an effective weapon in the state’s arsenal against the people, against the “unwanted” disposable class.

It becomes more than just a punitive measure for caging dissidents and squelching dissent. It carries a far more destructive and collective impact, constantly hovering over entire communities.

In the Syrian context, talking about “arbitrary detention” is a legal extravagance and standing even a sham trial is a luxury.

It comes as no surprise, then, when many Syrians tell you that they prefer to be killed by a missile or a shell over being detained. It’s not just the fact that the latter is far more tolerable and painless than the slow, daily death in detention. But also, even when the rocket tears the body of the victims asunder, it does, unlike death under torture, leave something for the family to mourn, material proof to grasp, and a grave to bury.

Forcibly disappearing hundreds of thousands, killing thousands of them under torture and then casually phoning their parents to tell them to come get their IDs, without even allowing them to see the corpse, is the epitome of systematic and deliberate dehumanization. Dehumanizing the detainees by vanishing them, turning them into numbers and dumping their corpses in mass graves; dehumanizing their loved ones by stripping them of the right to mourn, to shout, to say a final goodbye, to see and know the truth, and to have a closure—albeit heart-wrenching— to their agony.

****

Few days after Maria was arrested by Syrian security forces, a family friend shared her picture on Facebook and called for her release. In any other country, that would be a basic, harmless act. Not so in Syria. Her friend was soon asked to remove the picture, her family fearing that even such a mundane post might have some negative repercussion on her. Maria was fortunately released, but hundreds of thousands of Marias are still languishing in Syrian prisons with their loved ones not even daring to call for their release.

A thought has to be spared to those whenever we write down a hashtag that includes the names of prisoners. Because in Syria, the hundreds of thousands of forcibly disappeared will never be hashtagged, and neither will be their tragedies.

In Assad’s Syria, families are tired of hoping that their loved ones will be free; all they can say, after an estimated 20,000 had been killed under torture is, “Save the rest!” They already know that no one will listen to their shattered voices and pleas.

خرافة الخندق الواحد

ليس ضرباً من الرومانسية الثورية أو الحنين المبتذل أن أقول إنني أدين بالكثير لانتفاضة الثامن عشر من آذار، وللسوريات والسوريين الذين فجّروها وساروا في ركابها وضحّوا بأمنهم وحياتهم وأحلامهم الشخصية دفاعاً عن مطالبها ومبادئها.

تعلّمت الكثير من شجاعة ثائرات وثوار سوريا، شجاعتهم في استعادة فضاء عام كان اختراقه محرّماً عليهم طيلة عقود من هيمنة الطغمة الحاكمة. تعلّمت من أناشيد التائقين للكرامة والحرية، ومن أهازيجهم في وجوه الدبابات وتحت هدير الطائرات، ومن أصواتهم وأياديهم المتشابكة وهي تحوّل المجاز إلى واقع ملموس، ومن مواصلتهم الغناء حتى بعد أن تستهدف القذائف مظاهراتهم السلميّة. تعلّمت كيف يُصرّ الحالمون بالانعتاق على إيجاد طرق جديدة وخلّاقة، يتجاوزون بها رقابة النظام التي كانت تبدو عصيّة على المراوغة، تماماً كما يصرّون الآن على تحطيم الحدود بأجسادهم ودمائهم، وعلى شقّ طرق جديدة لم يسلكها غيرهم من قبل نحو أوروبا، بدءاً بقوارب الموت المبحرة في المتوسّط، مروراً بالصهاريج التي تنقل الشوكولا من فرنسا إلى بريطانيا، وصولاً إلى الالتفاف حول القارّة عبر الدائرة القطبية.

قد يبدو غريباً أن يصدر هذا الكلام عن فلسطينيّة، ونحن الذين اعتدنا أن يخبرنا الجميع أن نضالنا وصمودنا ألهمهم وكان مَثَلَهم الأعلى، ولكن ما تعلمته من السوريات والسوريين في الأعوام الأربعة الأخيرة، وما أحدثته انتفاضة 18 آذار في وعيي وحياتي، لا يقل جذرية وتأثيراً عما منحتني إياه فلسطين منذ الانتفاضة الثانية.

أكثر ما أدين به لثورة السوريين هو تجاوز فكرة البوصلة الواحدة والوحيدة، والتجرّؤ على تحطيم أيقوناتنا النضالية، دون أن يؤدي بي هذا إلى التشكيك بعدالة القضية الفلسطينية أو التنازل عن ثوابتنا، بل بالعكس. ما تبدّل هو أن أولوية تحرير فلسطين أُضيفت لها أولويات أخرى، وأنني تمرّنت على رؤية القضية بعيون المقاومين السوريين المرابطين على جبهة الزبداني، وليس من عيوني الفلسطينية فحسب. لم يعد السجل النضالي لأي شخصية وطنية، من ليلى خالد إلى سمير قنطار، قادراً على تبرئتهم من جرم خذلان السوريين ومعاداة ثورتهم.

كان الالتزام بتحرير كامل التراب الفلسطيني وبحق العودة للاجئين الفلسطينيين، وبالعداء المطلق للصهيونية، معياري الأول والأهم في الحكم على الأشخاص والقضايا والسياسات، وكل ما عدا ذلك تفاصيل وآراء سياسية، يمكن مناقشتها أو غضّ الطرف عنها باسم القضية الأولى والبوصلة الأوحد. كان يكفي تاريخ حزب الله في مقاومة الاحتلال وفي الاستمرار بمقارعته، ودوره في مدّ المقاومة الفلسطينية في غزّة بالعون والسلاح، للتغاضي عن طائفيته ويمينيته. كل هذه كانت «أخطاء» يمكن السكوت عنها ضمن المعركة الأهم ضد الاحتلال. كانت معاداة النظام الإيراني الصريحة للاحتلال الإسرائيلي كافية كي أتلعثم في موقفي من احتجاجات الإيرانيين عام 2009، تلعثماً شعر به الكثيرون ولم يدفع ثمنه الإيرانيون وحدهم بل ما زلنا ندفع ثمنه جميعاً.

ما كان ينبغي أن ننتظر حتى يشارك النظام الإيراني وحزب الله نظامَ الأسد في سفك دماء السوريين، وتهجيرهم وتدمير بلدهم، حتى ندرك أن البوصلة التي تستند إلى قمع البشر وإذلالهم وإعلان الحرب عليهم لا يمكن أن ترشدنا نحو فلسطين. وحتى لو كانت فلسطين هي وجهتها فعلاً، كل بوصلة تكفر بحرية البشر وكرامتهم هي بوصلة ضالّة ومضلّلة.

لم يكن ينبغي أن ننتظر حتى ينكر الأمين العام لحزب الله حدوث أي شيء في حمص، حتى ندرك أنه لا يمكن أن نكون في خندق واحد مع مدافعين شرسين عن الظلم والاستبداد إلا إذا حُفر هذا الخندق لا ليمهّد الطريق نحو تحرّر جمعي بل ليُماشي مصالحنا الضيّقة.

ما كان ينبغي أن ننتظر استشهاد أكثر من 400 فلسطينيّ تحت التعذيب في سجون النظام السوري، كي نخبر حسن نصر الله أن طريقه نحو القدس لا يمكن أن تلتقي مع طريقنا، فطريقه مغمورة بدماء فلسطينيّي سوريا وسوريّيها، معبّدة بركام مخيّمات الفلسطينيين التي دمّرها النظام، مملوءة بجثث أكثر من 170 فلسطينيّاً من مخيم اليرموك؛ استشهدوا نتيجة نقص الغذاء والدواء الذي منعه النظام عن المخيم في حصار مطبق عمره أكثر من عامين. «القدس» التي يتحدث عنها نصر الله ليست القدس التي نعيش فيها، فقُدسه بطاقة اعتماد تستلّها الممانعة لتثبت تفوقاً أخلاقياً في معاركها مع خصومها، وهي الآن شعار يسوّغ حرب تطهير عرقي في سوريا، ويبرّر الزج بالآلاف من فقراء الجنوب اللبناني في معارك لا ناقة لهم فيها ولا جمل. قُدسه فيلق حربي إيراني تأسّس على القمع، وفلسطينه فرع أمني قتل وعذّب من المعتقلين الفلسطينيين ما يزيد عن كل ضحايا القتل والتعذيب في سجون الاحتلال الإسرائيلي.

وما كان ينبغي أن يستمر بعضنا، تحت أي ذريعة، مبدئيةً كانت أم براغماتية، في محاولة التبرير لما يقوم به حزب الله، أو في الفصل بين النظام السوري وحزب الله وتصوير الأخير على أنه ضحية جيء بها لتشارك في هذه الحرب.

لا شك أن ما رُوّج في بداية الثورة السورية، عن مشاركة مقاتلي حزب الله والحرس الثوري الإيراني في قمع المظاهرات، لم يتعدَّ كونه هذياناً طائفياً أرادت به فئات من المعارضة ومموّليها فرض الصبغة الطائفية على الثورة. ورغم المبالغات التي أُلصقت ببدايات تدخل حزب الله، لم يعد هناك، منذ سنتين على الأقل، أي مجال للتشكيك بأن هذا الحزب شريك مباشر في الحرب على السوريين، بل وأنه، مع النظام الإيراني، أصبح يشكّل قوة احتلال وغزو. وإن كان من الممكن «التساهل» مع عداء حزب الله الخطابي للثورة السورية، تلك الثورة التي أنكر وجودها قبل التسليح والعسكرة والتطييف، ثم ليعود بعد ثلاثة أعوام ويدّعي أن «الثورة السلمية انحرفت عن مسارها»، إن كان يمكن التساهل مع هذه الانتقائية والازدواجية في معايير من يناصر ثورة البحرين ويعادي ثورة سوريا، فكيف يمكننا الاستمرار بالتصالح مع حزب قتل وهجّر السوريين في القصير وحمص ويبرود والزبداني والنبك، وتعهّد أنصاره بـ«تطهير» القلمون وزرعه بالبطاطا؟

قد تكون النفعية ونظرية التقاء المصالح المبرّر الوحيد المتاح، ولكن علينا أن نتذكر أننا، في حال تبنّينا هذا المبرر ودافعنا عن حزب الله وإيران بسبب تحالفهما مع المقاومة الفلسطينية، لن نملك حينها أي جدارة أخلاقية لانتقاد المعارضة السورية المسلّحة بسبب مصادر تمويل لا نتفق معها، أو بسبب تحالفات نسجتها مع أنظمة أو قوى نعاديها، إذ لا يمكننا تبرير البراغماتية والدفاع عنها حين يتعلق الأمر بنا وبمصالحنا، ثم تخوين من يفعل الأمر ذاته في الجهة المقابلة.

ليست هذه المرة الأولى التي اضطُر فيها الفلسطينيون للمفاضلة بين الدفاع عن المضطهدين والدفاع عن نظام يدّعي مناصرتهم ويزعم معارضة إسرائيل، وقد يكون من المجحف «لوم» شعب يرزح تحت الاحتلال على تبنّيه توجّهات نفعيّة، كتأييد فئة وازنة منه لغزو الكويت، وكاستمرار الكثير من أبنائه بالهتاف باسم صدام حسين حتى بعد قتله آلاف الأكراد في مجزرة حلبجة.

ولكن تبنّي هذه المصالح النفعية، وهنا أقصد الناس، لا القيادات والنخب، لا يقلّل فقط من مصداقية نضالنا ويناقض القيم التحرّرية التي ينبغي أن يرتكز إليها، بل أيضاً يضعف تضامن المضطهَدين معنا. نحن لا يمكننا مطالبة المظلومين والثائرين بدعم قضيتنا إذا نحن لم نبادلهم الدعم، ولا يمكننا لوم المضطهدين والثائرين على التحالف مع قوى قمعية واستعمارية إذا نحن تحالفنا مع قوى تقمعهم وتحتلّ أرضهم.

لا شك أن هنالك مشروعاً لم يعد خفيّاً يهدف لتطبيع العلاقات بين السوريين والاحتلال الإسرائيلي، وفي تصوير الاحتلال الإسرائيلي كدولة إنسانية «عادية» تُسعف الجرحى السوريين، ويقدم أفراد وجماعات منها الدعم الإنساني والطبي للاجئين السوريين في تركيا. لا شك أيضاً أن هنالك محاولات لاختراق الوعي السوري، المعادي بفطرته لإسرائيل، وهي محاولات تتخذ من الإغاثة الإنسانية غلافاً لها. كما أن من الواضح أن أمثال كمال اللبواني، الذين يتجرؤون على المجاهرة بصداقتهم مع إسرائيل، سيزيدون.

من الضروري والملحّ مقاومة هذا المشروع، ولكن مقاومته لا تتأتى بتخوين السوريين والوقوف مع النظام وحلفائه. مقاومة هذا المشروع تبدأ بالرفض الواضح والصريح لاستخدام هذا النظام وحلفائه قضيتنا لتبرير حربهم على السوريين، ثم إدراك أن المسؤول الأساسي والرئيس عن إضعاف القضية الوطنية هو النظام. سيكون من غير الإنساني، مثلاً، لوم السوريين الذين يتعرّضون للقصف اليومي من قبل طيران النظام إذا هم احتفلوا باستهداف طيران الاحتلال الإسرائيلي للجيش الذي يقتلهم ويقصفهم ويهجّرهم منذ عدة سنوات. الملوم هنا ليست الضحيّة التي يمكن أن تفرح بأي صفعة يتلقّاها جلّادها، بل الجلّاد الذي أجبر الضحية على ذلك، ورد على كل غارة إسرائيلية استهدفته بقصف المدنيين السوريين في الغوطة وحلب وإدلب ودرعا.

كما سيكون من غير العادل أن نخوّن شعباً دافع عن القضية الفلسطينية كأنها قضيته، ليس بمعزل عن النظام فحسب بل في أحيان كثيرة رغماً عن أنفه.

قد لا يمكننا التعويل على حتمية استمرار هذا الدعم في ظل النكبة اليومية التي يرتكبها النظام السوري بحق السوريين، ولكن يتحتّم علينا ألا نكون شركاء للنظام السوري وحزب الله والنظام الإيراني، ولا وقوداً لدعايتهم الإعلامية، ولا ورقة توت تغطّي حرب الإبادة التي يمارسونها على المجتمع السوري.

Nasrallah’s blood-soaked road to Jerusalem

Screenshot (5)

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.

11061720_785822704826924_7245214954942645852_n

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.

Syria’s disappeared Palestinians

Published in Electronic Intifada

Palestinians who fled Syria protest in Gaza City in October 2013. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)
Palestinians who fled Syria protest in Gaza City in October 2013. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Aidah Tayem, a Palestinian woman from Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus now living in the occupied West Bank village of Beitin near Ramallah, has gone through a lifetime of trials.

She was hardly seventeen when her father was imprisoned by Syrian security forces in Damascus during the 1980s for his affiliation with the Fatah party which had split with the government. She quickly became the head of the family, running her father’s business and supporting her younger siblings.

Among only a handful of Palestinian refugees in Syria who received permits from the Palestinian Authority to enter the West Bank, her parents were among the Palestinians who came there after the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s.

She appears incredibly tough but behind her stoic demeanor is a woman clutching at the straws of hope — the hope of kissing her eldest son, Oday.

Oday Tayem, a 21-year-old Palestinian refugee born and raised in Yarmouk, was detained by Syrian security forces in August 2013 during an evening raid on his home in Jaramana, southeast of Damascus. Oday was an activist — “peaceful” is the description emphasized to this writer by his friends — and contributed to relief work both in Yarmouk refugee camp and in other besieged areas. This is believed to be the reason for his arrest.

Since he was taken into custody, his family has yet to receive any confirmed news regarding his whereabouts. Aidah knows too well what it’s like to have a loved one languishing in political detention; after all, her father was imprisoned for ten years, most of them spent in the notorious Tadmor desert prison.

But it’s the scarcity of information that makes Oday’s absence even more excruciating. When Oday’s favorite song pops up on her phone, Aidah hangs on to his picture as tears well up in her eyes.

Aidah is among many women who, as Syrian journalist Jihad Asa’ad Muhammad writes, “do not seek consideration or sympathy from anyone. They ask for only one thing: to know the whereabouts of their forcibly disappeared loved ones.”

It is impossible to estimate the number of Palestinians detained in Syria. The Syrian government doesn’t provide any data regarding political prisoners. Neutral local or international monitoring and human rights groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are not granted access to the numerous prisons and detention facilities across the country.

And many families keep quiet about the detention of their loved ones. They stay anonymous, fearing the repercussions and backlash of publicity both on them and on the prisoners.

The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria, a London-based monitoring organization founded in 2012, has documented the names of 756 Palestinians currently being detained and nearly 300 more missing.

Death under torture

The vast majority of prisoners documented are held in the various detention facilities run by the Syrian government, but some are detained by jihadist or armed opposition groups. One of those is Bahaa Hussein from Yarmouk, detained by Jabhat al-Nusra in late January for blasphemy.

The same group has recorded the death under torture of 291 Palestinians in Syrian government detention since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Each of them has a face and a story, but very few of them have made the news.

Among them is Khaled Bakrawi, a prominent activist and cofounder of the Jafra Association for Aid and Development, which works to improve conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Syria.

A refugee from Lubya, Bakrawi was active around Palestinian refugee rights well before the uprising began and was shot by Israeli occupation forces in June 2011 during theNaksa Day march to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. But after masses of displaced Syrians sought refuge in Yarmouk, he directed his efforts towards organizing humanitarian aid to them.

Bakrawi’s friends told me that he was arrested by Syrian security forces in January 2013 and his family learned of his death in September of that year. One of the most tragic aspects of death in Syrian prisons is that families are not even allowed to pay a final farewell glance to their dead and their bodies are not delivered back to them. Instead they are called up by security services only to claim the ID cards and the personal possessions of slain prisoners. Not only is it believed that Bakrawi was tortured to death, but his family and friends couldn’t even bury him or give him a proper funeral.

Unlike Bakrawi, Samira Sahli was not a known activist, but some details of her life are known from a profile published by the independent news site Siraj Press. A mother of four, Sahli regularly cooked for displaced Syrians filling Yarmouk’s schools back when the camp was still a refuge for people fleeing violence in neighboring areas. As siege intensified, she and her kids, like the 20,000 residents trapped inside the camp, relied on the sparse food aid sporadically allowed in.

According to Siraj Press, the 53-year-old was arrested at a government checkpoint while going to receive her food basket. Five months later, her family was informed of her death, making her the first Palestinian woman known to be killed in regime prisons since 2011.

“Tortured in the name of Palestine”

In an interview with The Electronic Intifada conducted via Skype, Abu Julia, a Palestinian activist who sought asylum in Germany at the end of 2013, where he remains, gave a glimpse into the horrors faced in Syrian regime jails.

The 29-year-old asked to be identified as Abu Julia in reference to the name of his first-born. When he was arrested by Syrian security forces, his daughter Julia was only five months old. He was arrested in October 2012 and released a year later, but there were moments when he thought he’d never live to see her again.

Abu Julia told the Electronic Intifada that he faced eighteen charges, the most serious of which was inciting against the state, as well as charges related to working in makeshift hospitals; sowing division and fueling chaos in Yarmouk camp; working with local coordination committees; making contacts with foreign agents and aiding the wounded.

“I was held in a detention center called ‘Palestine,’ which is a security branch established by Hafez al-Assad specifically for Palestinian factions in Syria,” he said, referring to the father of the current head of state. “That’s the most painful thing: being tortured in the name of Palestine.”

Abu Julia recalls being “welcomed” with a beating as soon as he entered the branch. He was placed in Cell One, which held 48 prisoners upon his entry. Detainees crammed in the 36-square meter cell reached as many as 120 in the hours before Abu Julia’s release.

“Following the first interrogation, which included beating with electric wires, I was told to forget my name. They handed me the number 16/1,” he recalled. “When you get in you lose everything: you lose your name, your confidence in people, in your family and in yourself. You lose your hope and love for life even though you hang on by the hope of returning to life.

“You are stripped of your feelings and turned into an animal who is only allowed to eat and drink, and even sleep is only permitted by a military order. Perhaps the only thing you don’t lose is your ability to dream while asleep.”

The decisive day of Abu Julia’s life came two days after his arrest. Following the interrogation in which he refused to make a confession, the interrogator ordered his torture for a week in the narrow corridors near the cells, he recalled.

“I was hung in the air several hours each day and I was subjected to whips and burns,” he explained in graphic detail. The physical torture was accompanied with cursing, such as being called “Palestinian dog,” and being told “we hosted you in our country and now you betray us, traitor.”

The week of torture in the corridors, in which Abu Julia remembers that at least six inmates were killed, was followed by another, longer round of torture after he refused to confess to any of the charges again.

As Abu Julia meticulously detailed what he went through, it was hard not to wonder how he actually coped with all of this.

Defiance

“You know what really made me survive? My Palestinianness. This feeling of being Palestinian is what helped me persevere throughout all of this. Somehow, Palestinians would be on the verge of death and remain defiant,” he said.

For Abu Julia, this feeling, this added “Palestinianness” he found after his detention was not a cliché but an actual harbor. “It was a kind of response we developed during times of need. We drew strength and solace out of being Palestinian. When we were tortured or faced the interrogator, we just reminded ourselves that we are Palestinian,” he added.

After ten months in the Palestine branch, Abu Julia was transferred to Adra, the central prison in Damascus, and when he was moved from the car that transported him to a military court that he saw sunshine for the first time in ten months.

“I spent nearly a month and a half in Adra before being released … and then I hugged Julia; she was able to walk and say baba and mama,” he recalled.

Even while telling his harrowing story, Abu Julia still cracked jokes. “I weighed 129 kg when I was arrested and was only 65 kg when I was released. This free diet is the only good thing that happened to me there,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ammar, Aidah Tayem’s son and Oday’s seventeen-year-old brother, is still hoping for his brother and best friend to get out.

“I’m waiting. Actually waiting for him is the only thing I’m doing.”

Waiting is the punishing ordeal to which thousands of Palestinians and Syrians are sentenced.

حكاية الشباب السوري الثائر

نشره موقع المنشور
English version

كانت مقاطع الفيديو التي حمّلها ناشطو تجمع “الشباب السوري الثائر” على قناتهم في موقع “يوتيوب”، كفيلة بمنحنا الأمل باس1266724_576049829125814_1369924856_oتمرار الحراك الثوري السلمي في سوريا، ودفعنا للوقوف بدهشة أمام قدرتهم على الخروج للتظاهر في قلب دمشق رغم إحكام النظام السوري قبضته الأمنية هناك. ولكن بعد مرور أكثر من عام ونصف العام على آخر مظاهرة نظّمها التجمّع في العاصمة السورية أصبحت مقاطع الفيديو إياها تختصر المأساة التي ألمّت بالثورة السورية. وهي كذلك تذكير قاسٍ أن كثيراً من الأصوات التي ضجّت بالهتاف والغناء في تلك المظاهرات مطالبة بإسقاط النظام تم إسكاتها مرة وإلى الأبد.

لكن ماذا حدث للشباب الذين ساروا في تلك “العراضة الحمصية” في حي ركن الدين الدمشقي متحدّين قوات الأمن المنتشرة في المنطقة، مردّدين الأهازيج الثورية والهتافات المناصرة لأحياء حمص المحاصرة؟ هل كانوا يعلمون حينها أن تلك العراضة في 12 حزيران/يونيو 2013، ستكون آخر مرة يتمكنون فيها من التظاهر في حاراتهم بعد أن اعتادوا الخروج في مظاهرات أسبوعية؟ كم منهم سيبقى ليشارك في بناء وطن الحرية والعدالة الاجتماعية والمساواة الذي لأجله قام تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر ولأجله اعتقل واستشهد وهُجّر معظم أعضائه المؤسّسين؟

تأسس تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر في الأشهر الأولى من عمر الانتفاضة السورية على يد مجموعة من الشباب والشابات من حي ركن الدين شمال العاصمة السورية دمشق؛ مؤكداً ومحافظاً على هويّته كتجمّعٍ يساري ومدني ووطني. ولكن الرؤية التي حملها تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر لم تقتصر على المطالبة بالحرية والديمقراطية والدولة المدنية. ففيما دأبت المعارضة الليبرالية بمختلف أطيافها وجماعة الإخوان المسلمين على اختزال أهداف الثورة بصندوق الاقتراع وإقامة الدولة المدنية وتكريس اقتصاد السوق، قدّم تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر رؤية أكثر وضوحاً وجذريةً انطلاقاً من الحرمان والتهميش والإقصاء الذي يعاني منه السواد الأعظم من الشعب السوري.

نادى الشباب السوري الثائر بالحرية وبإسقاط نظام بشار الأسد وبفصل السلطات واستقلال القضاء. لكن ذلك لم يأت على حساب مطالبتهم بالعدالة الاجتماعية والتعليم المجاني للجميع والاستشفاء المجاني وحقوق المرأة بالإضافة إلى التزامهم بدعم القضية الفلسطينية وتحرير الجولان. وكان هذا جلياً من خلال بيانهم التأسيسي ومن خلال الهتافات واللافتات التي قاموا برفعها في مظاهراتهم، فقد رفعوا العلم الفلسطيني إلى جانب علم الثورة ورددوا أسماء الشهداء الفلسطينيين مع أسماء الشهداء السوريين وشهدت مظاهراتهم وجوداً نسائياً لافتاً ولم تنفصل مطالبتهم بالخبز والمازوت والحياة الكريمة عن مطلبهم بإسقاط النظام وتحقيق الحرية كما وأصروا دائماً على رفض الطائفية وترسيخ الوحدة الوطنية. “حرية آزادي، حرة يا بنت بلادي”، “لا سنية ولا علوية نحنا مطلبنا الحرية” و”بدنا المعتقلين” كانت شعارات حرصوا على رفعها في كل مظاهراتهم.

كما حاول تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر المحافظة على زخم الحراك السلمي والمدني مع انتقال الثورة التدريجي إلى العسكرة وآمنوا أنه يمكن للنضال السلمي والكفاح المسلّح السير يداً بيد إلا أن دعمهم لشرعية المقاومة المسلحة وحق السوريين في الدفاع عن نفسهم لم يحل دون انتقادهم الصريح لما اعتبروها أخطاء وانتهاكات ترتكبها جماعات المعارضة المسلحة.

ولم ينحصر حراك الشباب السوري الثائر في تنظيم المظاهرات في حي ركن الدين فقد شاركوا بتظاهرات بعض الأحياء الدمشقية الأخرى وشملت أنشطتهم توزيع المنشورات الثورية في دمشق وبخّ شعارات معارضة للنظام على جدران العاصمة. وقد شكّلت صفحتهم على موقع التواصل الاجتماعي “فايسبوك” منبراً لنشر بياناتهم بخصوص الأحداث السياسية الهامة. وهكذا قدّم الشباب السوري الثائر شكلاً مغايراً للمعارضة الوطنية، هذا المصطلح الذي تم تفريغه من محتواه وابتذاله بعد أن أصبح يراد به وصف قوى المعارضة المهادنة للنظام والعاملة تحت السقف المنخفض الذي يفرضه. ولكنّ طرح تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر كان طرحاً وطنياً أصيلاً دون الانتقاص من ثوريته مما جعله هدفاً مباشراً لأشد أنواع القمع والتضييق حيث قامت قوات النظام باعتقال وتصفية الكثير من مؤسسي التجمع بينما اضطر بقيتهم للخروج من سوريا خشية الاعتقال. وعلى الرغم مما تعرض له من ملاحقة وقمع بقي تجمع الشباب السوري الثائر أحد التجمعات المدنية القليلة في سوريا التي لم تسيطر عليها عقلية المنظمات غير الحكومية ولم يتمكن المال السياسي من تدجينها فقد كان مصدر تمويله الرئيس هو تبرّعات أعضائه.

رفض ناشطو الشباب السوري الثائر مراراً وتكراراً المساومة على رؤية التجمع ومبادئه في سبيل الحصول على تمويل خارجي. أما الفضائيات الخليجية، التي لم تكن تتوانى عن بث مقاطع لمظاهرات ذات طابع طائفي ومطالب التدخل الخارجي، غيّبت في تغطيتها المظاهرات التي كان ينظمها الشباب السوري الثائر على الرغم من قيامها في قلب دمشق. كانت تلك إحدى الضرائب التي دفعها التجمع نتيجة تمسكه بالاستقلالية ونبذ الطائفية ورفض التدخل الخارجي إذ كانت قناتهم على يوتيوب تشكل المساحة الوحيدة لعرض أنشطتهم.

إلا أن أحد أبرز مكامن الضعف التي اتّسم بها تنظيم الشباب السوري الثائر هو انحصارهم إلى حد كبير في رقعة جغرافية واحدة، ألا وهي ركن الدين باستثناء إنشاء فرع صغير للتجمع في مدينة حمص. لا شك أن ضمان موطئ قدم في حيّهم وكسب ثقة ودعم أبناء الحي كان ضروريّاً للغاية خاصة في المراحل الأولى من تشكيل التجمع إلا أن الإخفاق في الارتقاء بالمستوى التنظيمي وتجاوز حدود الحي أدى إلى الحد بشكل كبير من تأثير التجمع وانتشاره. مكمن ضعفٍ آخر كان من شأنه إطباق الخناق على التجمع هو مركزيته الشديدة واعتماده الكلّي على الأعضاء المؤسسين مما سهّل مهمة النظام في تقويض حراكه خلال زج الأعضاء المؤسّسين في السجون وتصفيتهم تحت التعذيب. أما ناشطو التجمع فلم يتّخذوا تدابير الأمان والحماية اللازمة فساهم تسرّعهم وقلة خبرتهم في جعلهم عرضة للوقوع بأيدي أجهزة الأمن بسهولة، وتفسر كل هذه العوامل اضمحلال نشاط التجمع على الأرض منذ النصف الثاني من العام 2013.

وجاءت الضربة القاصمة للتجمع عندما اعتقل سبعة من أعضائه في 30/12/2013 حين اقتحمت أجهزة الأمن البيت الذي اجتمع فيه الناشطون السبعة وألقت القبض عليهم جميعاً.

ومنذ تلك الليلة توالت الأنباء عن استشهاد الشبان تحت التعذيب فمن بين الشباب السبعة الذين اعتقلوا في تلك الليلة وصل خبر استشهاد ستة منهم.

أحد المعتقلين الذين استشهدوا تحت التعذيب هو رودين عجك، لاعب كرة سلة واعد لم يتجاوز الـ 21 من عمره بالإضافة إلى رفيقه عامر ظاظا الذي أُعلن عن خبر استشهاده تحت التعذيب في 1/12/2014. كان عامر ورودين، بالإضافة إلى رفيق ثالث في التجمع استشهد هو الآخر تحت التعذيب، قد غادروا سوريا في أيار/مايو من العام 2013، وأمضوا فترة وجيزة في مصر إلا أن التزامهم بالثورة وتعلّقهم بسوريا دفعهم للعودة القاتلة.

ما يزيد من فاجعة استشهاد هؤلاء الشباب المناضلين هو عدم القدرة على ذكر أسمائهم جميعاً حتى بعد استشهادهم بالإضافة إلى التعتيم الشديد الذي خيم على قضية اعتقالهم، إذ خشيت أسرهم أن يؤدي الإعلان عن اعتقالهم إلى إلحاق الضرر بهم، إلا أن التكتّم عن الخبر لم يشفع لهم هو الآخر.

تذكر تجمع الشبابا السوري الثائر الآن ليس نابعاً من مجرد حنينٍ إلى ما كانت عليه الثورة السورية في بداياتها أو تحسّر على سوريا التي كانوا يحلمون ببنائها. تذكرهم هو تحية متأخرة لطلاب وشباب يافعين دفعوا دماءهم ثمن الحلم بسوريا أفضل، وثمن النضال من أجل خلق بديل ثوري ووطني معارض للنظام لا يتبنى أجندة من شأنها إرضاء المعارضة الخارجية والإسلاميين. بديل يساري لا يخجل من يساريته.

“Siding with life in the face of death”: photographer captures siege on Palestinians in Syria

Published in Electronic Intifada

Yarmouk camp on 14 February 2014. (Niraz Saied)
Yarmouk camp on 14 February 2014. (Niraz Saied)

Niraz Saied says he’s good at taking pictures, but not at speaking.

Yet when he begins talking about Yarmouk refugee camp, he speaks with a passionate lilt, captivating eloquence and a vivid amount of detail which is almost as powerful as his photography.

A refugee from the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village of Awlam, south of Tiberias — it was completely destroyed in April 1948 during the Nakba, Israel’s foundational act of ethnic cleansing — 23-year-old Saied was born and raised in Yarmouk refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

The Syrian regime air strike that hit the camp on 16 December 2012 was a decisive moment in Niraz Saied’s life, as it was for the hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians and Syrians who lived in the camp.

Saied was not in the camp when the MiG fighter jet bombed Abd al-Qader al-Husseini mosque, but it was the airstrike, and the exodus and blockade that followed, which prompted him to return a few weeks later.

Just as the Syrian regime and its allied Palestinian militias imposed a partial siege on the camp after the emergence of armed opposition fighters such as the Nusra Front, Saied returned to the camp, armed with his camera.

“There were many media activists and citizen journalists who were covering the shelling and the clashes back then,” Saied told The Electronic Intifada in an interview conducted via Skype.

“But I’m a photographer, not a journalist. So I did not return to document events but to narrate the camp’s untold stories through my lens,” he explained.

“Many focus on transmitting graphic images of charred corpses, blood-soaked faces and intense shelling. I tried to capture the daily life reality in the camp, to accentuate the human face of the suffering and transform the smallest details into a work of art.”

Breaking the siege

This detail was precisely what Saied captured in his award-winning photograph “The Three Kings,” which received first prize in a 2014 photography competition organized by the European Union and UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

Saied took the picture in March 2014 when the siege was at its height.

“The three children were supposed to travel to Europe to receive medical treatment, but the Syrian regime refused to grant them a permit to exit the country,” said Saied. “Their pale and tired faces tell the story of Yarmouk. But I haven’t been able to see the children again and no one in the camp knows anything about them.”

Niraz Saied’s award-winning “Three Kings” photograph. (UNRWA)
Niraz Saied’s award-winning “Three Kings” photograph. (UNRWA)

This photograph, along with fifty or so of Saied’s other images, were showcased in an exhibition at the Mahmoud Darwish Museum in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah in June.

Titled The Dream Lives On, the exhibition illustrates Saied’s view that Yarmouk is not merely a pile of stones and destroyed buildings; it also contains human beings who love, dream, struggle and persist.

The pictures broke the siege imposed on the camp and made it into occupied Palestine, bridging the distance between the homeland and the diaspora and sharing with Palestinians at home the anguish, fear and hunger that their brothers and sisters in Yarmouk go through on a daily basis.

A similar message is conveyed in the new documentary Letters From Yarmouk, directed by Palestinian filmmaker Rashid Mashharawi. Saied assisted in the production of the documentary by filming and photographing from within the camp.

In Masharawi’s words, Letters From Yarmouk carries “messages captured at Yarmouk refugee camp in moments of extreme complexity; messages siding with life in the face of death; moments of love in a time of war and questions of homeland and exile.”

According to Masharawi, the documentary “presents stories that are still being told through still or moving images. Watched or heard, they are stories colored with hope for a better life. They are letters written by a lifelike documentary film.”

“Indispensable”

The primary target audience of the documentary, according to Saied, is the Palestinian people.

“For so long we Palestinians have been trying to convince Westerners of the justice of our cause,” he explained. “But this film is aimed at telling our fellow Palestinians about what’s going on in Yarmouk. We do feel that we have been let down. We always insist that the Palestinian people should be unified, but we feel that Yarmouk has been ostracized.”

A scene in Yarmouk camp. (Niraz Saied)
A scene in Yarmouk camp. (Niraz Saied)

For Saied, the camp is what connects us Palestinians to our homeland. Camp streets named after Palestinian towns including Haifa are “an embodiment of how we cling to the right of return and Palestine. We want Palestinians to know that Yarmouk is an indispensable part of the Palestinian cause.”

Saied dedicated the film to his good friend Hassan Hassan, a young Palestinian-Syrian actor and director who was killed under torture in a Syrian regime prison. Hassan was arrested at a regime checkpoint in October 2013 while trying to leave the camp with his wife, Waed; Syrian security forces seized his laptop and arrested him after finding that he had downloaded anti-regime videos.

One of the scenes in Letters From Yarmouk was filmed just outside Hassan’s home when both he and Saied were nearly hit by a shell. But even when close to death, Saied remembers that Hassan remained jocular and sarcastic.

“We’re not begging”

“For months after Hassan’s death, I couldn’t film anything,” said Saied. “I only took still images — his death broke me. But I realized that if Hassan were alive he would have urged me to continue this film. His contagious smile and our shared memories accompanied me in every step in preparing for this film.”

Saied is critical of the purely humanitarian discourse that only focuses on starvation or water cuts in the camp without holding the Syrian regime responsible.

“Even media outlets run by the Syrian regime circulated pictures of starving children in the camp because for them, our plight sells,” he said.

“We are not, however, begging for charity. We want an end to the siege imposed by the regime, release of our detainees held in Syrian regime prisons since the start of the uprising, and anyone who committed a crime, killing or torture to be held accountable,” he added.

“In fact, we are paying the price for welcoming displaced Syrians, for siding with the people rather than the regime, for refusing to turn the camp into a military base for pro-regime militias.”

Despite trying hard to remain optimistic, Saied believes that Yarmouk may never return to what it once was.

Niraz Saied’s award-winning “Three Kings” photograph. (UNRWA)
Niraz Saied’s award-winning “Three Kings” photograph. (UNRWA)
A scene in Yarmouk camp on 26 February 2014. (Niraz Saied)
A scene in Yarmouk camp on 26 February 2014. (Niraz Saied)

“Yarmouk as we know it is gone forever,” he said. “It is either heading towards complete decimation or becoming an Islamic emirate or towards maintaining the status quobecause no one seems interested in solving the crisis, not the regime, not the rebels and definitely not the Palestinian factions.”

It is often repeated that the camp has been under full siege since July 2013 and that the camp has been cut off from water since 8 September 2014, and the human toll of this is massive, making everyday life a constant struggle.

“I have to wake up early in the morning and fill several buckets with water from the well using very modest equipment,” Saied said.

“It tastes like anything but water, but we’ve gotten used to it. Then I have to collect firewood … [from] demolished houses. The gasoline inside the camp is incredibly expensive … [but I’m] relatively lucky because I have a gas cylinder and a generator. Electricity has become such a rare luxury that many children who were born during the siege are growing up without even knowing what it’s like.”

For Saied, the siege also means being away from his fiancée and his family, who were forced to leave the camp. Yet he still clings to the hope of capturing with his lens that happy day when people of Yarmouk “return” to the camp en masse. To a camp without siege, shelling and persecution.

Oday Tayem: Hijo de Dos Intifadas

Oday picture

Budour Hassan
Traducido por Mariana Morena

El 29 de agosto de 2013, las fuerzas de seguridad sirias arrestaron al activista palestino-sirio Oday Tayem después de asaltar su casa en Jaramana, un suburbio al sudeste de Damasco controlado por el régimen.

En los cinco meses siguientes a su detención en calidad de incomunicado, han fallado los intentos de sus familiares y amigos para conocer la rama de seguridad específica donde se encuentra recluido.Nacido el 12 de mayo 1993 al sur de la capital siria en el campo de refugiados de al-Yarmouk, Oday es el mayor de tres hermanos. Su padre es un refugiado de la aldea limpiada étnicamente de al- Shajar, cerca de Tiberías, y la familia de su madre fue desplazada desde Kafr Kanna, un pueblo cerca de Nazaret, en la Nakba de 1948.

Cuando estalló la Segunda Intifada en Palestina, un grupo de palestinos y sirios establecieron una carpa de protesta en la plaza Arnous en el centro de Damasco para expresar solidaridad con sus hermanos en la Palestina ocupada.

Oday solo tenía siete años en ese momento, pero participó regularmente en las manifestaciones contra la ocupación israelí, memorizando las canciones revolucionarias palestinas, y asistió a las sentadas junto con su madre, que estaba entre los organizadores.

Once años más tarde, Siria tendría su propia Intifada, una Intifada contra un ocupante crecido en su seno. Y Oday, que estaba estudiando ciencias políticas en el Líbano cuando comenzó el levantamiento de Siria por libertad y dignidad, sabía exactamente de qué lado estaba. El joven refugiado, siempre sonriente, que había exigido la libertad para Palestina a la edad de siete años, once años después exigía la libertad tanto para Palestina como para Siria, subrayando que ambas demandas iban de la mano.

Muchos revolucionarios palestinos ahora retirados, junto con la mayor parte de los intelectuales de izquierda, apoyarían sin vergüenza al régimen sirio o demonizarían a la revolución siria, ocultando sus posiciones tras el manto de la neutralidad y la objetividad. En agudo contraste, Oday, al igual que toda una generación de jóvenes en los campamentos palestinos de Siria, renunciaron a la seguridad del silencio, hablaron la verdad al poder y recuperaron la Causa Palestina explotada y apropiada durante tanto tiempo por el régimen sirio y sus apologistas.

Oday decidió dejar sus estudios en Líbano para regresar a Siria poco después del estallido de la revolución. Combinando la disidencia civil y pacífica con diligentes tareas de ayuda, trató de asistir a los civiles y a los desplazados que quedaron atrapados bajo el estado de sitio del régimen en lugares como Yarmuk, trayéndoles alimentos y suministros médicos.

En la actual coyuntura, donde muchos siguen predicando neutralidad e insisten en un discurso exclusivamente humanitario sobre el drama de Yarmuk, es esencial para nosotros aprender más acerca de Oday y de los cientos de palestinos refugiados en Siria que han sido arrestados, asesinados o torturados hasta la muerte en las cárceles del régimen sirio por intentar romper el cerco de Yarmouk. Mientras que para el discurso de neutralidad puede ser conveniente sugerir que “ambas partes” son igualmente culpables de la catástrofe humanitaria en Yarmouk, este argumento apolítico, por el contrario, condona los castigos colectivos y la inanición sistemática, de-contextualiz a el sufrimiento de los civiles sitiados, y pasa por alto el hecho de que miles de sirios, incluyendo a muchos palestinos, han pagado con sus vidas el intento de romper el cerco del campo y de otras zonas sitiadas.

Podríamos preguntarnos: ¿cómo se puede expresar una forma genuina de solidaridad con el pueblo de Yarmouk sin sostener inequívocamente la responsabilidad del régimen que impone el asedio de Yarmouk? ¿Cómo se puede exigir “Salven a Yarmouk” mientras se permanece en silencio frente a los que fueron arrestados, apuntados y torturados por el régimen precisamente porque trataban de salvar a Yarmouk con acciones que no toman la forma de súplicas? ¿Cómo puede ser tan selectiva nuestra indignación moral como para mostrar solidaridad con Yarmouk sin pronunciar una palabra sobre otras áreas sitiadasa en
Siria?

Tomó varias muertes por inanición para que los llamados activistas “pro- palestinos” lanzaran tímidas campañas de solidaridad con Yarmouk, pero incluso cuando finalmente se hicieron, abrazaron un discurso similar al que es propagado constantemente por los sionistas liberales y los organismos humanitarios. Este discurso condena el asedio sin condenar explícitamente al ejército que lo sostiene y utiliza la presencia de fuerzas armadas de la oposición dentro del campamento para justificar el asfixiante asedio por parte del régimen.

Recordar a Yarmouk les tomó a los llamados activistas “pro-palestinos”, más de seis meses de asedio completo por el régimen. Pero, ¿qué haría falta para que lanzaran campañas para pedir la liberación de los presos palestinos dentro de las cárceles sirias, o esto violaría el principio de neutralidad sagrado que ostensiblemente sostienen? En un informe publicado recientemente, el Centro de Estudios Democrático-Rep ublicanos ha documentado la muerte bajo la tortura de 119 palestinos detenidos en cárceles del régimen en Siria desde el inicio de la revolución. 46 más que los palestinos que murieron bajo tortura en las cárceles israelíes de la Ocupación desde 1967. Sin embargo, el horroroso destino de los palestinos presos en las cárceles del régimen sirio no ha garantizado la indignación justificada -mucho menos una campaña activa- por parte de aquellos que alegan defender a Palestina.

Las lágrimas que derrama la madre de Oday al escuchar una de las canciones favoritas de su hijo no son diferentes de las lágrimas derramadas por las madres palestinas por sus hijos encarcelados por Israel. La fortaleza con que la madre de Oday recibió la noticia de la detención de su hijo no es diferente de la fortaleza de las madres cuyos hijos están encarcelados en Israel. Lo que es diferente, sin embargo, es que la madre de Oday no puede contratar un abogado para él, y ni siquiera sabe dónde está encarcelado porque en la Siria de Assad, preguntar por un preso se ha convertido en una cuestión de vida o muerte.

El caso de los palestinos detenidos en Siria debe ser una prioridad para cualquier persona que apoye la Causa Palestina. Oday Tayem, el palestino-sirio cuya identidad fue muy influenciada y moldeada tanto por la Intifada Palestina como por la Intifada Siria, es uno entre miles de palestinos y sirios encarcelados por el régimen sirio. Dejemos que aquellos que se atrevan, discutan con ellos y sólo con ellos, que la lucha por la libertad de los presos palestinos en Israel está separada de la lucha de los presos palestinos en Siria.

Dejemos que aquellos que se atrevan les nieguen a ellos y sólo a ellos, que el sitio de Yarmouk es impuesto por un régimen que ha castigado intencionalment e a activistas pacíficos y a socorristas en Yarmouk, a veces con la muerte. dejemos que aquellos que se atrevan les sugieran a ellos y solo a ellos, que los prisioneros palestinos en Siria se convertirán en meras figuras, figuras cuya libertad importa ahora solo para ser negociada.