Syrian Chronicles: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI
In this series, Syrian refugees share their stories of being displaced as a result of the current atrocities occurring in that region. All accounts are factual, but may be written by a family member or a friend.
I am at a loss for words after my grandmother passed away. The sudden events that took place as my brother and I were simultaneously placed in jail by the Syrian regime may have caused her the traumatic strokes that ended her life. Am I to blame for causing her stress? Am I the one that should have been placed upon her deathbed? These are the questions that often circulate through my head. I can’t help it though. I long for the freedom that neither I nor my parents had.
It all started when Syrian citizens of all ages took to the streets. We peacefully protested the Syrian Regime, because we lacked basic human rights, a stable economy, and freedom at any level. We were sick of an authority that was brutal, a dictatorship that needed to be replaced with a government who benefited the citizens of this country and looked out for their best interest. At 24 years of age, I wanted to be out there, I wanted the future generations to experience the freedom and justice that we missed out on.
I faced many challenges by taking this route, internally and externally. I have six aunts and four uncles. Three are pro-regime, and the rest are against, but they do not take a public stance or do anything about it. I have one aunt who freely expresses her disgust with the regime, but that naturally happens since she lives in America. My mother is pro-regime, because she was one of Hassoun’s students1 ; she believed the government can do no wrong and blamed it on foreign interference. I often argued with her about everything I did to oppose the government. I did not have much support from the family. I lost a lot of friends and cousins due to my position. Some of them called me a sell-out and a shame to the family. They tried me and tested me with questions: How dare you defy the regime and put yourself out there with the scums that are protesting along your side?
Who are you to decide that the regime is corrupt and give our family a bad reputation?
I was picked up at a protest and held in jail for three months. It was the most horrid, terrifying experience of my life. I was fed rotten bread, just so I can live to bear the abuse in every inhumane way possible. Sometimes the rotten bread was flavored with urine; the attempt of the regime was to put our morale down as much as possible. This was the best case scenario for there was worse. We were sometimes urinated upon along with our food. We were beaten with wires so badly that maps were engraved onto our backs to tell our stories forever. They stripped us down, electrocuted our private parts and tongues. AlhamdulilLah (Praise be to God), I was finally let go three months later after my family begged and pleaded and paid 500 USD.
The dismay I experienced provided me with determination to move forward and demand change regardless of the consequences. I continued to protest by helping those hurt by the attacks of the regime. I took them to hospitals and documented everyday experiences through words, pictures, and videos. I was caught for the second time at a protest. I swallowed the SIM card and threw the phone on the floor because I did not want any of my contacts to get hurt or interrogated. My friends informed my mother that it was a peaceful protest. We had our cameras, phones, and flowers as we chanted, “Freedom, freedom!” I was finally bailed out after my family paid 1200 USD, but at this point I was broken. They got to me and took away any sense of dignity I had—that is the purpose of prison—but I will not back down.
At this point, my family decided to ship me out to Lebanon. I was taking too many risks and they wanted me out of their sight, because I was causing them too much trouble. I stayed in Lebanon for three months where I was active through Facebook in exposing the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime. I kept in touch with my fiance Amal who I loved dearly. I decided to sneak my way to Idlib and marry her because it seemed that the conflict was dragging longer than expected.
While I was away, the regime was unhappy with my virtual activism and they habitually visited my parents’ home asking for me. They were frustrated with the fact that I was absent and took my older brother instead. Ahmad was 28 years old, married with a daughter. His experience in jail was much worse than mine. It made me feel guilty that they took him on my behalf. He endured the same experiences I did, but to a greater level.
The regime specialized in ways to break each person who went through the jail experience, male or female. Ahmad spent three weeks in jail, he was fed meals that contained a type of substance that made people act irrationally. They forced the men and women in jail to strip naked and rape each other. He was defiantly scared. The problem with our culture is that we do not talk about these experiences to get over them or seek help, we just bring shame to the family and it ends there. We continue our lives as broken individuals who are not healed and do not know how to heal. I wanted to turn myself in so that my brother may be let go. My aunt convinced me out of it, because she knew that the regime had no mercy and would keep us both instead. My family was able to collect 1000 USD and bail Ahmad out after three weeks of his hellish experience.
I lived in Almarra for some time with Amal and her family, until I had to leave because it was getting attacked. We fled to Aleppo, but my parents’ house was shelled and therefore, we relocated to a village in the outskirts of Aleppo. My wife is pregnant, and we will be expecting any day now. I am grateful for the supportive family that I have, someone to rely on in times of hardship. I pray that my child experiences a Syria that is free, able to operate in a democratic fashion. I pray for her to enjoy a life my grandmother never imagined or fathomed. I pray for a victory very soon insha’Allah (God willing). For I want the upcoming Eid to be a holiday of true celebration and lack of bloodshed. Ameen
- Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria and a supporter of Bashar al-Assad [↩]
dear brothers/sisters of Syria
these are trying times for the Ummah.
We have no words to even express our sorrow for what you
you are going through. But Allah Ta’alla in his mercy
has left the way of prayers open. May The Almighty help us
through this fitnah.
Believe me when I say democracy will not grant us freedom. Our freedom, rights, dignity and honor were given to us. But we abandoned it. We abandoned the words of our Lord, instead running after the so called ‘democracy’ that gives light and sets free.
The moment we as Muslims seek honor in other than Islam, we are humiliated.
“Whoever desires honor [through power] – then to Allah belongs all honor. To Him ascends good speech, and righteous work raises it. But they who plot evil deeds will have a severe punishment, and the plotting of those – it will perish.”
I ask Allah (swt) to reward you for all the pain you’ve endured and to replace every good thing you’ve lost. And as for the ones that plot evil against, then the words of our Lord suffice them as an answer – and the plotting of those, it will perish.
I would say that some of democracy or its principles are a great step towards being able to practice Islam and strive for it. It’s pretty well known that many people in Syria were tortured and killed for their beliefs during the time of the regime, and it’s fifty times worse now. I believe that when most people say ‘democracy’ they don’t mean “woohoo let’s get rid of Islam!!!”, they’re well-meaning Muslims like you and me who are fed up of corruption, torture and ruination in their homelands, wherever those homelands may be.
I see. So the man-made laws lead us to perfecting..or practicing Islam. I don’t think we need democracy to lead us. If we truly inspect Islam, we will find many principle of democracy present. Freedom is given to us by God. I’m just saying that if we stop searching for Freedom in words written by men, then we would certainly find the truest Freedom in words of our Lord.
I know they are well-meaning Muslims like me and you. In fact, I believe they are, to some extent, better Muslims than me. The level of their test shows the position they hold with Allah. May Allah (swt) free them with the most beautiful of liberties.
“I have come to free you from the servitude of the slave and bring you to the servitude of the Lord of the slave.” Prophet Mohammed
So you see, *freedom* isn’t so far from Islam. It is the base. So we don’t need *democracy* as the steps, or as the *torch* that guides us to practice Islam.
I agree with razan.Islamically speaking you can’t force any type of government on the people if they don’t want it, even if its islam. As long as its a just society and when the majority ask for an Islamic government whatever that means since I haven’t seen one just Islamic government in this day and age…
Btw I do believe the time of Omar and abu baker and the Ottoman empire were great times. I am not against Allahs rules but we need to be careful with how we throw terms around and make judgments easily without understanding context and reason.
We are just having a discussion here. Let us not think ourselves enemies of one another. And let us not assume that we are passing judgement by merely voicing our opinions. The judgement is left to Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) forgive us for our shortcomings.
And as for your comment of not being able to islamically enforce the Islamic law, to be honest, I don’t know. Allah knows best. But, subhanallah, I remember reading the following verse, and it struck me – how Allah clears every issue for us so that the truth stands out firmly from the falsehood.
“And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” 5:45
[…] Chained by the Syrian Regime via Syrian Chronicles A difficult to read series – but a must read. “At 24, I wanted to be out there, I wanted the future generations to experience the freedom and justice that we missed out on…” Read what happened next… […]