Diana Haidar

Part Two

The orphanage was a two-story building that stood adjacent to the village church. Its grayish stone walls bore the signs of having withstood decades of seasonal changes, yet remained solid and immovable. It was initially constructed to accommodate worshippers and pilgrims who once roamed Syria and the Levant, traveling between cities and villages to visit churches and other sites associated with apostles and Christian saints. Thus, what is now considered an orphanage, served once as a shelter for those whose quest to find God had led them to the small Christian village straddling the western foothills of the Hauran Mountain, which stretches across parts of southern Syria.

The large rooms on the second floor, which had previously been used to accommodate worshippers, were repurposed to function as the sleeping quarters for the orphanage’s children, and no additional changes were made to the building after its conversion. With an interior layout similar to the church, and its northern wing overlooking the church’s graveyard, an outsider might deem this place “too grim” for children to inhabit. Little did people know that the gloomy air emanating from the building had nothing to do with décor or the hundreds of bodies resting peacefully beneath its grounds.

Before the events of 2006, this place was what one would typically expect of an orphanage run by a church in a small ordinary village. Nuns were in charge of every aspect of the children’s lives, from attending to their everyday needs to their education and upbringing. The village was a tight-knit community where everyone knew each other, and many locals would often visit the orphanage after Sunday mass to lend a helping hand. Life in the village was exceptionally monotonous, almost bordering on boredom.

Nonetheless, a shift in the atmosphere began to take place during the months leading up to 2006, when the area witnessed a significant increase in tit-for-tat kidnappings between the governorates of Daraa and Al Swaida, which eventually led to a full-fledged tribal war between their towns. Much to the relief of its residents, the village was situated to the south of both governorates and was never exposed to armed conflict. With the exception of occasional supply shortages caused by the locals’ inability to trade with neighboring marketplaces, life in the village was still as ordinary as ever.

The continuous combat, which had been going on for more than a month and was taking place close to the country’s southern borders, began to pose a severe threat to the regime’s grip over the area. The regime’s most preferred course of action in this, and many prior similar cases, had been to use military intervention. So, to no one’s surprise, people woke up one morning to heavily armed troops surrounding the outskirts of their towns. The operation succeeded in restoring control of the area in a matter of hours, forcing a ceasefire, capturing hundreds, and stripping away all weapons the soldiers could lay their hands on.

Following these events, a menacing yet subtle shift in power started to creep through the southern region. Several government and security-related institutions emerged across towns and cities, typically in difficult-to-reach or secluded locations.

A building associated with the public sector could perhaps go unnoticed by the inhabitants of larger cities. The hustle and bustle of everyday life doesn’t usually allow the chance for a passerby to pause and contemplate the purpose and function of such an establishment. This was not the case in a small, isolated village, where the arrival of one stranger could spark curiosity and gossip among locals for several days.

Locals referred to it as White Coats Week, during which several strange faces started arriving and residing in the village. This coincided with the erection of a new building located at the far edge of the town, not far from the church. The building was heavily protected, with a high fence surrounding the premises and a few narrow windows scattered across its walls. Speculation and theories began to spread, but to the local’s dismay, the only answer they could obtain was that the building was a “security facility” – an explanation that never satisfied the people’s growing curiosity.

Most of the strangers bore similar characteristics that can be summed up in one word: “unsettling.” Many of them wore glasses and had a pale complexion that suggested their skin hadn’t seen the light of day for years. They resided in the facility but were seen to spend most of their day in the orphanage itself, dressed in long white coats.

Another group, consisting of four or five individuals, was clearly hired for security and guarding purposes and had well-built bodies with long unkempt beards. Those were intimidating yet very intriguing to the eyes that followed them everywhere. They made a special effort to avoid interaction with the locals, save for when they occasionally ventured out into the village to purchase simple everyday necessities from the local supermarket. In those instances, they kept to themselves and gave the shortest possible responses to the locals’ constant inquiries. When asked about the nature of their profession, they were evidently instructed to state that they work with the government, which was more than enough to keep any further questions out of others’ prying minds.

The most prominent figure among them was Doctor Jubran, who stood apart from the rest as the person who would be taking over the orphanage and providing it with financial and administrative support. This was initially met with bewilderment and, in some cases, outright opposition by some locals, although it did not last long. Within the first few weeks of his stay, the locals’ suspicions and mistrust gave way to respect and admiration as Dr. Jubran adopted a more pleasant demeanor in his interactions with them. The way he conducted himself was regarded by many as courteous and well-mannered. His approval rating rose even further one Sunday morning when, having concluded Sunday mass, the priest officially introduced him as the new head of the church’s orphanage.

Upon being invited to the pulpit to say a few words following the introduction, the doctor gracefully climbed the stairs, grasped the podium, and delivered the most heart-warming speech ever heard at that church. He talked about the growing need to “provide those unfortunate children with a better environment and the chance to become active members of society by implementing advanced educational programs backed up by science and psychology.” He affectionately spoke of the children’s vital role as the country’s future generation and claimed responsibility for paving the way for their bright future.

From that point on, a darker history began to imprint itself, not in the pages of books, but in the minds and thoughts of these children. A past that had remained mostly unknown to the outside world.

The history of unrelenting physical and psychological abuse, disguised as the new Behavior Modification Program introduced by the doctor, was kept hidden inside the orphanage’s walls that were completely closed off from the outside world.

A noticeable change in staff also took place. The majority of the nuns were dismissed and replaced by the men in white coats known as caretakers. However, a few nuns remained to take care of the less desirable tasks, such as tending to a couple of infants and supervising daily chores around the orphanage. Among them, was Sister Sofia, who had previously served as Head Nun.

(…to be continued…)

Series – Evanescent

January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)

February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

March: Evening with Jackie Chan – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)

May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)

July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

September: A Hollow Pursuit – Diana Haidar (Syria)

October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

November: A Life Rekindled – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)

December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)

Special: Catching Water III – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

Background – Context

Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world


Cover photo: Maaloula, Syria – From the monastery – Torsten Pursche (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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