Emblem transpoзиция by Rahaf Konbaz

  1. And they lived “miserably” ever after

Standing in a class full of displaced students from various provinces in Syria didn’t help much on the journey to reach certainty.

I asked them to draw a nice place they had been to. What I had in my mind, what I thought they might draw, was a beach with a blue sky, a city with entertainment and ice cream, or maybe a smiling sun in a big park, but their answers came like a slap in the face:

“I am from Idlib. I will draw Idlib City.”
“I am from Derazzor. I will draw my house there.”
“I am from Daraa.  I used to live on a farm. I will draw our farm there.”

I had no idea how it slipped my mind that those kids, who had spent the past six years at the mercy of bullets and arms, might even think of drawing “a blue sky, a smiling sun, and ice cream”!!! How could they draw something they had never seen?! Their pleasant memories stopped the moment they left their homes. They were still stuck at the last time they crossed the cusp of their city. At the sounds of the keys locking the door. Their minds interpreted the meaning of nice places as “my home”…Their homes were the only nice places they had seen!

Seven years ago, it was 6:00 am in the morning. The city was still sleeping. We took to the street. My mind was filled with these naive ideas I read from books and heard from intellectuals: We were putting things on the right track. We were writing our own destiny, we could make it to the other side of the river like all those other people on the planet. The plan was simply this: Move to the streets, occupy all the main squares, stay patient – some might be killed – stay strong – some would be detained… Eventually we were going to live happily ever after. We carried out every part of this plan, but the final scene did not unfold as we planned.

I ask myself over and over: What happened? Why couldn’t we make it to the other side of the river?

I do not know and have decided to call myself “Ms. I-do-not-know.” If anyone asks me any question these days, I just reply: I do not know. Seriously, do you really buy this illusion that you know anything in this world?  I know that you tidy your pillow every night and sleep on this fact. Sweet dreams. But you know nothing.

But even if I know nothing, there is one thing I am certain of:  If we hadn’t taken a step outside our houses to protest, ISIS boots would have never reached the soil of Syria. Those kids would have still been living under the roofs of their houses. Regardless of what happened between the two “movements.”

2. “No voice could drown out the voice of freedom and dignity.”

Tawakul Karman can say whatever she wishes. She can brag about her victory, the freedom she achieved, and the dignity she enjoyed after a long fight. She is wrong. This statement, “no voice could drown out the voice of freedom and dignity,” which pops up every time the respectful UN delegates wish to gather and feel satisfied about their achievements on planet Earth is %$@@#$

The voice of military boots, the voice of arms and tanks, the voice of shelling can drown out all other voices. The cry of a mother, the mere sound of the cry, has the capacity to make you swallow your dignity and the naive concepts of freedom and democracy.

In times of wars, when the sounds of military boots approach, youths retreat to the sea. Many throw themselves in the water so they won’t have to wear a military uniform. Many just drown. Some reach the cusp of Europe, stranded here and there, pledging to be “good citizens” – just please let us in. While many of those who have stayed must put on those military boots because they couldn’t make it to sea.

I contributed to this. I did my share in pushing these youths into the sea. I was one of those who joined the protests. Who took photos. Who tweeted, who blogged about the long awaited freedom. We thought we were shaping our destiny. The power of the people could never be challenged. They were meant to rule. I took myself to the second level of this movement. It was appropriate to be detained, so in one protest I waited for the police to come and didn’t run away. I let them take me. I was certain that the path of this movement was going to lead us to paradise. We were going to have a real election. We were going to expose corruption. We were going to ensure justice for every individual, with resolve and steadfastness. We were the generation which was destined to change the face of Syria. Actually, we did change the face of Syria. We changed its face to such an extent that no one can recognize the country anymore.

I was certain. Then arms and bullets entered the scene, turning it into displaced people, children living outside in the snow. Historic city centers, another scene, were bombed to ruins. And all these new scenes pushed me toward the path of certainty. Was it worth it to displace all these people, to destroy one of the oldest cities in the world? Numbers, estimates and statistics began to envelope every cell of my brain:

I am Syrian number 21109402. I have been living under an armed conflict for the past 2,160 days. Among which I spent 11 days in detention. It is estimated that this conflict has claimed around 510,000 lives, with 6.1 million people internally displaced and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad. Every day an average of 5 people are killed in Damascus City alone because of random shelling. Every day I head to work with the possibility of being killed by an average of 18 rockets or shells that explode in Damascus. Among all these numbers, there is this 133. We see it around every corner. It passes in front of our eyes every 5 minutes. It is the number of the Red Crescent vans which rush to collect the bodies.

It may be that I know nothing, but of one thing I am certain – we should never have left our houses that morning.

Rahaf Konbaz