(Written as a woman in Homs, image used only for emphasis but it is an actual image taken in Syria during revolt)
Hi..where do I begin?
For the past decade I would be counting the days, hours and minutes leading to any kind of vote to do with the government. The Assad government. A government that worked for itself and a minority of Syrians.
As the day would approach my heart would beat faster and faster, my palms would sweat, I’d feel nauseous and dizzy. All this for a vote?
*Because I knew, I’d have to vote “agree” or “yes” to everything written.
*Because I’d have to blindly accept that even if I put no, it would be changed to yes.
*Because, if I wanted to use the “secret” room to vote, all eyes would be on me.
*Because every man that was employed was from the secret service, listening to my breath, not only what I ticked.
How does it work? Well for one, you should, for your safety, vote in front of the employers. So I’d make sure to take the paper, let them watch as I ticked “yes” and placed it into the box. My heart would drop every time, why did I have to do this?
Well I am a civil servant, I have to, I have no choice. To feed my children I must work. I forgot to tell you..sorry..my husband was arrested 2 years ago. He was a lawyer, an actual lawyer who stood against crime and injustice. This is a death call in Syria. So in 2010, the secret services along with security forces came to our home one night and took him. I never saw or heard from him again.
As a Syrian woman who has been through this, you learn to accept you are a widow even with no news of death.
My husband was my life, he was everything to me. We met when he was 24 and I was 21. He was smart, handsome, good religion and most importantly loved me. When he asked for my hand, my father was unwell. My father saw how happy I was and said yes straight away. My fathers last wish was “Take care of my princess”.
When I got married my husband cared for me, making sure he kept his promise to my dead father, I was treated like a princess. We had 2 children and as I was pregnant with our 3rd – he was gone. They took him 6 months into my pregnancy. Meaning he never saw Ahmad. What a beautiful baby he was.
But I have a brother, ya Allah what a beautiful brother he is. He has been my helper, my protector during this horrific ordeal. He has kept me going for these difficult two years.
My brother carried me and not for one second made me feel at loss. He helped me financially as I worked every day to not be in need of asking anyone for money. But he still made sure to give me enough for my orphaned children. What he bought his children, he bought mine.
He would check on me and my children every night. He would, twice a week, come spend the evening with me, we’d watch a movie or discuss politics – outside of Syria as the walls would most definitely report us. He is my life. As we grew up he was my best friend. He would make sure I was not bullied at school. He’d make me breakfast on my birthday. He truly is one of a kind.
This is why, every vote, I would put yes. I was scared. I was terrified. I have already lost my husband and I never buried him, in fact he may be alive for all I know. However with this revolution and no spaces in prisons, he would have been let out…but he wasn’t. So that explains a lot.
I couldn’t imagine loosing anyone else. Or even me, if they took me, who would be there for my 3 children? Ahmad was only 2 years of age. How could I do that? I’d say to myself 1 vote would not harm the country, but it did.
Anyway, the days are approaching the vote on Sunday. It is Friday 24th February today. Another Friday in Syria.
Would you like to know where I live? I live in HOMS. I cannot say where exactly for our safety. I live in this hell hole with my children. Under this shelling, every second, of every hour, of every day.
Thankfully I have not lost anyone yet, just my distant cousins have died, but my close family have survived it. We refuse to leave Homs.
-We Succeed Or We Die-
So why am I scared about Sunday? In 2 days time? Well the Assad forces took my ID 3 days ago (Tuesday) as I passed a checkpoint (it was a risk to cross but I needed to see my mother). When I asked why, they replied collect it from the polling station on Sunday.
My heart sank. This was a desperate attempt by the government to make me go and vote? Were they being serious? They want me to vote after everything they have done?
They have my ID .. Meaning I will be traced.
How can I go and sign yes when I am under shelling?
How can I sign yes when my children are dividing bread pieces between each other?
How can I sign yes when my brother who was financially covering both his family and mine, is now begging people for bread for his children?
How can I sign yes when my daughter wets herself every night from the fear of the bombs?
How can I sign yes when my son’s hobby now is to go out in the roads under the shelling and collect the aftermath of the bombs and bullets?
How can I say yes when my sisters husband was tortured in his daughters school?
How can I sign yes when Homs is bleeding day and night?
How can I sign yes when children have been tortured and raped by the army forces?
How can I sign yes when my mothers cousins in Baba Amr remain dead under buildings till today?
But..they have my ID..I have no choice if I want to protect my children.
It is Saturday (25th February) today. This is me in the image at the back. I lost my brother today. The Assad army bombed his car. He was leaving to find bread for his children, and mine. He lost his legs.
Look at the picture. The girl in pink is not his daughter. She is my daughter. His niece. He was a father to her. An uncle. He protected her. Made her feel safe without a father. He would take her with his daughter (on the right) everywhere they went. He educated her. He would wipe her tears.
Bashar you broke her tiny heart twice. What is her crime.
A journalist from Italy smuggled himself in to take pictures. Because our catastrophes are now pictures. As you sit at home anywhere in the world, my pain in this image is just a picture to you. “Oh how wonderful the angle is” “Oh how expressive” “Oh how heartbreaking” – well do something about it.
My brother has been killed a day before the voting. I lost my brother. My best friend. My life. My soul. The man who carried me through my devastation. My brother who would give me bread and starve for the night.
I lost my brother Bashar. I lost my brother because of you.
You can keep my ID, and chase me, and my children for years to come…
Over my dead body will I go and sign yes. Over my dead body. Bomb my house. Rape me. Skin me. Over my dead body will I sign yes now. I should have felt this pain for all of Syria before my brothers death. We have become so selfish, this regime has made us so selfish for decades..I only care when it is my brother? What about the 10000+ who have died, do they not have families? Children?
I would be a traitor to even set foot near a polling station.
I now await my end. Heaven is calling. Heaven is calling. And I am ready.