Medical Student Samih Al-Bahra Arbitrary Detained at Risk of being Tortured & Killed

I never heard of his name before, Samih Al-Bahra. I guess that’s what it means to leave Damascus; you hear of new detainees, new faces, for the ones you already know are almost outside now – they too left Damascus.

سميح البحرة_n

Samih Al-Bahra, Medical student in his fifth year, detained in April 30th 2013.

I received a message on my Facebook couple of days ago from a close friend asking me to blog about the detention of Samih Al-Bahra who was detained on April 30th 2013. My friend was very worried, she knows of many friends who were detained then got severely tortured, some of them were tortured to death. Like my colleague at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, Ayham Ghazzoul, a medical student who was detained in campus, tortured in campus, then brought to Air Force Intelligence‘s cell injured, and was left there to die in four days without being hospitalized. Ayham died in the arms of his cell-mate, who told us the story once he was released. That’s how you know of a detainee’s story in Syria, and that’s how you know of martyr’s story. Closure, is not exactly what you get, but something close to it.

I don’t know Samih, but I know Assad regime that arbitrary detains people, whether they’re activists or not, torture them and many times to death, hold them incommunicado, for months, a year, two years (if we’re only talking about the revolution).

I don’t know Samih but I know that any detainee in Syria is a risk of torture and death.

I know that Ayham Ghazzoul was brutally murdered by the Syrian state in a governmental institution.

Ayham Azzam Rajeh, who was a student at Pharmacy college, died under torture in May 2nd 2013.

Ali Shidad Haj Omar, was a detainee in Tudmor prison, killed under torture in May.

Kamal Mahmoul Mokalled was killed under torture in 30 April 2013.

Bassel Mahmoud Rashid, from Nabek village, was a detainee and killed under torture in April 11th 2013. He was his parent’s only child. 21 years old.

The list goes on. I wish I can say it doesn’t. As someone who was detained, I know that we can save a detainee’s life once we mention their names on our stupid online accounts; twitter, blogs, Facebook. Can you imagine? You can save a human life by just a click and a few words? It’s media, it’s letting the regime know we can beat it together. It’s humanizing a detainee who’s becoming a number.

Write for Samih, write for every detainee. You might be saving their lives.

I’ll be updating this post as soon as I get further information about Samih.

MiG

“If the “MiG” didn’t show up, it could’ve been just another ordinary day.
But it was there, looking for love to shatter, and blow away the features of my exile the “camp”, Palestine’s twin.
The bedroom, the beautiful nights and the morning coffee were all exposed to the streets and the main square. At that very moment, Dunia my love and my wife, was dead to me.
This movie is about the Palestinian refugee camp “al Yarmouk” on December 16th, when it was attacked by the Syrian regime’s “MiGs”, as a punishment for sheltering displaced Syrians & Palestinians whom lost their neighborhoods due to previous attacks.
It may seem the “MiGs” aimed to knock down the place, but the real target has been languishing the spirit people of the camp had. Yet, they’d never settle to that, even if the price will be an endless exile.”  From the description of the film, by Bidayyat, audiovisual arts.

The Revolutionary Cannot Speak

We were taught that the sun does not always shine
We were taught
Thousands mirrors worth a truthful face

We tried to unlearn, those many lines our memory cannot forsake
The revolution, we repeated, the revolution is the solution
A task we may never undertake

Our revolution is pure, and it is not White
It’s grounded and rooted in our sinful eyes

We are the people
We are the words of wisdom
Your books and think-tanks so eloquently did not foresee

The power lies in people
The Black Palestinian painfully teaches us

Why do I feel that I’ll soon be the last Syrian alive
40, 000 corpses can never lie
They lay underneath our sacred soil
They haunt us in protests
Occupy our banners
and online profiles

A burden I cannot bear
So like others, I long for the day I join the Shuhada

I cannot be the last Syrian alive
I cannot be the Syrian who left, and still alive

You think “critically” of our raw revolution, you say
You think and cite our savagery with references of youtube videos
You are as powerful as the states you oppose
States silence us with machine guns
They send us sleepless killers in black suits
States fight among each other
We have learned the drill

But you, like the White, speak on behalf of us
You are the intellectual whose privileged voice silenced our indigenous voices
You’re no friend of mine
The leftist, feminist and the pro Palestinian activist
Are names of spaces you proudly occupy
To me, they’re just another privileged class
You made it possible to become my enemy

Yes, I have said the word “enemy”
And I would say it in the class you teach
Below the many articles you publish
Where you could tell the world how my struggle isn’t consistent with yours

What is your struggle, I wonder
When you’re the diasporic subject and I am the postcolonial
I stand in front of systems, machines and propaganda
In my besieged land

Your battle has become my dream of freedom
Your intellect has become another bullet in my chest
A “friendly fire,” I do not call it

I am being silenced by your pen

The revolutionary cannot speak
She may never speak for years to come
She writes in her mother tongue
Speaks folky words and songs your memory can no longer grasp
The revolutionary speaks to her gender-less comrades
And you
The powerful male intellectual
You are not one.

Al-Tal City, and Beyond

Below is the article I wrote for Arab World in Revolutions’ blog on Monde Arabe Arte TV.

Text on Banner says: Dear Revolutionary, your actions reflect revolutionary morals, let’s act responsible.

“He was a 17 year-old activist from Daraa. He had a little motorcycle which he used to go from town to town. He carried his USB memory sticks with videos to be uploaded. He was one of my main sources before he was killed by a regime sniper.”

That is what my friend, Abu Abdalla, told me on Skype while I was having a fine evening in Damascus. I stopped drinking my tea; then he told me that his friends are trapped in his hometown Tal, just northwest of Damascus.

On August 8th the Syrian National Council announced Al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, to be a disaster city. The regime army besieged the city and cut water, electricity and communication supplies, including the internet. They started shelling it on Thursday August 9th and continued for weeks, which left more than 160 people dead.

I asked Abu Abdulla if it is possible to set up a conference chat with his trapped friends inside Al-Tal, and so he did. I had the privilege to interview Qusai, Ashor, and “Renewed Hope” the following day.

“Our city has been destroyed,” types Ashor, a relief activist and owner of a grocery store which has just opened now to secure food distribution for the besieged people who remain in the city. “In July last year,” he continues, “we distributed dates and water on regime forces[1], we organized a “Dignity Strike” in collaboration with shop keepers[2], we launched anti-sectarianism campaigns[3], we worked hard and we did an excellent job.” Ashor gives proudly examples of revolutionaries in Al-Tal, but is helpless about what the situation is turning into.

Read the rest of the article here.

Statement Read at Front Lines HR Defenders’ Award Event – Full Text

Thank you all for the kind words, but the award goes to Syria!

Below is my statement that my colleague at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, Dlshad Othman, read at the ceremony yesterday:

Dear friends, colleagues and comrades,

Last night, there were many explosions heard in the city of Damascus, gun shots heard in my neighborhood, it has become the norm to fall asleep when hearing clashes in my neighborhood. We spent the night watching footage of a new massacre in Qubair, Hama, that followed Houla massacre couple of weeks ago.

I am writing this to tell you that it’s not easy to write a simple speech for such a kind and humbling event when all this is happening in your day. Then I figured, writing what prevents you from writing, paves the way for you to write.

Dear friends, colleagues and comrades,

Beautiful friend, Bassel Shehada, martyred by a mortar grenade in Homs on 28-5-2012. In this photo he was training activists in Homs on how to use the camera to cover regime violations of human rights. Bassel Left Fulbright scholarship to study film-making in the US and chose to be in Syria at this “historical moment,” as he once told me.

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Syrian Revolution Translations #1: Um Ahmad

 The following is a true story from the Syrian revolution, it was originally published by one of my favorite pages on Facebook; “Syrian Women in Support of Syrian Intifada.” This page is excellent in many ways, it publishes beautiful stories of unknown revolutionary women in Syria, mothers, wives and activists. It encourages regional and international solidarity by posting on female Bahraini, Yemeni, Tunisian and Egyptian activists and more. It’s a secular and peaceful grassroots group that has a great role in the Syrian street and revolution. The text below is my translation, I am a bad translator but I am trying my best. I dedicate this translation on Mother’s Day today March 21st to the mothers of martyrs, to the mothers of the wounded, to the mothers of the detainees, and to the mothers of missing.

Um Ahmad

A woman,  in her seventies,  carries a stick as she walks behind the demonstrators in Shahba city, and ululates, as they chant for freedom. As soon as the regime forces attack the demonstrators, she waves her stick high and attacks a security agent to protect the demonstrators, screaming: “these are my sons, you sons of dogs!”

The protesters, and upon hearing her shouts, get thrilled, some even kiss her head.

 Um Ahmad [Ahmad’s Mother], has a daughter she hasn’t seen in fourteen years. The daughter fell in love with a guy from Occupied Golan, married him, and passed that barbed-wire fence in order to come back and visit. She did visit, once, for 24 hours from which she spent six hours in several security forces branches.

 Um Ahmad gathers rocks in her dress and lifts it indifferent to people’s laughters, for the Shabiha (thugs) might come to attack her sons’ houses at night after the demonstrations end. She won’t let them as long as she’s alive, so she says. Assad lovers couldn’t come out with a religious argument to condemn her behavior -as they usually do.

 Until today, the people of Shahba city, are yet divided into two groups: pro and against Um Ahmad.

The Original text in Arabic can be found here.

‘Like’ Syrian Women in Support of Syrian Intifada on facebook here.

Time and Revolutions

People who do not live in a country that is living a revolution may not know that time, is revolutionaries’ biggest enemy.

I have a 10-to-5 job, after that I go to do some other work till 9, sometimes till 11. I get home to check my email and Facebook to discover new massacres, new statements, and further escalations on many levels.

In Damascus, civil society activists are powerful, they weren’t perhaps in 2011, but in 2012, they’re getting more organized, focused, and one thing you hear commonly among them these days is: “we won’t do the same mistakes we did in 2011.”

But we get home and check the news, mostly our Facebook, because not all videos broadcasted by AJA or Al-Arabiya, not all demonstrations mentioned by AJA especially those carried out by “minorities.” Facebook has become the only non-censored news outlet for Syrians. Local Coordination Committee is run by seculars, hence we know for sure that if protesters from “minority” conventional communities took the streets or issued a statement, we won’t be hearing about it on AJA, but definitely on LCC.

Yesterday I got home at 11 PM, in my attempt to check my facebook, I discovered that a massacre occurred in Karm Al-Zeitoun leaving eight children martyred.

I am one of those people who are against including children in protests at times of revolutions, children should stay home, especially in cities like Homs and Idleb. But the children martyred last night in Karm El-Zeitoun were home, and that did not protect them, it rather killed them. Yesterday regime army bombed the neighborhood of Karm El- Zeitoun in the city of Homs and destroyed several buildings, two whole streets were evacuated, and 27 civilians killed, many were injured.

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“It’s True, I was Made for You”

So for some reason, people think that my existence in conferences is useful in a way. The so-called “Arab Spring” is getting a lot of NGOs rich, and these NGOs must get “involved” in the revolutions that have swept the Arab-speaking region in 2011.  Conferences love bloggers the most. The world still assumes that the revolution in Egypt was made by bloggers, and hence bloggers in Arab-speaking countries must be invited, because they must have some interesting role in their country, and not to mention how journalism always create “heroes” in every “crisis,” the Hollywood-style. I’ve said it many times on this blog and I am saying it again: “online activists are overrated,” and not just in Syria, but all over the MENA region. And the “social media + revolutions” is the stupidest and most irritating topic made by ignorant “experts.”

Anyways, I am now in Spain, attending some geeky conference were geeks talk about stuff I’ve heard so much about but still don’t get them. I am not here for the conference, I am here for Spain. Conferences give you a free ticket, food and a free bed (in Spain we are offered a free tent). This is my first time to Spain and it’s not going well so far for reasons I cannot talk about in a Syria ruled by the current criminal and monstrous regime. Nshalla in a free Syria (in few months so please wait up).

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