Humanly Syrian Stories


Destruction in Syria

Destruction in Syria

During the madness of war, one can’t possibly weave story that tells it all. There is no story that would ever show the whole picture of the horrors happening in Syria. Media news channels may focus on numbers, numbers of bombs, chemical arms, casualties, refugees, migrants, etc. They may focus of the political divide, the power struggle, and the calculations of winning and losing. People from the outside, may take sides, ignoring the fact that the loss far exceeds whatever media channels could cover. It is the loss of an entire nation (not a country) because it is the loss of people that matters. The stories of each individual affected in this power play are the real stories that should be making the headlines.

Last week, during the follow-up of the YLVP13 (Young Leaders Visitors Program) in Amman, I met a young Syrian guy. Ibrahim Al-Assil introduced himself to me as one of the members of the Syrian non-violence movement. A movement that aims to bring back sanity to the country, calling for change via non-violent means. He, along with his fellow members of this movement are courageous admirable people. He was jailed and tortured before, released and moved to the UAE. Yet, he refuses to settle with the comfortable life in Dubai, and plan to go back to Syria in order to push for the non-violent movement agenda. He told, “Syria needs us, we can’t leave to mad people”. He believes that with communication, he, and his fellows, can help those people see the madness of their action and talk them back to their sane self.

Though part of me think he is mad himself, going back in a suicidal mission to convince armed fighters on the ground to drop their weapons and adhere to non-violent methods, yet looking at his passion towards this cause, I could only admire the amount of humanity he has in his heart. It is only because he is humanly beyond our imagination, that he sees the humanity in the hearts of those fighters and thinks that he could reason with them. It is beyond media coverage, beyond political leaders, beyond ignorance and madness. It is people like him that Syria needs right now, people like him that gives me hope.

I am sure that each and every Syrian has a similar story to tell. Wars may have the capabilities of bringing out the worst in us, but they are very well capable of bringing out the best in us as well. I met Dana Dajani, the Director of Madrasati initiation at the Chevening Regional Conference. She was telling me that she wishes she could capture the amount of stories she hears because of her work. One of the touching stories is for a Syrian little girl in 2nd grade who lost both of her parents for the war. She came to Jordan with her grandmother. One day she headed to a nearby school and wanted to get in to study. Sadly, they didn’t allow her in because the school was full and there is no space from more students. The little girl tried to argue with the school principal, telling her how good she is in languages, that she knows how to read and write, and that she even memories poems! They refused her entry, only to see her next day bringing a carpet, placing it on the floor at the gate of the school, and telling them that she will do that everyday till she gets her right for education.

Another story comes from a school in Karak. A little Jordanian girl gives her daily allowance of 30 pence to her Syrian friend. After few days, her teacher got worried, she thought that maybe the Jordanian girl is bullied to do that. She asked her, why are you giving your allowance to your Syrian friend. The girl answered “I would spend my allowance on buying chips, but my friend would spend it on buying bread, she needs it more”.

There are only 3 stories among millions of stories that we fail to capture. I just wish that the media focuses more on the human side of this struggle rather than echoing the loud voice of the political powers.

A tale of two singers: Elissa and Fadel Shaker – the ambivalence of the Arabic culture


Fadel Shaker holding a gun

Fadel Shaker holding a gun

Elissa winning two Murex D'or Award 2013

Elissa winning two Murex D’or Awards 2013

A few years ago, Elissa and Fadel Shaker came together into a duet song called “Gowwa Al Ro7” (inside the soul); a romantic song of two lovers conversing how much they love each other. At that time, it was a perfect match for two of the most popular Arab singers who excelled in these types of songs. Fadel was no less romantic than Elissa, and his songs carried no less love.

Fast forward to the 23th of Jun, 2013 (yesterday), Elissa is on stage in one of the biggest celebrations of the TV industry in the Arab World, The Murex D’or, celebrating her success with two awards: Best Lebanese Singer, and Best Arabic Song “As3ad Wahdah” (the happiest). On the other hand, Fadel Shaker is sieged in a Mosque in the Lebanese town Seida, and fighting with a terrorist Salafi group against the official Lebanese army. On stage, Elissa appears in an extravagant white dress, she talks about how she doesn’t feel being the happiest tonight for one can’t help it not to be affected by the killings happening on the ground, but yet what makes her happy is the fact that this event is actually taking place and that people are still celebrating music and life. In a video that came out early in the same day, Fadel Shaker appears with a long beard, cursing Hezb Allah and his leader Hassan Nasrullah and threatening – actually promising that he will – to kill the mayor of Seida.

Seeing Fadel Shaker in video talking like that is mind boggling. I can never understand how a man who has an angelic voice and who has been singing for love for many years drops everything and becomes an agent of hatred and murder. I don’t want to play the devil advocate here, but watching other videos for him, he comes across to be sincere in terms of believing in the cause he is fighting for. One can’t deny the horrors happening in Syria, and the urges of wanting to stop the killings is totally natural, still the means of defending those innocent people are questionable. I would rather see him fighting with his voice, singing for that nation, singing for peace and harmony, that would be much more effective than joining the devilish game. That’s what Elissa is doing. She has never shied of speaking up her political stand. She probably hates Hassan Nasrullah and Bashar Al Asad even more than Fadel, but she expresses that in words, not bullets.

But looking at the photos of both singers above, I can’t help myself thinking about the gender divide in the Arab world. We regularly talk about the injustice women face in the Arab world, and that is totally true and I am an avid advocate for the fight against that injustice, but taking a closer look, one would wonder if men are in no less horrible situation. In fact, Arab men are on the track of a death discourse. The value of life has taken a backseat next to distorted values of honor and pride.

If one looks at the most Arab followed tweeps online, one would see the list is divided between the female lebanese singers and the religious Saudi leaders! In fact Elissa herself enjoyed more than 1,375,000 follower and is ranked at number 4 in terms of online influence in the MENA region according to Klout. In comparison, Fadel Shaker’s twitter account shows 147,830 follower. That is a huge indication of the polarisation taking place in the Arab world between religious and non-religious people and how men and women fit into that.

While no body can deny Elissa’s popularity, one can not also deny that there is a big side of the Arabic culture that looks down at her and what she represents. In her fist video clip she appears with no clothes, only a blanket that covers her body and moves along with the wind. The song, “Baddi Doub” was a big hit, but Elissa had to fight for years to prove herself and break out of the accusations of her using her body to overcome her weak voice. The “blanket singer” is still how many sees her today after more than 15 years of her career.  It is also true that her appearance in that clip opened the door for a new wave of singers that flaunted their sexuality and femininity to gain popularity, something that is rejected by many men and women in the Arab world.

If you look at Fadel Shaker’s singing career, he had to face nothing of that. After all, he is a man. He has been pretty much respected for his voice and his songs. Sadly, he asked people not to listen to his music for he believes it is forbidden (haram!). What is interesting is the reaction of people to that change. While many people have been cursing and insulting him for appearing like a terrorist and fighting the Lebanese Army, others on twitter have been applauding him for “repenting” and choosing Allah’s path. They see him as a hero who is fighting to protect his fellow Sunneh.

For me, I would vote for Elissa heroism all the way. We had a history of looking down upon female artists especially those who escapes the boundaries of the culture and celebrates their femininity. For some, it may be an over exposer of women sexuality and objectifying of the subject of women, yet it may very well be what were are missing these days; more women celebrating their gender expressions in whatever way they see fit.

I really wish Fadel Shaker was there yesterday next to Elissa on stage, receiving an award for celebrating life.

Call for Action: Razan Ghazzawi should be out and FREE #freeRazan @RedRazan #Syria


Spread the word please! Email, share, re-blog, tweet.. anything that would help to Free Razan!

A friend of mine and an endless advocate for human rights, Razan Ghazzawi, was arrested on Sunday, December 4th at the Syrian/Jordanian border – on her way to a conference for media activism in A’mman.  She is one of the many courageous bloggers and activists of Syria who risk their lives to get information out about the revolution and other prisoners of conscience.  Razan is an amazing person, a brilliant thinker, and one of the bravest, most steadfast people I know. No one can judge those who choose to hide behind koffiyeh’s and masks – but Razan did everything under her full family name – in pure defiance of this Oppressive Regime!  Her courage is an example to us all at this time of social revolutions.

You can read past writings at her blog:  http://razanghazzawi.com/

Please like this support page and share with you friends on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/freerazan

If you could all take 10 minutes to make some calls, write some emails, or tweet some information adding appropriate hashtags – please do so!  We have heard from other prisoners in Syria that phone calls really do help turn out information about where people are being held, and often times can aide them in getting released.  So, please, help spread the word and take some time to help our friend and comrade Razan.

Below are other steps you can take to help, and below that are phone numbers to call, email addresses to write, and appropriate scripts for each.  Arabic articles and a statement from Syrian Bloggers is at the end.

Thank you!
Alia

PS There is a rumor happening today (Monday the 5th) that Razan will be released tonight – but let’s keep the pressure on – as we can anticipate the lies of the Regime!

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