Diary from Syria: Ramadan Kareem or Ramadan Massacre

This article was previously posted at EMAJmagazine on 28/8. It is being re-posted here with the consent of the Syrian author – Jasmine Roman.

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I was aiming to distance myself, for once, and write an amusing diary entry that tells beautiful details of Ramadan in Syria and brings back its spiritualities, warm ambience, the charm of the storyteller “Hakawati”, among many other special aspects. I was aiming to distance myself, for once, from reflection, turbulence, and grief and contribute to “Ramadan Contest Cover” in EMAJ with some words of Damascene jasmines that smell the exquisitely of beautiful Syria. Not surprisingly enough, the holy month was sadly received with series of massacres; not surprisingly enough, Eid ul-Fitr (the three-day Muslim feast that marks the end of Ramadan) will end with a big jubilation.

I had difficulties to put my pen to paper since my last diary “Will I be the next?”. Today, I decided to write few lines and smash this new barrier of fear that has recently instilled in me. I feel completely paralyzed; yet, it is a personal and mandatory duty to spread the word and shed the light on the ground where silence and asking for mercy might sometimes be the only reactions and the only solutions. The brutal killing and barbarian arrest campaigns that swept different cities in Syria left the country with a state of panic and solace. However, the recent savage operations since the beginning of Ramadan instigate more anger, courage, and determination of Syrian protestors who don’t have any other option but to preserve their will to end this era of Syria’s political lifecycle. The escalation of violence is unquestionably leaving another black smudge on the history of the ruling regime.

It has been confirmed that the acid, alongside with many other horrible tools of torture, is being used by the security to persecute and distort people from Mouadamieh area in Damascus outskirts. People are detained according to their IDs regardless of their age or health conditions, and no matter if they’ve participated in the protests or not. Many homes are destroyed and vacated from all youth and men, leaving the places for women and children, who are also taking their share of violence.

It has been confirmed that the security forces, in many cities, are refusing to deliver the martyrs to their families to bury their bodies or hold funerals for them; instead, they are surreptitiously taken so they won’t be counted as dead human beings. The security forces are refusing to issue death certificates in some cases; they bargain with the families to sign documents confessing that their sons were killed by “armed terrorist gangs” and not the security men. How will families of the victims reconcile their consciences, witnessing the real murderers, first hand, shedding blood of their children, is anyone’s guess.

It has been confirmed by the inhabitants of Nawa’s village that eight martyrs passed away and there were around fifty casualties with enduring dangerous conditions on August 3rd of this year. However, only three were confirmed to have been killed by different media outlets on that day. Moreover, the security refused to hand over the corpses to their families and harshly threatened to kill the family members if they dare inquire about the martyrs’ whereabouts. The injured ones were denied medical treatment. They were not hospitalized or even provided with any basic first aid. They have been left to slowly and painfully die out of torture or been liquidated in cold blood. Adding to that, the security transported both the dead bodies and casualties to obscure places without any information or hints about their destiny.

It has been confirmed that a 29-year old barber was working in his shop in Nawa village on the day of XXX. He was a humble young man trying to survive and had nothing to do with any demands or revolts. The security men entered his shop, stole and broke his merchandise, and slaughtered him by spearing their guns into his body. He was in a dangerous situation and had to be treated by a local doctor since the incident. The man passed away of his wounds a few days ago. Upon burying him in the graveyard, his young friends and relatives cried for him and started to chant some slogans out of their loss. They were attacked and surrounded by more than thirty security men with their guns directly pointed at the mourners. The security officer threatened to shoot all mourners if they uttered a word. He also declared that he possesses a warrant and green light to kill up to twenty persons without providing any justification or holding any responsibility for his actions. The elders and women of the village begged the officer not to shoot at their young sons until the burial is over.

It has been confirmed that in a very wealthy neighborhood in Damascus city, gunshots were fired by security and police men on August 5th, 2011. The area was raided by more than fifty thugs and security officers searching for one unarmed young protestor who hopelessly hid behind the garbage box in the school yard. He was caught and beat violently by all fifty men with their wooden rods and guns. They then broke into the school and threatened to wreck the whole neighborhood if any word, photo, or video is released. This happened in my own street and the whole incident was witnessed by my own eyes. I was almost dragged and imprisoned by the security men as I was standing in the balcony with my family. I will write about those horrific details in a separate entry another time. I will say that this incident in particular left me paralyzed to speak a word for a few days and unable to write since then. The Syrian security and intelligence are experts in frightening individuals, and I seriously do not want to be one of those!

You might wonder, and you have every right to, what is the evidence for all the incidents I write about? How would you know that Jasmine is real and not a hoax? How do you know she is telling the truth? Well, the facts are even more devastating and tragic than anyone can tell, and very little can be documented, taped or photographed. All stories coming out from Syria have authentic names, places, and details and are endorsed and witnessed by real people with no ability to prove the ugly truth. But hey, remember, the history is always documented through people.

This piece of writing honestly doesn’t aim to be a winner of the contest and doesn’t aim to draw any sympathy or compassion. The intention of this piece is to trigger the anger of the silent voices and to help me share the agony of many Syrian people who are buried alive. Yes, you can help me, and you can help every Syrian. You can help by sharing our stories and diaries. Syria is bleeding in the holy month and no wonder that Syria hashtag on Twitter has been #RamadanMassacre instead of #RamadanKareem.

About Leif Eriksson

Leif Eriksson has worked in the field of asylum at the Swedish Migration Agency specializing in the Middle East, Schengen and the Dublin Regulation, as Migration Attaché and head of the migration section at the Swedish Embassy in Damascus 2005 - 2008, as a resettlement consultant at the UNHCR branch office in Damascus 2008 - 2009, Consul at the Swedish Consulate General in Jerusalem 2012 - 2013 and associate RSD/RST officer at UNHCR in Beirut 2013 - 2014. He currently lives in Tbilisi, Georgia.
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