Mummification of Humanity.. Memories of Detainees in Syria’s Underground Detentions


Enab Baladi Issue # 85 – Sun, Oct. 06, 2013

سجون ومعتقلاتBailasan Omar

We woke up one day to find 56 new arrivals, to become a total of 150 – stuffed in a narrow place. Being in that cell was a living hell. Pollutants were rampant – the most painful of which were those that were heaped on our spirit.

That day I had a disagreement with my friend Wael who often reminded me of the lady who completed knitting something and then undid the knitting straight after (an Arab proverb).

Sometimes I see myself as one of those who in theory have strong noble beliefs yet act in contradiction to them. However I differ to these self-contradicting people in that I apologize whenever I’m wrong and I don’t quarrel over things. I think things over; I blame myself for my mistakes so that I may clear my conscious and I seek to avoid making the same mistakes.

While I was in my cell I feared for the Revolutionary spirit in me which sought a  revolution on myself, on my conduct, and on my faults, as well as a revolution against those who had wronged the people around me.  I feared that the hard hearted people simply perceived my defense of the weak, the silenced or even those who chose silence, as a sign of disrespect towards them personally.  We would frequently get into bitter wrangles. Some of them were clever enough to try to “contain” me with friendly words, or bribe me with glowing praise to silence me. Others simply disdained the fact that anyone opposed them. We almost forgot that we are imprisoned behind closed doors, and that our guard was relieved to see us mummifying the humanitarian spirit in each other, assured that none of us would have the time to think of him as a prison guard; he was rather a judge to settle our disputes.

I tried to avoid arguments as participating in them  would have required me to suppress my dissatisfaction and disagreement under “white lies” and “grim smiles”, which would pile up until our souls would burn with hate. That hate would have to burst out at some point, accompanied by anger, making it difficult to differentiate between whose ideas were right and whose were wrong to begin with. Unfortunately this burst of opinions mixed with extreme anger means the initial (noble) ideas are expressed in a bad way, and thus we become labeled as one of the bad guys. It is important to be weary of our conduct when we are angry.

I spent about a year and a half in that cell, trying everyday not to contribute to mummifying the humanity in another person, and trying to ascertain whether my own humanity is still breathing or not. I never could tell.

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