Imprisoned outside Prison Cell


Enab Baladi Issue # 90 – Sun, Nov. 10, 2013

معتقلOsaymah Saleh – Enab Baladi

While many people are inside Assad prisons, life without them outside is becoming uglier for their loved ones as memories are becoming cells, imprisoning those who hold them – cells which get smaller the longer time they spend apart from their loved ones. This situation is the same for those who have left their homeland and are unable to return. Their diaspora becomes a banishment.

Shadi, who left Syria out of fear of losing his life and family, and in search of livelihood, today is unemployed in his country of exile, cursing his luck at times, and blaming himself at others. as he feels he is ‘besieged’ in this new country – unable to return; unable to continue. What he owned in Syria is lost – even his house was taken over by the Shabiha (Assad thugs). He knows that he was the one who chose and hastened to leave Syria and thus blames himself completely for what has become of him.

Baraa on the other hand, who lives in Syria and is an activist wanted and pursued by the regime, feels he is in a very difficult and desperate situation: “All of my memories are now associated in one way or another to a prisoner. I miss my friends and wish they were around me right now. Their absence makes me feel incapable and incompetent as there is nothing I can do to help them. I always wonder – what would be their opinion on this or that? What would they do if they were in my shoes? What would they advise me regarding the predicament I’m in?”

Baraa hides in a friend’s house until “God relieves the problem” and he can find a way out for himself. He is fearful that this friend is arrested because he gave him refuge – the last thing he needs is another friend imprisoned.

Huda, a lady whose husband, brother and father have disappeared into Assad prisons says she regrets not spending more time with them when they were around. She said their absence has made her appreciate them more, especially her brother who she misses greatly. “I feel helpless and incomplete without them”, she complains.

Lina, a mother of three whose husband was arrested over a year ago and to date knows nothing about, says it pains her greatly to see the state of her children – deprived of the affection of their father. She is unable to hold back her tears whenever she sees other children sitting in their fathers’ laps. She also feels sorry for her youngest son who hasn’t said the word dad for many months now. Lina cares for her children tirelessly, often talking to them about their dad whom they all hope will return home soon.

Hadi, who is barely five years old hasn’t been spared these feelings of misery. This little boy – when asked what it is he wants replies in all innocence and spontaneity “I want dad to return; I want Reem’s (his 5 year old cousin whose dad has also been in prison for months) dad to return; I want all the dad’s to return – that’s all!”

Maha, whose fiancé was arrested weeks after their engagement, refuses to talk about his absence – however the expression on her face shows she is burdened with pain and longing. She prays for his speedy release. Her sister says Maha has become an introvert, hardly communicating with others, always crying and often praying that “they either release him or imprison me with him”.

Iman misses her imprisoned brothers and husband – the latter’s absence being particularly painful for her as he was “a father, a brother and a friend to me.” Iman, who has lost a lot of weight since her loved ones were taken away, talks about the difficulty in being solely responsible for her kids. “I miss my younger brother’s compassion as now I have no one to complain to because everyone else has enough to worry about themselves without being told about mine.” Her third brother is displaced in a refugee camp far away and her father who financially supports her family also has enough to worry about.

There are many other stories, almost in every household – each story creates a lump in the throat but hope remains that loved ones will return soon and that the patient will surely be rewarded.

Translated by: Tasneem Al-zeer

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