For more than a thousand years ago, we have been reciting verses complaining about the recurrence of Eid celebrations without a new joy or a better situation. Although the poem came within the context of political satire, the transference of the verses has given it a new dimension based on the concerns and problems of each one of us. In spite of all the transformations and changes that took place centuries after the death of the poet, all people still recite the verses echoing the question that al- Mutanabbi asked with the same feeling of sadness “just like before or with something new?”
Perhaps the changes that Syrians experienced in the last decade, which normally takes long decades of the nations’ life, made their festivals typified by novelty and diversity to the extent that the circumstances of each Eid are extremely different from the previous.
1 Shawwal 1430
36 Days in his Aunt’s House
On ordinary Eid ceremonies, Mrs. Huda, a 40-year-old housewife from Rif Dimashq province, was keen to preserve the rituals of Eid al-Fitr in an attempt to evoke its ambiences at her house. She said: “We used to meet at the house of my mother-in-law together with her daughters-in-law in order to prepare Maamoul at the night of the Eid just after cleaning the house and purchasing, like almost all Syrian families, new clothes for our children during Ramadan or before. However, Ramadan that year was completely different and unpredictable as the Intelligence arrested my husband in the last ten days of Ramadan. We were not used to detentions since it happened before the revolution.”
In her own way, Mrs. Huda told us the story of the detention of her husband asserting: “in that year, my husband decided to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah, and because there were land trips, we decided to take our four sons with us. We wanted to perform the Umrah and also meet my children’s uncle (my husband’s brother) whom they never met since he escaped from Syria in the eighties due to his belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The family performed the Umrah in Sha’ban. They met the uncle, who was dismissed from his country, in the corridors of the al-Haram al-Makki and then returned to Syria at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. “We did not expect that the news of my husband’s meeting with his brother will reach Syria. We did not bring any books or anything related to him, but in anyway the news was received, and unexpectedly the Intelligence attacked our house in the last ten days of Ramadan. They arrested my husband who spent thirty-six days in prison before he was released,” added Mrs. Huda.
1 Shawwal 1932
May God Bless you with the Collapse of the Regime
Syrians’ first Eid in the context of the revolution came five months after the outbreak of the revolution . Some of them called it “the Eid of the martyr” while others named it “the sad Eid” as most Syrians abstained from the Eid rituals, and the names of martyrs prevented its celebration. Suhaib, a human medicine student at Al-Baath University, said: “Protests were at their height in the Syrian cities, including Homs where I live. During Ramadan we used to demonstrate in the evenings after Taraweeh prayers.”
He asserted that “as for the Eid, there was agreement among all that the joy of the Eid will not be celebrated as long as al-Assad is the head of power, and as long as bloodsheds are continuing to happen. And this is how we postponed, as Syrians, our celebrations.” Suhaib added: “For example, we announced the strike of dignity at the universities (no studies or teaching until the president is dismissed), and the weddings ceremonies have almost completely stopped. Merchants in the markets have also stopped their work, as well as the rituals of the Eid ceremonies, so that you rarely visit a house where you find the usual Eid preparations or pastries. Of course it was not because of poverty or lack of sweets, but rather a choice stemming from the pain of the martyrs’ families and detainees, and an insistence on the continuation of the revolution. At that time we used to say ‘May God bless you with victory’ and ‘May God bless you with the collapse of the regime’ instead of greeting one another on the Eid occasion with ‘Have a blessed Eid.’”
1 Shawwal 1434
Does the Family of the Detainee Have Eid?
While abstaining from celebrating Eid al-Fitr has been optional at the beginning of the revolution, it has become obligatory during one of its advanced stages since the escalation of security problems and deterioration of the living conditions forced Syrians to adopt such position.
Mrs. Um Baraa, a 36 years old lady from Ghouta, Damascus, was one of these Syrians. She talked to us about her Eid saying that “it was my first Eid far away from my house, family or siblings. It was our first Eid without knowing where my brother was or where he was arrested at the end of 2012. With every passing month our hope of meeting him or hearing any news of his survival diminished.”
She remains silent each time she felt affected and then continues saying: “We have faith in the mercy of the Lord of the Worlds, but we are also confident regarding how far the regime’s criminality and harassment of its opponents can go. These doubts were later confirmed when we received the news about the martyrdom of my brother under torture.”
The escalation and the bombing of Ghouta forced Mrs. Um Baraa and her husband to leave just like thousands of families and to head back to regime-held countryside areas. She affirmed: “We went out carrying only the clothes we had on our bodies and we resorted to strangers’ houses. While I was staying in a room inside the house of a strange family, my family was far away from me in Ghouta and we were separated by barriers and armies. I used to have my own house. Believe me I was waiting for Eid to end and pass. I felt my children’s fear and shame and saw how they looked at other children. Does a displaced have Eid?”
1 Shawwal 1438
Do not Postpone Joy
Um Baraa is still far away from her home in Ghouta. Her son, who was displaced since he was a baby, is now old enough to be in kindergarten. However, he does not know his home, neighbourhood, mother’s and father’s family.
She declared that “it wasn’t his fault. At the beginning, it was difficult for me to accept the situation in which we were and to postpone everything in my life and my family’s until we return to Ghouta. However, few months after our departure Ghouta was besieged and the entry to it became almost impossible. Our financial situation prevented us from bearing the costs of travelling outside Syria, so we only had to adapt. My husband found a job in a factory and we rented a two-room house. I also started working in mending dresses and doing some simple sewing.”
In Eid al-fitr, Um Baraa tried her best to prepare a modest and joyful celebration atmosphere. She described this effort saying: “I have cleaned the house without water because of its shortage. I bought fabrics and sewed my children clothes for Eid. I intend to make some home-made petit fours as an alternative to Maamoul.”
The Expatriate has Eid too
Hajj Abu Mohammed, a 60 year old man resident in Iskenderun in southern Turkey, affirmed that: “Eid al-Fitr is a reward from the Lord of the Worlds for fasting men, and as long as we are fasting in Ramadan, our break-fast joy is present.” He also declared that “we are still strangers in this country. This feeling is difficult and harsh. However, do we have to stop living until the collapse of the regime, which is supported by all the countries in the world? We went out of our country without knowing when would we return, but what is certain is that our lack of joy in Eid will not bring us closer to returning or defeating al-Assad.”
Hajj Abu Mohammed pointed out the calamity in the celebrations of all Syrians because of the continuous pain and injustice they are encountering. He stated: “My children had quit studying at the beginning of the revolution and my son refused to marry until the collapse of the regime. But did this bring down the regime? People are trying to look for joy and seize their chance not because of the improvement of the situation, both here and in Syria, but because of its continuous deterioration and decline, so we should not waste more opportunities. We should try to rejoice with who remained of our children and families and say ‘may God bless you with return, victory and the collapse of the regime.’”