Wed 14 Nov 2018

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The Hidden Side of Rights Defenders

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Syrian journalist and Syria correspondent for Reporters Without Borders

Syrian journalist and Syria correspondent for Reporters Without Borders

By Mansour Omari

I sat behind the camera, looking at Yusuf, who was getting ready to speak about the details of the sexual abuse he was subject to, at an Air Force Intelligence branch in Damascus. His wife was behind me.

“He inserted the head of the AK-47 into my anus, and began to rotate it”, said Yusuf, and collapsed into tears. I felt hopeful.

Good! The signs of torture are still seen on his body.

How beautiful is the sight of a tender and wounded baby’s hand, stretched out the rubble of his/her home, trembling alive!

I feel happy only when I recognize the face of a friend who was killed under torture, among Caesar Photos, or I see dead bodies in a mass grave of ISIS victims.

I enjoy seeing an eighty-years-old woman, sitting under a single tree, in a desolate plain, after she lost all her children, and waited for a drink of water.

Before the war in Syria, I used to spend my time in cafes, swimming pools, cinemas, or with friends. Today, my favorite hobby is to search for news of killing, torture, rape and slaughter, and spend time with the images of the dead and videos of mass atrocities.

I now, turned into a greedy container for the huge flow of news, images and videos of crimes, violations, including blood, cries of pain, and remains of dead people.

These atrocities, became a part of my life, messing around inside me with or without my awareness. My relations with my friends, family, and even myself that I don’t even recognize sometimes, has changed forever.

Fayrouz used to colour my dawn’s sunbeams with her songs, and I repeated with her “fly kite fly”. Today, I start my mornings, with listening to the sounds of a hospital warning bombed by Assad or Putin’s planes, who knows? What I know is that I’m reconsidering the meaning of a flying kite.

I am rethinking of the axioms, even of the core of the simple feelings.

The equations of basic joy became impossible to solve, and the chemistry of satisfaction is unstable. I feel happy if someone agreed to speak up about the abuses she/he was subject to, so that I could highlight this crime. I feel good when I see a person who has lost everything, his loved ones, his childhood home, even parts of his body, and subjected to various kinds of torture, and displacement, but that someone is still alive and hopes for a better future.

A dead under torture’s photo or a mass grave that exposes the crimes and hidden horrors of the Syrian war, is my most precious gift. It is the evidence that will confront the perpetrator and will one day bring him to justice.

Whenever I think that my heart is the king of pain, and that I have seen the most terrible and painful in the Syrian war, a hidden monster emerges from the rubble, to pump fiery blood in my heart that puzzled Medusa.

A few months ago, Gaëtan Mootoo, an Amnesty International well-known researcher, stopped his heart, leaving a suicide note in which he spoke of the “heavy and additional workload; help which was never forthcoming”. Two months later, Roz McGregor, and Amnesty International intern, took her own life for similar reasons.

I think, from time to time, why I don’t escape this mental anarchy? Why I don’t give up and end my suffering. Perhaps, because I was detained, and I experienced the horrors that the victims endure. But I survived, so that it not moral for me to just ignore them. Perhaps the most terrible thing I would do is to give away what others have sacrificed for, the detainees who struggle daily to stay alive. Or because I lost everything, my home, my country and memories, and I no longer see anything else in life more important than trying to save even one life, or expose a crime. Perhaps not this or that, but I am simply doing my duty to defend the victims in a world that seems to be perpetuating injustice.

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