Are you ready to die?
Do not bother to wear bulletproof suit or helmet, for those cannot protect you from rockets, being kidnapped, or slaughtered.
If you’re a woman, there is no harm in hugging your husband or boyfriend in a last goodbye, for who knows when will you be assaulted in the land of hell. People over there are barbarian monsters, shooting at each other for no reason.
Apart from our most prominent visitors over the past half a decade, Jihadists of Houriyat, there has been a stranger kind of visitors. Our crazy visitors have heard about Syria what is much worse that what the previous lines have described, yet they never hesitated on taking the adventure..
Someone said to me once “I fear those women .. They leave their peaceful life and come to Syria?! Syria?! I can never understand them”
What has preceded is the normal narrative when we the talk is about Syria, in both Arab and Western media. Our culture, history, identity have been reduced into two basic concepts: refugees and radicalism.
The American Janice Kortkamp could not stop herself from laughing when I asked her about her experience as a woman in Syria last April. I asked whether she has been harassed or forced to wear head cover or the like, whether she has felt insecure or threatened, I asked her “weren’t you afraid??”, especially that she comes from the US whose government has been a basic reason behind the suffering of people in Syria, whether by imposing sanctions or funding extremist fighters AKA “moderate rebels”. Janice took sometime to recover from laughing and said, “I have found nothing but love and respect from everyone I have met”. She is a housewife who lives with her family in Virginia, and knew nothing about Syria before 2011. However, during the five years of war she has become a dedicated follower of the events here, she has had daily regular hours on Facebook and the internet communicating with Syrians inside and outside Syria who she came to rely on as her reliable source of news. She came to be so familiar with people and culture so that even her family and husband were assured that she will be safe in her trip. “I love Syria, and wanted to show the people there others love them enough to risk the war situation. But honestly, I didn’t feel afraid when I was there. Maybe I should have! But I didn’t”, thus spoke Janice.
Another visitor was Dr. Tim Anderson, a senior lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Sydney, and one of the founding members of Hands OFF Syria, Australia. Dr. Anderson has been to Syria many times since 2013 and has published the book “The Dirty War in Syria”. Anderson was not satisfied with the one-sided version of news about Syria that has on Australian media when events started in Deraa. He began to investigate events and news on his own until he reached the conclusion that was absolutely different from the propaganda promoted by that media. On every visit he has made he became more asserted that the filthy game played by western governments aims at destroying Syria and robbing the Syrians of their right to a normal and peaceful life to maintain a state of chaos and terror in the region. “Warmth and deep culture” of the Syrians he has met on various occasions have made him more committed to what he is doing for Syria.
Western community, cannot isolate itself from the Syrian war and the events in the middle East in general, especially with the huge flow of refugees that has gone out of control in the last two years. However, this community still insists on staying on the running wheel without any attempt to act upon the poisonous information offered by western propagandized media. This community, still refuses to leave the running wheel and go see the world from another perspective. Kortkamp and Anderson and other who have a view that is not affected by mainstream media realise that part of the problem is that despite the unlimited sources which people can rely on to seek the truth, but mostly the public tends to rely on one source that gives them information the easy way regardless of its credibility.
At the same time, we cannot escape the fact that media institutions and bodies that have reporters on the ground in Syria are too few, therefore other local and humble media platforms barely copy those big monsters as Pierre Potgieter puts it. Potgieter, who came from South Africa told about media in his country where TV channels and newspapers rely on big names like Associated press or Reuters, and even if somebody tries to give a personal perspective or comment, they can hardly liberate from the narrative of western media that humanises terrorists fighting in Syria instead of condemning them and those standing behind them.
I could not help smiling when Pierre spoke about his surprise when he arrived in Damascus. “I knew that Damascus city was relatively safe, but I was surprised when I arrived at night to see a city full of life”, said Pierre. What if people south Africa tried to listen to his story, his version of the truth?? Wouldn’t they feel triggered to see things from another angle?
The Canadian freelance journalist and rights activist Eva Bartlett was also over any stereotypical image about Syria as she has been in the region before as she has spent around three years in Gaza, Palestine. Bartlett is a co-founder and on the steering committee of the The Syria Solidarity Movement International, she has been to Syria four times, and is now on her fifth visit (third time as journalist); yet, she still feels the thrill every time she arrives and sees in all Syrian cities people’s will to live and survive and defend their homeland. She considers not visiting opposition-held areas “a moral choice” and summarizes her point by saying that “the myth that government-secured areas contain only pro-government Syrians is not true: their are Syrians of different political views in these cities, and the bottom line is that they themselves have fled areas where terrorists reign”.
I cannot help describing those visitors as crazy, because we would be lying if we said that their trips did not involve any dangers or threats even if they have only been to government controlled areas, because rockets and bombings could happen anywhere. When I asked the four of them how were they able to make such an insane decision of coming to the most dangerous place on earth now, they all gave the same answer. They all never hesitated to say that Syrians have been suffering for years now like no one has ever suffered, and they never considered themselves more important than the Syrian people, and that those visits where the least thing they could do to show their solidarity with the great Syrian people.
I have been personally touched by those brave visitors.. Go to those people’s pages, read the accounts of their visits. Those crazy visitors are a sample of many others who despite all circumstances and obstacles have been to Syria to see with their eyes and tell the world the truth about a wonderland named Syria. Those people have been able to present a picture of our lives as Syrians more than any big media establishment has ever done. They touched the feelings of thousands on Facebook, even without meeting them in person, and I am one of those who have been overwhelmed by the love and respect such people have for my country and for human values. They have done something different from what news channels do by summarising our life into a breaking news tab at the bottom of the screen and a couple of ready-made phrases that instigate only more hatred and violence.
If I wanted to write all I have in mind on those people I would not finish today, and one post or article would not do them their right. But I am sure that their accounts of life in Syria, of people’s simples and tears, of sad and happy moments they have lived during their visits will do much better than my humble words..