Last Friday, the sky of Damascus was in rainbow colours for a couple of hours, music in the street, dancing, and joy all over the place; inhabitants of the Syrian capital, went out celebrating the commencement of the “I Love Damascus” statue at the heart of the city, Umayyad Square. Meanwhile, a couple of kilometers away were heavy clashes.
The event was organized by Damascus Youth Voluntary Team in cooperation with Damascus City Council and a number of sponsors. Participants wore white T-shirts with the phrase “I <3 Damascus” on them and sprinkled powder colours with the rhythms of music forgetting about the bullets and bombings not so far away from them.
However, this event started such a big controversy all over Syria. The controversy was whether such public celebrations were proper at such time of crisis or not. Opposing views ranged between carelessness, expressing anger, and reached vulgar accusations of irresponsibility and lack of National commitment and honor.
First was the group that opposed this event. This groups saw that there is suffering and pain all over the country, there are people mourning the death of their beloveds, people who have lost their homes, people who have been on the frontlines for years, and it is disrespectful to show joy and celebrations publically, that everyone must adopt a grey mood that suits the atmosphere. One Facebook subscriber wrote ” This ‘I Love Damascus’ event makes you feel sick and hate Damascus as if all its jasmine is wateedd by Barada river sewage system”. The photos of some topless guys upset many people especially that there are people doing military service for six years now while others are just dancing as if there is nothing to care about. A young man posted two photos comparing the topless colourful men from the event with Syrian army soldiers dusted after a fierce battle to show that both adopt “I love Damascus” but each in a different way. The ones to the write, adopt it theoretically, while the ones to the left, show their love through real action.
From another perspective, many people were not against the marathon as an event, but against the huge focus it received at the time there are millions of families suffering poverty, displacement and siege without any attention paid to them from the media. Maybe it would have been better if the money spent on that event was used to build a school or a camp for the displaced, or any other project that would have helped thousands of people in need.
On the other side were those pleased with the event. They simply believe that life must go on, that burying oneself in sadness and misery is useless. They see that after five years of darkness, Damascus deserves those rainbow colours, deserves some joy. They never meant to belittle the suffering of others, but if war has taught them anything, it was that life is too short to waste any chance of joy.
Those who went out to the streets to participate could not care less about the background of the event, whether it was to celebrate the statue, to celebrate World Smile Day, or if it was for charity, they just believe that joy needs no justification!
Barely 24 hours had passed by before another issue came out to start a new wave of arguments. The statue was damaged; the “s” in the middle of the word “Damascus” fell down, and now it reads as “Damacus”.
The huge contradictions Syrian cities live have become too normal in a way that people simply have no choice but to let go. Syrian journalist Maher Al Mounness wrote late Friday night: “Today, each has a world of his own .. in the morning was colours marathon in Mezzeh, a few meters away there were clashes in Al-Hameh.. A little while ago, parties in bars of Bab Sharqi went wild.. and a couple of meters away from them in Al-Ameen neighbourhood you can hear Ashura Lectures .. Clashes, marathon, dancing and mourning in one day, in one city! Damascus!”
Difference is a healthy state in any community, variation of opinions is what keeps this community moving and develops it, but the only thing that stands as a threat, is when we do not accept our differences and insist on changing one another to be mere copies. After all those bitter years of war, and with such a simple event, we come to see that not all Syrians have not learnt the lesson, there are still some people who want to speak but never want to listen.
I look back at history, and I think of how many nations on this planet have been through wars. What would societies that went through wars be like now if they had confined themselves to misery and grey shades every time they were in trauma? Is it right to allow war deprive us of the little joy we still have?
I might not be sure of the answer, but there is one thing I am sure of .. I Love Syria..