It’s Been Four Years: A Personal Letter to the Douma Four
Samira Al-Khalil, along with Razan Zeitouneh, and Wael and Nazim Hamadeh, have been kidnapped for four years now. Four.
On April 2017, Yassin Al Haj Saleh, Samira’s Husband, was kind enough to send me her “Diaries Under Siege in Douma“. I was living in hell, crippled by depression and PTSD, trying to find a meaning to our diaspora, and struggling with my own personal trauma. If you know me, you’d know that I am not a woman of faith. I live in doubt and I question everything. I try to hold on to certain beliefs about our humanity and dignity, our kindness and compassion. Growing up a woman in Syria in a closed religious community, I was not privileged enough to have women as role models. I turned to books in order to find women writers with whom I can identify and to whom I could look up. I can’t say it was an easy task. And I can definitely say I did not have any Syrian women to look up to, excluding the hardworking women all around me who endured and gave so much to survive and give as mothers and wives. Why do we need women like Samira Al-Khalil and Razan Zeitouneh? Other than the obvious fact that they deserve to be with their loved ones, we need them because we are in desperate need of strong educated women figures. Because our younger girls and boys have no one to look up to, because my heart breaks every time my nephew says he wants to be a fighter, instead of a writer or human rights defender, because that’s all that he’s exposed to. The idea of translating Samira’s book of diaries under siege gave my existence meaning during the summer of 2017, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said it saved my life in a way. Because even though we might not know where Samira and many courageous activists are, we can still feel them with us, and we can still fight their battles with all of our brokenness and heartbreak. As Yassin mentioned earlier today, the Syrian cause is comprised of individual stories like Samira’s and many others. And I might not be a believer, but there’s nothing that I believe more than the power of personal stories, the power of the authentic narrative of people’s lives.
Samira, Razan, Wael, and Nazim, we miss you, and we will be waiting and working hard until you return.
Samira al-Khalil’s book Yawmiyyat al-Hisar fi Douma 2013 (“Journal of the 2013 Siege of Douma“), edited by Yassin al-Haj Saleh, was published in Arabic in 2016 by the Arab Institute for Research & Publishing.
Sarah Hunaidi’s translation of the Diaries will come out in 2018.