Lloyd Young

1. A person suffering from autism stands in front of the camera and makes us witness the scars of the whipping and electrocution on his chest, legs and arms. His eyes are swollen, his cheeks black and blue, his lips split, yet he continues to smile. He is happy to be filmed and to soak up the attention.

2. The little girl lost her mother. Everyone was preoccupied with escorting the martyr to her final resting place, with the revolution, with the slogans. The girl closed the door behind her and drew an image of her mother with chalk on the floor of the room. Beside it she wroteMummy’. She fell asleep embracing her drawing.

3. One wounded ankle is bleeding, the other is covered by a sock adorned with a red ball. A girl, four years of age, with a shoe size of 27, was not rushed to hospital. They treated her in the same way that they treated all the patient revolutionaries – at home, in hiding, and without anaesthetic. As the bullet was removed from her ankle, she screamed in pain. The doctor tried to calm her: ‘Soon the pain will be gone!’

4. A three-year-old child knew his faith and his Lord, knew his friend from his foe, knew his path from the moment they killed his mother. He led protests every day, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar, takbeer! Allahu Akbar, takbeer! The President will fall!’ And he would repeat, ‘Allahu Akbar, the People Want the Execution of the President!’ He looks in anger from the corner of his eye and inspires those present to follow his lead and to also call: ‘Takbeer! Takbeer!’

5. Hiding in underground passages, sitting on a ragged rug and shifting their weight from side to side, drinking maté, dreaming of freedom and justice, and talking in quiet and quivering voices. They discuss politics and sing; yet at every moment they are under threat of being raided and attacked, tortured, killed, and cut up into pieces.

6. The family wrapped up their martyred son, laid him on two wooden ledges, and tied the corpse with rope. They said, ‘Bismillah ur-rahman ur-rahim, In the name of the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.’ They threw the rope to the neighbouring alleyway; the people of the alleyway pulled him along, and then they in turn threw the rope to the next alleyway. Passing in this way from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, their murdered son, shot by gunfire, tied to two ledges, and under continuous gunfire, arrived safely at his grave. In one voice all the alleyways repeated: ‘Alhumdulillah! Alhumdulillah! Thank God! thank God!’

7. Her father arrived home dead. The sound of the mother’s, aunts’ and the whole family’s wailing could be heard everywhere. A girl amongst them screamed: ‘But this isn’t my dad! My dad is more beautiful than this.’

8. Two young men remained for months in the city of wonders. One wrote lyrics and the other sang. The first would randomly write word after word without rhythm or care and the second would happily sing, both of them in harmony and mutual understanding. Hearing them, the residents of the sad city became happy. They would meet every day and gather around these young men calling for the fall of the tyrant and they clapped as they sang. One day the television announced that the singer had been killed. The people were shocked. Then they disregarded this news which did not concern them. So no-one knows how the two voices survived; one would write lyrics and the other would sing and warble.The residents of the city, whose number grew steadily less as they were killed, continued to protest and to call their slogans unceasingly.

9. When the lover was informed, she came at great speed. Pouncing without any thought, she began kissing the face and cheek of her husband’s corpse. Her tears fell; she lifted his head and buried it in her chest. Tilting her head and scolding him fiercely, then kissing his face and cheeks and stroking his skin softly. Her headscarf and coat were coming undone. Her sister called: ‘Come here!’ The woman did not hear; she was entirely unaware of her lack of modesty.

10. The young man leaping up from between the protestors, the veins on his neck bulging, his index finger raised, shouts: ‘I am not an animal.’

11. The man’s palm caresses the corpse of his murdered son. He tries to swallow his tears so that he can clearly and in a manly fashion describe the manner in which his son was killed at the protest. Yet the piercing camera sees through his attempts to compose himself. The lens does not turn a blind eye to the man’s condition as he had hoped; in fact it exposes all the tenderness in his voice, his weakness and his pain.

12. The mother looks in bewilderment on the moving casket which is carrying her son away, her eyes unbelieving, yet she continues to repeat, reassuring herself and those who hear her, from the Lord in the heavens to His creatures on earth, that her son is a martyr.

13. Exiled, far away, alone, he follows his motherland’s revolutions, wishing, craving, laughing, crying, screaming, praying – and when his loved ones are killed, he kneels down in prayer. He screams aloud with his hand covering his mouth. No one hears or sees him in this state. When he is done wailing, he washes his face and returns to his seat in front of the computer. He follows the news, wishing, laughing, screaming, praying – and when his loved ones are killed, he kneels down in prayer.

14. The person, who doesn’t understand anything of what is happening except his pain, rushes to the frontline, threatens and promises, then reprimands the world for its negligence – and when he calms down he states an opinion.

15. In his grief the distant citizen yearns to shackle the hands of the aggressors who are fiercely beating their victims, while he watches via the television screen.

16. Pupils at school are chanting with the revolutionaries as if they were adults. Their mothers are waiting at home. These pupils, or at least some of them, may not return, even though their mothers are awaiting their return so that they may bathe, have supper and sleep.

17. He abstained from international festivities. He crouched in the corner replaying all that had happened. He was overcome with sorrow. He thought he’d be able to strap himself with bombs and blow up the world. Later on, with a trembling heart, he was on the verge of surrendering to tears. By the time Valentine’s Day arrived his heart was numb and the criminals were victorious.

Manhal al-Sarraj is a Syrian novelist based in Sweden. Her first novel, As the River Must, considers the Hama massacre of 1982, and is banned in Syria.

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