Tuesday, July 31, 2012
I was watching some footage emerging from Syria, and the violence is still as shocking as it ever was. In one video the body of a man is dragged through the streets, in another, a body turns slowly as it hangs from its neck. The latest footage making its way around is the execution of members of the Barri clan of Aleppo. There isn’t much sympathy over them, judging by the comments being made, as it seems this pro-Assad clan has been accused of murder, rape, and pillaging. Still, there is always something sombre and unnerving about watching a group of men sitting at a wall one moment and then dead the next. I remember the first videos I saw of Assad’s men as they butchered and rampaged their way across the country, arrogant and boastful. One video horrified me, that of a protester whose jaw was blown off and yet who remained lucid until he died – I think he died. Now that I see the shabbiha [Assad’s paramilitaries] being lynched by those who were once their victims I feel guilty about feeling guilty. How can I not be when I’m seeing another human being dying so? Even one who might have been so utterly evil? The laws are silent, and Syria is at war; is there anything else one can do but wait until the madness goes away?
When I was young I used to enjoy reading about ancient battles. Alexander the Great conquering Persia, the battles of Marathon and Salamis, the Roman and Islamic conquests, the Crusades – all captured my imagination. But the books didn’t talk about all this horror and savagery, for a young boy it all seemed so clean cut and glorious. As I see the body of a man dragged through the streets in revenge, I wonder whether it was like this when Achilles dragged Hector’s body around Troy, or when Hind ate Hamza’s liver. I never realised that death looked like so much dust and blood.