I would like to start this diary entry with a moment of silence for the victims of the crisis in Syria, which has seen hideous death and pain. We have lost too many, and we would drown in tears if we were to count them all.
The last four years have been odd beyond imagination. No one could have predicted these strange years of sad Syrian history, as the whole world watched passively, and just waited for what was coming next, with its arms folded.
Now it’s a new year, and we don’t know what’s in store for us. We cannot predict it, because the balance of life is disrupted. Smiling faces in the street, traditional Christmas cookies, the delightful Christmas trees full of bells: All these things used to symbolize happiness, and perhaps these symbols could be restored. I feel very sad about Santa Claus, who turned from being a symbol of hope and goodness into a symbol of horror, and the gifts of Christmas Eve were bombs raining on children’s beds, taking their lives and killing their innocent childish dreams. I’m sorry for the redness of Santa’s outfit, as it became a symbol of all the bloodshed. It hurts my heart to see how everything has changed. How did this happen?!
When I was a little girl, New Year’s Eve was a very special occasion. I used to wait for Santa Claus to put a gift under my pillow. It’s not our Eid to celebrate, but my mom seized joy wherever it was, and she always brought some of it home. I used to look forward to this day, as we used to go to Al-Hamidiyah market to watch Santa Claus standing at the gate giving out candies and balloons. At the end of the market, Umayyad mosque stood tall and proud, and on its right was the Goldsmiths market, which used to be bustling with Jewish people. Close to it there was the area of Bab Touma, where Christians mostly lived. There was also the Lady Ruqayya mosque, which is a shrine for the Shiites. All the shops in the market celebrated, and this gave the impression that Eid was for everyone, and you could feel the harmony between people of different religions to the extent that you couldn’t tell the difference between them. We’ve always shared their joys, and they’ve shared ours. We respected their religions, and they respected ours. I remember going back home filled with happiness and joy with a Santa hat on my head, thinking thoughts of peace and love. This night was also my father’s birthday, so my mom made sweets and we all sat together and filled the place with laughter in the wonderful candlelight.
What distorted our religion with all the killing and horrors? What drew a red line between it and other religions? Sectarianism was spread among us, although we’re all humans and all living in Syria. We were born to build on this earth, not defile it. How terrible and dangerous that is! Sometimes I can’t believe what happened, and still is happening. Everything around us has changed, or maybe it’s us who changed. We have become very different people from who we used to be. We love what we hated, and maybe hate what we loved, to the extent that we forgot what we once clung to, and our principles are gone.
With the beginning of 2015, let’s allow ourselves to reflect on the old days. Let’s take a look at the past four years and wonder, Were we winning or losing? Of course, and without hesitation, we were losing, but what did we lose? Our losses are limitless, we lost the lives of many, a lot of us are physically or psychologically disabled, our youth lost their dreams, our children lost their smiles. We live a life without hope, our days have no future, there is disintegration, dispersion and homelessness. The most precious thing we lost was our humanity and our self-respect, for we will realize that we’ve been fighting each other only when it’s too late, when Syria sinks in great pain and with deep wounds, and Syrians have lost their dignity and their lives. How harsh fate has been to Syria!
I will do what I used to do when I was little: I will close my eyes and wish for a new year in which the lost humanity will find its way back to being human. Let’s all hope the first days of this year will be the beginning of the end of this overwhelming mess inside and around us. Let’s all clean our hearts and minds to find peace, and to live a decent life.
Will my wish for this year come true? Or will it remain only a dream? I don’t know. ♦
Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.