It was a nice day in Aleppo when a friend asked to meet and advised me to vote the next day for Hafez al-Assad to avoid a worse situation as a university student. That year was my last chance to find a solution to my situation before having to do the military service for 27 months.
I could barely drag myself out of bed the next morning. I didn’t even shower ! Arriving to the Faculty of Medicine “voting center”, I was shocked by the new invention of the University of Aleppo’s Baath Party Branch. Students were leaving the ballot room with a piece of cotton on their thumbs.
It was a small room with two grumpy security police officers, a university lab technician, a female employee, and a table with a cartoon box on its top. I entered the room hastily wanting to be done with the whole thing as fast as I can. I provided my ID card, took the ballot paper and asked for a pen. One of the security police officers asked me why I needed a pen, and arrested me later for insisting to vote in a normal way.
My uncle who works for the military managed to get me out, leaving behind two teeth and a huge amount of blood. According to my uncle, I shouldn’t have taken any kind of stand that could have harmed “his position”, I couldn’t change anything, and Syria would be like this “forever”.
Because of this incident, I stopped trying to transfer myself into another field of study. I just wanted to find a way out of Syria, without having to go to a gulf country where Syrians had the choice of paying 5000 US Dollars to be exempted from the military service. However, things didn’t go the way I wanted, and I became a fugitive to avoid joining the military service. Welcome to the new millennium!
10 June 2000, I was on the phone with a friend, when the Syrian TV announced that Hafez al-Assad died. I remember wandering the streets looking for any kind of opposition to what was about to happen – Bashar inheriting the presidency. “What can we do?” many said. Syria was like a big prison for a few days. Hafez Assad had made sure before he died that the transition would be smooth and with minimal opposition.
Around mid-July, I went to Hama. To my surprise, my uncle told me that I had voted yes for Bashar. When I asked him how it was possible to vote “on my behalf” without having my ID card, he just said, “They don’t care, they just want as many “yes-votes” as possible, even your grandfather and father voted yes”. Knowing that my grandfather died in 1990 and my father died in 1994, you can imagine how I was feeling at that moment.
A few months later, Bashar started “implementing” his so-called reforms, which I called “the foundations of the new wave of massive corruption”. However, one of those allowed me, having spent my childhood out of Syria, to pay the exemption fee and gain my freedom. Having a boyfriend who had moved to Jordan a few months earlier, I paid the 5000 US Dollars and moved to Jordan wanting to be away from political activism and just have a “normal life”. It was my convection back then that the whole world was ruled by a bunch of idiots – George W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, King Abdullah of Jordan, Mubarak, Ben Ali, Bouteflika, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Syria’s own idiot: Bashar … etc. However, bad habits die hard – I just found myself drawn to the cause of all Syrians, Palestine.
Even though I am 100% Syrian, I have always had the belief that all Arabs should be Palestinians at heart. I grew up with Palestinian friends whose parents and grandparents were there to tell us history stories we couldn’t read about in books. Despite the fact that Palestinians are the majority of the population in Jordan, Palestinian refugee camps there were sometimes in a worse condition compared to those in other countries. Moreover, it was highly dangerous to be involved in any kind of activism in Jordan. I kept my opinions to myself, and decided to watch the idiots and lament.
One day, near the Shabsough cafeteria Down Town Amman, I saw people running trying to find some TV screens. I didn’t realize what was happening, but I tried to have a glance. I thought it was another Israeli attack on Lebanon or Palestinian territories, but it was New York – it was 9/11.
Most religious Jordanians were/are Salafis. Suddenly, Osama Bin Laden was the new hero for those people. Another idiot figure was symbolized by a group of common idiots to be believed in as the enemy of the rest of the idiots whom the common idiots had hated for a long time – quite an equation!
I was out of business with those bearded idiots for rejecting violence. Unfortunately, they were my target clients, and they literally controlled the market. Most of them were merely using religion to gain more money for themselves from the rest of the common idiots. However, I was fired!
Finding another job was easier than I thought. Yet, I kept thinking of going back to school since I was in the region where even a forged university degree was more important than real experience and good knowledge. I managed to get myself back to a high school exam in Syria while still living in Jordan. Three years later, I couldn’t handle the pressure of studying away from my university and having to travel for exams every few months, and neither did my relationship of nine years. I came back to Syria in 2005 with a broken heart and a new hope.
After five years as a president, Bashar al-Assad proved to be the idiot my uncle said he was, especially with the way of handling the aftermath of the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Having always wanted the Syrian Army being pulled out of Lebanon, I became a frequent visitor of the country. Lebanese suffered many losses before seeing the Syrian Army and the Assads’ photos out of Lebanon. Being finally able to see an “Assad-photo-free Lebanon”, I wondered how much we have to lose as Syrians before we gain the same victory for ourselves!
In 2005, the respect I had for Hassan Nasrallah – for freeing South Lebanon from the Israelis in 2000 – turned into despise especially when he opposed his own people and stressed that the Syrian regime and Bashar al-Assad were his allies. “A hero” turned into another idiot, which is always expected in politics. However, “the July War” was the point where Nasrallah turned into the murderer who provoked a war that resulted in the deaths of Lebanese civilians for what seemed to be a distraction from the political loss his “party” was suffering in Lebanon. Moreover, in 2007 and 2008, Hezbollah proved to be nothing but an outlaw Islamic armed group when they engaged in an armed struggle with other Lebanese. This thought was/is considered by the Syrian regime as treason.
I managed to learn from my experiences that it is useless to fight alone the fierce machines of oppression. Therefore, I worked hard and succeeded. I had my own apartment and what I convinced myself to be a “good life”, until I saw a Tunisian guy on the news shouting with joy “Ben Ali escaped… Ben Ali fled the country!”
2011: A cancer patient mother, a sick beloved nephew, a country in transformation, an idiot on rampage, over 5500 civilian deaths, activism on many levels, and increasing homophobia. It was the end of two decades of frustration, but not with homophobia!
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