“There is no greater pain than the memory of happiness when you know it is one you will never find again…”

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In Syria, Turkish soldiers are constantly getting killed, and each time, instead of asking why the hell the Turkish army is over there, Turkish people direct their anger against the poor Syrian refugees fleeing from war.

For obscure reasons, they pass judgment not on State policies that fan war in another country, nor on the hypocritical men and women politicians, but on desperate people who have lost their homes. Instead of saying “let no one die!” they holler without shame or compassion “why should our soldiers die, let these people die instead.”

Just as they said after the rape of the 9-month old baby from a Syrian family working on a farm in order to survive, just as they said after Amir Hattab’s tragic death who committed suicide by throwing himself in a sewer; just as they said, stone-hearted, about a person who had never petted a dog, never read poetry, never been a child among children: “they should have stayed in their country and fought”…

I don’t know what qualifiers I can use for those who can speak those sentences when faced with a life ending in a sewer, the miserable life of a person who, not wanting to kill or to die, found himself in a hell worse than death, in a country that seemed to open its arms to him but that was, in truth, one of the instigators of war in his country; or again about a tiny girl child, raped in the 9th month of her miserable life.

Not a single day goes by without coming across that sentence that is a torture on one’s conscience: “From Syria, we receive the remains of our martyrs, and the Syrian go to Syria for the holidays during the feast days. May God curse them.” Why should God curse these poor people? Are they the ones who declared war? Who would wish to leave his country, his home, lose his beloved and live in exile abroad? Should everyone be forced to kill or to die in wars they never chose, each one dirtier than the previous ones? Is everyone obliged to be tyrannical and warlike to the point of taking lives in the name of a few others’s lust for power? Your child is precious, but theirs are garbage? Are they the ones responsible for what is going on? You lose a needle and fall into a depression whereas they ‘only’ lose their life. With no home, no shelter, among people who hate them, they have fallen into the depth of misery and something worse than despair… Why are you so offended to see them, returning twice a year to meet with their few surviving relatives?

As North-American Indians, historical peoples, said “it is not the earth that belongs to humans, but humans to the earth.” And in this epehmeral world where we are but visitors for a few days who settle and then fly away from random native lands; what right have you to turn out anyone from any land? Do you think you are a god?

Do you believe perhaps that all the Syrians in your country are well-off or militant pawns of power? If so, who then are those thousands we see every day, seedy children and adults, searching for bread in the trash? Who then are those hard-working ones you exploit in your second-rate businesses, for one quarter the salary, with no social security, pleasantly smiling as you do but against whom you spew all your hatred when you see them resting their exhausted bodies on a piece of shoreline?

Who is Ala Hennuş? Who is Amir Hattap?

I know who they are. If you want, I can remind you with the articles I wrote with tears in my eyes, when I read about their death in the papers. Perhaps there remain a few grams of crumbs of humanity in you, and that you will experience a bit of regret for each imprecation you hurled at these poor people.

* * *

They were two young Syrian refugees. They fled from the dirty war launched in their country by those who never go to the front lines, any more than their children do. They took refuge in Turkey, the country of the ansârs (in Islam, the prophet’s companions) and they lost their life there.

Theys ay “someone truly dies when the last person to remember him disappears”. Dear Ala Hennuş, and dear Amir Hattab, I promise to remember you for as long as I live and I will not allow your to disappear. Until my final breath, I will go on spitting on the face of those who rejoice in your premature departure, and I will make sure they can never forget you either.

Ala Hennuş • The cost of death, 80 centimes

(August 28 2019)

ala hanus syriensIt was an ordinary day in Antalya. The heat bore down at 40°. The beaches were crowded with proud White Turks tanning themselves and pleased to see that the coast had finally been cleared of those dirty Syrians.

The avenue in the market place was crowded also, as it is every day, with Syrians who waited for hours in the sun for three-penny jobs.

A man approached them… He said he had bags of flour in the bakery that needed moving to the stock room. He would pay 80 centimes of the Turkish lira for every bag (0,12€). He was probably smoking a cigarette from his red Marlboro pack costing 1700 centimes… (2,45€). A bag of flour weighs 50 kg. A standard 200g bread costs 150 centimes (0,22€).

Ala Hennuş, a young man of 23, was among those Syrians that day “willing to take on any work”. Practically running over one another, they all threw themselves on the man offering 80 centimes per 50kg bag, fighting in order to be chosen, “Take me! Take me!” The lucky ones were Ala and another Syrian.

Ala and his companion boarded the baker’s several million-centimes car and headed for the bakery. Their hearts were beating with a bitter joy at having found this job that would offer them only the price of one loaf for two bags of carried flour. However, in the hovel where they lived, their family, probably a score of people, were waiting for the bread. With that in mind, in order to buy one bread per person, they would have to each carry at least some twenty bags. One ton. This is not a metaphorical figure but a real ton. The car moved ahead while they worried “Would there be 40 bags to carry?”

They arrived at last. They set to the work that would make them earn the cost of a loaf, by carrying 2 50-kg bags, each bag providing enough flour for 250 loaves. One loaf against the flour for 500 of them!

While the young Syrians sweated carrying those bags of flour the baker with his rami-playing friends sipped his tea in a café (cost 200 centimes) and rubbed his hands together with contentment. He smiled out of happiness, knowing he would only pay them a few centimes. He was perfectly aware of the reality. For someone to accept carrying one ton in order to buy 10 loaves of bread, that person had a 99% chance of being famished; but he did not experience one gram of concern over that.

The young Syrians went down into the stock room with their 50 kg bags on their backs, and came back up again. The heat from the oven was added to the 40° over Antalya. Their hearts were beating like bellows.

Were they famished? Probably. Were their bodies and their souls crushed under those bags? Certainly. Were their hearts, beating under the weight of their loads, filled with suffering? One hundred percent.

In the last seconds, before collapsing, what was Ala thinking whose heart could no longer bear the combined weight and sadness he had taken on? We will never know.

What was he thinking while drawing his last breath, when death exploded his heart burning with the sadness of memories… did he know he would never be revived? Did he think of the sound of laughter while joking with his friends in the canteen at the university where he had been studying, before his country was torn apart in a dirty war, looking hopefully toward a future that would give him the opportunity some day of being a veterinarian or a teacher? Was he thinking of a lover left behind, alive or dead? Of his parents, his companion, their starving children waiting at home, of ten loaves for the price of one ton of carried weight? Of his dog he loved so much, torn apart by a bomb in Syria? Of the basil he had planted to provide a bit of the perfume of hope in the hovel where he lived in exile. We will never know.

What we do know is what thousands of fascists not worth three centimes said, rejoicing over his death as they did for Amir Hattab who opened the first sewer he found and threw himself into it: “he croaked, good riddance!”

What we know is that with Ala expiring under a 50kg bag he carried for 80 centimes, humanity in this country also gave up its final breath.

Ala’s 23 years of a a short and desolate life, filled with all kinds of humiliations and exploitations, ended under a 50kg bag of flour worth 80 centimes in a country where so-called “prophets” who had found shelter there using the most fundamental of human rights, that of refusing to die and to kill in a dirty war declared by those who never send their own children there.

In this country of prophets, a loaf of bread costs 150 centimes.

The price of death, 80 centimes.

Humanity… zero.

Rabia Mine

Amir Hattab • A pit of shit is the name of death

(March 31 2016)

amir hattab syriensYou are walking down the street. Then, you stop suddenly, you open the trap to a sewer and you throw yourself into it.

Amir Hattab, 36, who had fled the war in Syria three years ago with his companion and their children, who had come to Istanbul and who, although working in a textile shop could not see his family, committed suicide that way in Esenler. I have just heard.

You are walking down the street. Then, you stop suddenly, you open the trap to a sewer and you throw yourself in it to commit suicide.

You are suffering so badly that you would rather die, drowned in the pit of excrement belonging to the thousands of devils in this infernal town.

You don’t throw yourself in front of a passing car. You don’t go searching for a rope on which to hang your body. You don’t swallow a full tube of medication. You don’t slit your wrists. You don’t jump off an overpass onto the road or off the Bosphorus bridge into the sea.

Whereas you could die scores of different ways, you drown yourself in the sewer.

A sewer!

What’s more, a sewer filled with the filth of the people who cause your awful suffering!
In my life, I’ve received the news of several suicides but none that have affected me so.

In this country, a new image of the beggar has appeared. It takes the form of parents and children, a photo of a Syrian family, begging… Each time I see this photo, the father grieves me even more that the wife and the children. They still manage to look us in the eye. The father’s head is always lowered in shame… Being unable to feed his family, he is forced to beg with them… What words could describe the heaviness in their soul? Every time I see such a father, I have trouble getting him out of my head.

Amir Hattab!

Perhaps that during his life in Syria, Amir Hattab was a loving father who came home every night with his arms laden down, who played with his children, who caressed their hair and who adored his companion. Perhaps Amir Hattab was a man who made others happy.

There is no greater pain than the memory of happiness, when it is one you know you will never find again…

Amir Hattab, who loathed himself for failing to safeguard that happiness and protect his family, who considered himself worthy of dying, drowned in a sewer. A man who takes on himself the bill of great crimes, shameful deeds and sins that should be paid by others. Such shame should be enough for the so-called humanity that is nothing other than a septic pit. But it will learn no lesson from it.

You’re walking down the street. Then, you stop suddenly, you open the lid to the sewer and you throw yourself in it to kill yourself.

Amir, behind you there is nothing but death that weeps and I. I promise you I will find your tomb in order to plant it over with the sweetest-smelling flowers. I will wash your soul and your fate in rosewater. I will wipe out the smell of the sewer from the world of your funeral.

Your sister, Rabia Mine

We are living through a terrifying period where fascism and racism are about to take over the world. From now on, everyone is a potential refugee.

Who can guarantee that some day, you will not become the Syrian in another country? Who can insure that when a terrible despair over the sufferings you experience will not become unbearable, you will not throw yourself into the first sewer on your way, to die there?

No one!

Do not forget Ala Hennuş and Amir Hattab. They were refugees in your country. They were killed by ignominy that says that “the lands belong to humans” and not the other way around. If the universe has a justice “the active principle is not the curse of the tyrant, but the blame of the oppressed”!

I recommend that you raise your bloody hands to heaven, not in order to curse the oppressed, but for your repentance.

If a god exists, then, he sees you. And if he is just, as you claim, he is adding logs to the fire than burns in hell.

May stones as big as the soul of these Syrians fall on your heads!

Rabia Mine

READ ALSO Music • “We offer our apologies”

rabia mine portraitRabia Mine

Writer and poet, activist in the defense of human rights. Author of the book of poems “Külden” (Ashes) published in Turkish in 2014.
She studied Law at Istanbul University and cinema-television at Mimar Sinan University. She has worked as production manager in cinema, editor and as an independent publisher.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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