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

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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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