Razan Zaitune, Experts Don’t Cry

(di Razan Zaitune*, Suriyyat). I need to watch more videos of the martyrs to be sure of the martyr’s name and the details of his martyrdom; tens of videos daily; and during the periodical review, I watch hundreds in the few hours of the day. The average time for watching each video is one minute. Within an hour, sixty bodies could be watched, unless the videos are of mass murders, then the number is multiplied.

Body after body: some are in shrouds, whereas others are still covered with their wounds and blood. Some faces seem to be panicked and shocked: Is this you, Death? Other faces look asleep for the absolute tranquility appearing on their features… Some are beautiful with soft skin and little primed mouths and a ghost of a smart smile. The martyred children and their eternal tampering with our souls.

The female martyrs are the less present on videos. You need to draw the martyr’s features in your imagination. The female martyrs leave in silence on YouTube. Most of the time, we cannot attend the rituals of pain in the first moments of their absence.

But the hardest videos are those of the martyrs in their death throes. In such cases, you find yourself obliged to respect their moments and not to move on to another video or to a new documentation. You have to hold the hand of this person suffering in front of you on the computer’s screen, to look deeply in their eyes even if the pain is pulling out your eyes, and to hear their final whispers.

They might say something in the language of the space lying between life and death. They might be sending an apology to a lover or a word of longing to a mother, or they might only be singing… You just want to listen, but the people surrounding the suffering body don’t give a chance to receive their message. The scream around the injured: say the credo, say the credo… If I were in their place, I would probably wish to be told that I would live longer and longer, to close my eyes on a beautiful hope that I would be back to my beloved ones, or to be hugged by someone who would wipe my head silently in my last moments.

Above all that, most of the videos usually end before the complete death of the person, and their final whispers remain in the memory without ever reaching the serenity of death.

In few videos there were martyrs who registered a filmed speech before they left. Some only contained their glances and few words for their beloved ones. Abdul Mohaymen Alyounes is lying on the grass next to his rifle, playing nervously with sticks on the ground with his fingers. He is asking us to pray for his mercy if he leaves, then he says that he misses his mother. We can almost see the tears in his eyes. But the heroes of the Free Army do not cry, so he hides his face from the camera and asks the cameraman to stop filming.

I feel like breaking into tears whenever I remember the details of the video, but I don’t: death experts also do not cry.

Nothing can make them cry, not even the video of the father in the city of Rastan running like a crazy holding in his arms his son, whose lower part became a skeleton because of the extra-smart missile, which left the head in a better condition, so that the father can recognize his son and caress his hair for the last time.

It’s a different story that of fathers and sons in video segment. When the family is present, yelling and screaming from throats burnt by sorrow are surrounding the scene. The mother raises her hands to the sky praying that the killers taste the sorrow of being deprived of their own children, and children raise their hands to the sky praying that killers taste the sorrow of orphanage and loss.

One child astonished me with his insistence that his father hasn’t left, for his eyes were staring in his, and he kept telling the people surrounding the body that he was still alive. He swore that he was still alive: his eyes were open!

Few mothers deceive us, or they try to: bidding farewell to their son without a single tear, with a very low voice and a lot of calmness. Like a mountain talking from its peak or a valley from its depth, they count him a martyr for God, and hide the pain, I don’t know where or how. Those I deeply love, experts of death documentation know well what it means for a person not to be able to cry when he or she has to. Isn’t weeping in such moments a fundamental human right that can’t be waived, but unintentionally it was dropped from the international conventions?

The details of death are endless: thousands of them are there in thousands of videos. Experts of death documentation like us do not cry, they only watch with open mouths and frowned brows, and in specific moments, they hear weeping voices coming from the inside. They don’t stop wondering whether they –those who are documenting the death through the screens of their devices, or those who are documenting death with their fingers and eyes– will someday return to be “natural” creatures, or death has already added them to its isthmus till the end. (Suriyyat, 22 aprile 2012)

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* Razan Zeitune è un avvocato siriano. Impegnata nel campo dei diritti umani, è stata insignita dal Parlamento europeo del premio Sahkrov per la libertà di pensiero. Continua a vivere in Siria, nonostante debba costantemente sfuggire alle forze di sicurezza del regime. Questo suo articolo è stato tradotto in inglese dal gruppo dei Traduttori siriani liberi (al-Mutarjimūn al-suriyyūn al-ahrār, المترجمون السوريون الأحرار).