I had been asleep.
The knocks startled me into consciousness.
Not that I wasn’t used to loud noises by that point.
We all were.
I was born in England, and it has been my home for much of my life.
My parents on the other hand were born in Syria.
Now for some History.
Damascus is the capital city of Syria.
It is the oldest inhabited city in the world, with evidence of habitation dating back at least 11,000 years1. Founded as a major city in the 3rd millennium BC by the Arameans, its location was perfect along the trade routes that connected Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia.
Even now, it is a centre for the simple crafts but back then it was most popular for crafting swords and lace as well as being master carpenters.
Observe: a Syrian Inlaid Mother-of-Pearl Dining Chair2:
And let’s not forget, the Damascus swords.
Not many people know that Damascene steel was made in India, not Damascus. The name came about because once the metal was forged in the Far-East, it was then sent to Damascus and the rest of the Middle-East to craft swords. The steel was of the strongest ever forged, and the exact method they used is still unknown today.
What we do know, is that the carbon content of the steel was much higher than ours, and it was made from an alloy of many different metal elements. It had a hard outside, and a soft inside.
And it happened to look beautiful.
A 17th century example3:
This article4 by Walter Sullivan from 1981 delves much deeper into the topic than I will.
Back when The NY Times was a Factive source of information.
For The Factive Man.
Instead the NY Times of today has morphed into a cesspit of all the ideology of the modern day SJW’s5 that call it home, much like an East London street corner is for the drug dealers and meth addicts of the most populated city in England.
Oh, Political Correctness.
My family are from Damascus.
It was once a lovely place, where the only weapons you saw were for show; the beautiful Damascene blades that adorned the museums and the shops in Souq Al-Hammidiya6.
Now the weapons you see are much, much different.
These weapons adorn the green and brown patterned god-killing arms of the men that carry them.
They are not hung up.
Because they are needed every day.
Everyday for the past 5 years.
They are needed for TWO reasons.
The first is FEAR-MONGERING.
FEAR-MONGERING is the action of deliberately arousing public fear or alarm about a particular issue7.
The second is Killing.
This phenomenon is sometimes associated
With The Smell of Dead People.
The purpose behind my writing is not to write Politics. You see I am a privileged Westerner.
I do not care about Politics. Maybe in the future I will.
Right now, it does not interest me.
But here are my two cents:
Everyone is fucked.
I lived in Syria between the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2013.
We were happy in England, but had no immediate family here. So my Dad decided to move us.
I lived one splendid year, accompanied by my family and the friends I had made.
I achieved the overall mark of 297/310, a high A* in my Syrian GCSE/ SATS in year 9, in Arabic, despite only learning to read and write the language a year before.
Prospects for the future looked good.
I had a lot going for me.
We all had a lot going for us.
My Dad opened a clinic in the centre of Damascus, which could have made him 10x more money than he could dream of earning while working for the NHS.
Could have done.
I stress the ‘could’.
Because that year, all hell broke loose.
That year changed everything.
It started with what everyone called The Arab Spring. It was a simple Domino Effect.
How did it begin?
A man had an idea.
One man’s idea was the domino that toppled over all the other dominos. It caused political turmoil and civil/ military unrest in 5 Arab countries.
This Tunisian man was named Mohammed Bouazizi8.
He was the sole provider of a family of 8. H was stricken with poverty, and he could not take it anymore.
So he lit himself on fire.
In the street.
In his hometown of Sidi Bouzid 300km south of Tunis, the capital city.
Talk about a spark.
I wonder what that Smell was like.
The country proceeded to erupt in protest against the government and the president.
The people of Tunisia decided that enough was enough and kicked out their President without much trouble. His name was Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
I still remember the day a certain clip made it onto AlJazeera, the main news channel in the Middle East. This clip was played countless times. It gives me Goosebumps thinking about it.
Find it here9.
It shows a man screaming in the streets of Tunisia shortly after Bin Ali ran away to Saudi Arabia.
The moment that WE KNEW the first domino had been struck.
The man says “BIN ALI HARAB. BIN ALI HARAB.”
He says Bin Ali has ran away.
He says the criminal has ran away.
He says the murderer has ran away.
He says the people of Tunisia are free
He says the people of Tunisia are free.
He says Glory to the People of Tunisia.
You may not understand the language, but what you do understand
Is the desperation in his voice. Listen to how hoarse its become.
You can hear the years he has waited to say these words. You can hear the anger at the ex-president Bin Ali.
That clip brought the Arab World to a standstill.
It showed everyone what they thought was attainable. It showed everyone a better way.
That video changed everything. For all of us.
It also told us all that shit was about to hit the fan.
The dominos were falling, and nothing could have stopped them.
The dominos tumbled on.
The people of Egypt, Yemen, Libya all decided they had balls as well. Vive a La Resistance.
The people protested and died and died and protested.
The people won.
I mean the big bad people in power went away, right?
Everything was going to be fine, right?
The leaders’ fates, respectively.
- Mubarak was in between hospital and prison but has now been acquitted of all charges. Mainly because his students are ruling Egypt now. No change there. He is now on virtual house-arrest, rotting away peacefully in his Egyptian home.
- Ali Abdallah Saleh got blown up in his own fortress by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, in 2017. This is because he betrayed the Houthis by switching sides and joined the Saudi Arabians. Now the Iranians and the Saudis are using Yemen as their own private battleground, funding the civil war and using the expendable Yemenis for their own advances.
- Al-Gaddafi, the self-proclaimed “King of Africa” got no-scoped by the rebels, with much help from the NATO. They found him inside a sewer, if I recall correctly. Then they put his dead corpse on show in a meatlocker in his hometown of Surt. Now Libya is controlled by multiple governments, including different factions of ISIS. They live in a state of semi-anarchy. Their slave trade is booming, I hear.
Four leaders waved from a motorcade before an Arab Cooperation Council meeting in Egypt in 1989. From left, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, King Hussein of Jordan, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt10.
Anyway, what do I know. I hate politics.
I do not care for it, remember. It does not affect me.
Syria was relatively unknown before it all began.
When I was little everyone thought I was Spanish. Or Greek
“No, I am from Syria! Silly.”
“CEREAL! Where’s that! Is that where cows come from?”
(A real conversation I had with my classmate when I was 10.)
Now you can’t turn the TV on without something about ISIS being shown. ISIS came about to fight the Syrian government and regime, but ultimately became the evil that nearly caused World War 3. The whole world conspired to nuke Syria and maybe we would live in a better word if they did. Maybe. Nobody knows what cause they are fighting for anymore, just brothers killing brothers killing brothers.
All I hear about European migrants from far-right twitter, is how they are in places like Sweden and Belgium, raping and murdering people. Every other day is a different story about them acquiring illegal weapons and attacking law enforcement. Grooming ganga run amok, and the streets are in semi-anarchy. This of course, is not true. I know a Syrian lad in Amsterdam who has kicked off his career as a rapper. He was my best friend back when we were 15 years old. Check out his mixtape here11.
Don’t get me wrong. These things do happen. They happen a lot. But do your research, there are much more reputable media sources available than the @BritainFirst Facebook page.
I hear that Angela Merkel let all the refugees into Germany for cheap labour. How’s that going for the Germans? Not good.
Let’s not forget all the migrants that die crossing the Mediterranean Sea. It is great to see that some of them make it the whole voyage without contracting cholera or whatever disease is in fashion during that migration season. Just to be sold into slavery in Libya as soon as they get off the boat, or used for sex by the evil men that brought them to use them and then dump them back into the sea to finally rest, as fish food.
What about the thousands of refugees stuck in Al-Zattary refugee camp in Jordan who are not allowed to leave. Imprisoned in the desert of a foreign country, children are being born with no identity. They are not Syrian, and they are not Jordanian. They do not BELONG, anywhere.
They are Children of the Borders.
And finally, the Syrian people that stayed.
The brave ones.
Those that refused to ditch their country when it needed them the most, those that fought and spilt the blood of evil men. All for the “Wattan12”
Those that did the honourable thing. Those that enlisted in the Army and defended their home against the foreign conspirers attempting to prise their precious Syria from their faithful blessed hands.
Those confident that their country would not leave them to die. Those whose country loved them just as much as they loved their country.
Those that put their families under the protection of Allah, the most graceful and the most merciful. He will protect them surely. He will, right? Right?
But that’s not quite how it went, is it.
Instead those that didn’t leave were either too poor, frail, or simply just down-right stubborn to attempt any form of escape.
The able-bodied joined the Army.
Who did they fight? Who did they kill?
They were told it was the foreign forces. They were told to FIGHT for the “WATTAN”. Because if you don’t fight then people DIE. That’s WHY.
But if you do people die.
You say we are fighting the foreign conspirers. But why does this foreigner you speak of look so much like my brother?
And that village we just blew up, you said that ISIS was stationed there. But all I can hear is the hopeless cries of newly widowed women and the might roar of a father, screaming his dead 5-year olds name at the unforgiving heavens above.
God is real, and he does not care about you.
This is the reply that they receive as the rain falls thick and fast in between the crash of thunder and the jolts of lightning.
The air smells of sulphur.
The air smells of burnt plastic with overtones of gunpowder and brick dust. You can taste the charred flesh with every deep breath you take in.
On the battlefield, every breath is a deep breath.
The Glory of War is a pollutive agenda pushed by those that sit around the conference table, pushing models of ships about the A2 sized map of the middle east, those that send young men and young women away from their families to fight for a hidden agenda of money and wealth.
Life is just one big game of Chess, and if you are lucky you get to be one of the players, and not one of the pieces.
But we can’t be angry, can we.
Nobody has any right to be angry, about any of this.
Not me, not you not Saddam Hussein, not the father who is burying his daughter a week before her sixth birthday.
For we are living in the most peaceful era of human history.
This means that since man became aware, his natural state has been to fight. And murder. And rob. And control others, to further his own advances.
Alexander the Great makes Donald Trump look like Mother Teresa, if you really knew.
This is not being cynical.
There is a reason that many of us start out as Liberals, all about making the world a better place and helping others.
And I still have that dream.
But the reason that we start off as Liberals, and then shift to the right, is because we see things that we cannot unsee.
I have seen an old man be beaten brutally to death by two younger lads with sticks they ripped off a fence.
This man was caught up in a protest, and despite not being a part of it
He was too slow to run.
He could not escape.
As the sticks came down harder and harder with every blow, he struggled and struggled but the more he struggled the more they beat him
Until he stopped moving.
The crimson pool that had formed around his unrecognizable stump of a head grew and grew and grew.
The men walked away, but they were being followed.
By a trail of red footprints, leading straight from that man.
This happened on a Friday afternoon.
Nobody cared. It wasn’t their problem.
You may think I am a sad person.
Quite the opposite. I am always smiling, I live a happy life.
The things you see harden you and they ice up your heart. Your heart becomes akin to your windshield in late December.
But nothing you experience can put out the raging fire inside of you, unless you let them.
Did Mohammed Bouazizi let them?
Is that why he set himself on fire, to heal his icy icy heart?
I didn’t let them. I stayed strong. Look at me.
I thought I did anyway. My dreams of course, told a different story.
For my dreams were infested, for months even after I came back home
It was a long two years that followed. We managed to leave Syria by way of Lebanon, because we had British Passports.
We were lucky.
We were very lucky.
I had been asleep.
The knocks startled me into consciousness.
Not that I wasn’t used to loud noises by that point.
We all were.
It was 8am in the morning, on a Saturday in July 2011. Our exams were finally finished, and we were all asleep.
The voice was calm but commanding. We didn’t want to wait until it ceased to be calm, before we answered.
My mum ushered my little sisters into their room and locked the door.
My younger brother and my mum joined me.
I opened the door.
Just like that. If I had demanded they show ID, they would have knocked the door down, and then shot us all. Whoever they were.
5 men clad in camouflage from top to bottom carrying submachine guns stepped into my living room.
One man obviously ranked higher than the rest of them. He was wearing sunglasses. He had a piece of paper in his hand.
“Is this your house?”
I was 15. But my dad wasn’t in the country. As the oldest male member of the family I had some big shoes to fill.
I had a lot of questions, but my heart was racing, and I was sweating and I did not want to say a thing that could put myself or my family in danger.
He read my fathers name off that piece of paper.
I replied that he was not here.
He stared at me from behind those empty black lenses. All I could see was my reflection.
He motioned to his men. “Search the place.” They hadn’t said a word this whole time and I had forgotten they were there.
They searched and searched and searched, for what I will never know.
They came across the locked room.
“Open it.”, he said.
This was the moment that scared me the most.
This feeling that I had no control. No control over the situation or my safety or my family’s safety.
I touch on this topic more in my other blog post, A Total Lack of Control, and a Gun. Find it here13.
I saw a lot in Syria. A lot that was much scarier than this seems.
But what followed next was the scariest moment of my life so far.
My mum unlocked the door.
She walked in.
The room was dark.
The man with the big gun followed her in.
My sister saw my mum walk in.
Followed by a big man with a gun.
My sister screamed.
The man raised his gun.
There was only my mum standing between my two sisters and the instrument that was capable of pottering them all with round after round of hot lead.
I was stuck in that moment what felt like forever. My head was pounding, and the adrenaline was rushing around my body as if I was hooked up to an IV that consisted of pure Colombian cocaine.
Many scenarios flashed through my head at that moment.
I only saw one pleasant one.
All in the blink of an eye.
Quickly I turned the light on.
The man with the gun saw that there was no threat.
He put the gun down
Everyone rushed in, but nothing had happened.
They searched the room and left.
They didn’t take much from us. Nothing materialistic anyway.
I’m never turning the news on ever again.
Because of course, it doesn’t affect me. I don’t care for it.
Islamic scripture states that once a man or a woman is martyred, they will smell beautifully as if God himself hath breathed onto them.
Maybe something went wrong when I was there, because
I can confirm that is not true.
For I will never forget
The Smell of Dead People.
5. Social Justice Warriors. If you are offended by this then you are frankly too soft for this piece of writing. This is for adults only.
9. https://youtu.be/0J0_IqRzaCE – Skip to 0.59 minutes for “that bit”
12. Wattan: Homeland, in Arabic.
15. Featured image: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/syrias-civil-war-images-of-horror/8/