By Noor Haydar
We’re a forgetful people. In my religion, God tells us this. He also tells us that the successful are those who remember. History is as near to us as what happened last week, and we are unable to understand events because their contexts are so far removed from our own today. The world changes so rapidly with every minute, and we know about these changes in real time. What I want to share with you is relevant to today, yesterday and especially tomorrow.
It it is relevant to as far back as 1982. The month of February is almost upon us. In February of 1982, Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad ordered his troops into the city of Hama and ordered the squashing of what he believed, was dissent that was threatening to his regime.The Syrian Human Rights committee estimates that 40,000 people were killed in 3 weeks time. The city was in ruin. Families were shattered, lives shambled.
This past year, I had the privilege of performing Hajj (the required pilgrimage to Mecca). My sister and I usually walked to prayer together, but being the day before our departure, she was buying gifts and had to return them to the hotel room. I went ahead and ended up sitting next to a woman who made a place for me in a crowded space. I sprung up a conversation as I saw a Syrian flag on her bag. She told me she was from Hama. She turned the questioning toward me and so I shared with her my Damascene heritage and that I had lived in America my entire life. Because of the way the uprisings in Syria seems to polarize people, she appeared hesitant to speak to me after hearing both of those facts. We talked about Hajj, the weather etc, and then prayer started. Because of the lack of support Damascus has given the uprising, and because of the apparent lack of support the people of Hama have felt from America, I felt incapable, unable to speak to her. I had so many questions circling in my mind — How’s your family? How has your life changed? Are you well fed? Do you need anything? What can I do to help? I wanted to say I was sorry for making them feel alone- for not being there with them- for not standing up for them.
It will haunt me forever that I didn’t have the courage to speak, to ask her those questions, She opened up a spot for me, extended her prayer mat and shared it with me, and I didn’t ask. I shook her hand, told her have a safe trip home, and left. Have a safe trip home? Really? That’s all I could think of? What about when she got home? The question was, would she be safe after she got home?
The people of Hama have suffered a brutal history, one that has come back to life again. While we check our facebook notifications, tweets, and text messages, Hama is reliving its greatest nightmare come to life once again, and the reality has expanded beyond the confines of their city. Dar’a, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Zabadani, and even parts of Damascus…the list is endless. We live in a global village. We live inside the internet with all the information at our finger tips. Ignorance isn’t an excuse for inaction and so I ask, what are we doing? Think about the people of Hama. When you see the names of the cities and the pages and pages of the lists of names of those who have fallen, read them, one by one. Think of them often.
Pray for Hama. Pray for justice and peace.