Syria’s Sons of No One
“Until now, we’re in a huge prison,” Abdullah said. “For 50 years, this society has been closed. Do you think there are people having conversations with the intellectuals? Do you think there’s freedom of expression? Ideas for politics?” He continued: “How do I ask someone who was sitting in prison all his life, with all the windows closed, about these things? All he knows how to do is cry and say, ‘Oh, God!’ when someone beats him.” He drew the metaphor out further. The prisoner was banging on the wall, clanging on the door, and the West, even amid all this tumult, was asking what it meant. “Do you want an Islamic state or a civil state?” he said. “What does it even mean? The prisoner just wants to get out.”
Iyad offered, “There is a volcano here.”
Abdullah nodded in agreement. “The people don’t know what they want, other than freedom,” he said. “They want to get rid of this ruler, stop the corruption, end the bribes and no longer have to live under repression and the security forces. Let’s get rid of this ruler, then we can build institutions, then we can build parties, we can build awareness, and then we can figure out exactly what we want. Under the bullets, we can’t talk about the future.”
Reading this story a year later, after Homs has been laid to waste and Syria has dropped into civil war, I wonder what has happened to Shadid’s subjects Abdullah and Iyad? I regret that Shadid didn’t live to continue his reporting, which is masterful: As he leaves progressively more gear behind, the better his description and reporting becomes.
“Syria’s Sons of No One” by Anthony Shadid for The New York Times