A Letter to Our Younger Selves on March 15
Waking up on yet another March 15, I think about that younger, more naive version of myself from six long years ago, on the morning of March 15, 2011.
On that day, we held our breath, watching our screens, waiting to see what would happen. Would Syrians do the unthinkable? Would they finally rise up? And we watched as they did.
And we watched and followed every single step they took since that fateful day that eventually led us here.
There must be nowhere worse than here. Except for Syrians. For us, it can, and will, always get worse.
More than anything, I wish I could go back to that day and tell my younger self everything I know now. I wish I could go back and pull my country away from the edge of the precipice and push it back into the black hole it was in before. There, I would bury it deep, where no one could hear our screams and no one could come to “save” us.
I would tell everyone I knew: “Shut down your computers and log off Skype and Facebook and your romantic dreams of revolution. Put your cameras away. You will be killed for recording the truth. The truth is not worth it.”
"We are the living dead now"
I would tell that version of myself: “Smother that awe and pride that swelled inside of you when you watched the first protests, because those intoxicating, fearless, witty, inspiring videos will soon be replaced by videos of death, funerals, torture, torn limbs, burning bodies, drowned children, and horrific scenes that you will not be able to turn away from, and will never be able to erase from your memory.”
I would tell her: “Stop making new friends from across Syria, from towns and villages you have never even heard of before, because many of these friends you will spend hours with online every day are going to die and leave you heartbroken with survivor’s guilt.”
I would tell her: “Stop calling for “unity.” You think everyone will stand together—Syrian with Syrian, Arab with Arab, human with human? No. You will see that many—most, actually—will not.
“They will, instead, plant doubts and deception until no one can speak truth any longer. They will, worst of all, stay silent as Syria bleeds.”
I would tell her: “You should know you live among monsters capable of crimes worse than anything you can even imagine. But also, you walk among hidden heroes, people who would risk their lives to save a stranger.
“There are brilliant Syrians who are capable of inventing means of resistance that leave everyone in awe. There are amazing people from across the world who would stand with you even though they never met a Syrian.”
We witnessed epic and historic moments of courage and sacrifice from men, women, and children. But nothing was worth where we are now. Nothing was worth the hundreds of thousands of lives, and the millions displaced. Nothing was worth losing Aleppo. Nothing was worth losing our homes.
“Nana will be buried in Michigan instead of in her rightful place next to her husband and all our family in Aleppo. Your children will grow up knowing Syria as war, refugees, and protest.”
I don’t think anything is worth what Syrians have had to go through. We prided ourselves on being the best hagglers in the world and look at us. We overpaid in dear blood for something that’s impossible to buy. And now we beg for crumbs.
On that day, everyone said: “The wall of fear is finally toppled!” I wish I could go back to tell everyone: “Maybe that wall was destroyed, but it will be replaced with so many other walls of fears that will terrify us for eternity.”
I would tell her: “Put down your pen. You will eventually learn in the most painful way that forgetting is a much more valuable skill than remembering. Forgetting will allow you to survive.”
Most of all, I would tell our younger selves that we should have never believed in hope or justice. They don’t exist for us. We should have never believed our people’s blood had value and our children’s lives were worth saving.
We should have never believed that we deserved freedom and dignity. “No one really earns freedom; it’s just pure luck. Some in the world are just lucky enough to have been born in places that appear freer than others.
“And dignity? You will learn that the entire world is living without dignity, so who are we to demand it?” We should have never dreamed.
I would tell all our younger selves: “Kill your dangerous dreams and be content with living the half-lives you have, because that is better than being among the ones drowning in sorrow, regret, and shame. We are the living dead now.”
I would tell her, and all of you: “Silence your voices. Turn back around. It’s not our turn this time. Maybe in another lifetime, but not this time. I’m sorry.”