The Fear of Throats

Hamad is an elderly Syrian man and a devout Muslim, who has lived in the city of Hama since he was born.  Each day, he wakes up early, heads toward the Orontes River (Al Assi River), washes up and performs dawn prayers in a mosque on his way to work.  On Sunday, July 3, as usual, Hamad headed toward the Orontes. As soon as he finished washing, though, he saw a body floating on the water. Upon closer inspection, he realized that the body belonged to a young man whom he recognized as Ibrahim Kashoush. Only the previous day, he had watched Kashoush electrifying the masses in the Orontes Square with his chants. Who would kill a young man singing for freedom? Hamad asked himself.

Hamad looked for someone to help him move the body of the voice that had been silenced. The place was quiet. Hamad was reflecting on the corpse. He felt that Ibrahim was smiling. Staring at the dead man’s face in shock and disbelief, Hamad began repeating the words, "Syrians want freedom." But Ibrahim Kashoush remained silent. Hamad did not despair and continued reciting Kashoush's chants that had so inflamed Hama the day before, but Ibrahim remained frozen in eternal silence. As Hamad got closer to Ibrahim in awed homage, gazing at his angelic smiling face, he was horrified to discover that the young man’s vocal chords had been cut out.  “Oh God what savagery!” he exclaimed.

As the sun rose on Hama, its community began gathering around the body of Ibrahim Kashoush, with some differing on how to wash and shroud the dead man. Hamad insisted the martyr should not be washed, that the clothing in which he was killed should be the shroud in which he was buried, and that he should be buried in the very place where his vocal chords were removed. One bystander asked 'Where was Ibrahim killed? Hamad replied, ' Ibrahim was killed in the Orontes Square, and it is there where his throat was stolen.’ Another shouted and proposed to return the body of Ibrahim to the river, for that was where it had been found. Hamad turned down the idea, saying ‘we will carry him to the Square and bury him there-- perhaps he will reclaim his voice and ours.’ So Hamad began organizing the funeral of freedom’s martyr, all the while repeating Ibrahim’s chants. Everyone responded enthusiastically and the Orontes River was enlivened by the passion of the people of Hama. The water started to flow around Ibrahim’s body as it was laid to rest at the shore, and the martyr was eventually consumed by the waters of the angry river. His body faded, but his voice remained, expressed in the growing determination of the people.

-Daoud al-Shiryan


This article was translated from the Arabic by Elie Chalala

 The Arabic version of this article appeared in Al Hayat newspaper

This essay appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 16, no. 63


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