Sawsan Hakki, an architectural engineer, was killed in her car when Aleppo University was bombed from the air. (Yes, a university campus bombed!) Many students of history might confuse what the Assad air force has done with attacks by an external enemy opposing a war of liberation. But this thought lasted briefly! The target was Syria's second largest city, occupied (partially now) by Assad's loyalists, Shabiha and non-Shabiha. Sawsan Hakki was the sister of Syrian director Haitham Hakki, and the sister-in-law of poet Hala Mohammad, Haitham's wife. What follows are edited and translated excerpts from Hala's essay "O' Sawsan: Your Smile Shines from Beneath Syria's Dust," which appeared in Al Hayat on January 27, 2031--E. Chalala
Addressing Sawsan, Hala wrote "What are you doing in an underground grave, Sawsan! Is the soil still suitable for construction," a reference to her sister-in-law's field of architectural engineering. She adds,"Does the soil preserve the martyr's blood and its color? Or is the martyr freed from the pain to return to us as a wildflower, reborn throughout time, providing us with this calm and silent smile, the smile of hope hidden in the heart of grief? "
Aleppo, the city in which Sawsan lived, loved and died, is now the city that hosts Sawsan the martyr. Hala writes, "Aleppo is intensely generous," and the martyr reciprocates to the smiling city:"I watched how you were smiling to the streets, the ancient streets of the city of which you were a daughter."
"I never imagined in my life to die in my homeland on the street. Despite the many warm and loving homes we built, we ended up dying on the street under bombardment and tyranny. Who bombed you, Sawsan? Did you smile at death with a wisdom of which others were unaware, you the lady of wisdom, tolerance, forgiveness, and the lady of motherhood, brotherhood, friendship...and happiness."
"Did the Lady of the Palace know that a Syrian lady like her died on the street?"
One can replay an old cliché: regimes are better known by their deeds than their "ideologies." In a more eloquent context, Hala said: "What type of regime can be said to rule when Sawsan gets killed on the streets?" She added: "Any political system that cannot protect women inside and outside their homes must be overthrown....It is not a descendant of any civilization."
Another irony is that "system," one of whose translations in Arabic is Nizam, is the name the Syrian government uses to designate part of the official forces that are doing the killing. They are called "Qiwa Hafz al-Nizam," that is the forces who are to maintain law and order." Thus Hala asks:
"What is this political system! Who are the killers! For whom, and why and how did murder settle in to sprout killers in a country of love and coexistence? Why do murderers live while Sawsan dies?"
Edited translation and introduction by Elie Chalala
This essay appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 65
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