Do we measure respect/disrespect through the race card? The eyes of the ‘white’ man? Because he renders sharing images of massacred ‘white’ people ‘disrespectful’ – do we too extend this to ‘coloured’ people?

Who said sharing images of dead people is disrespectful? This is a matter of life and death – not luxuries. Fooling ourselves in thinking ‘words will suffice’ is like banging out heads with a hammer and pretending that the last four years haven’t happened. Words won’t suffice. Neither will pictures. But pictures will show the world the scale of the tragedy and the plight of refugees – which words may not always deliver. People are not interested in stories. They’re not interested at all, and won’t be unless they’re shocked.

Disrespect is measuring tragedy against tragedy. Disrespect is reducing a plight to a race issue when it is far from anything of such. Disrespect is unwilling to shift from your comfort zone whilst others are drowning. They drown with no voices in an endless sea – and you drown their images with rhetoric on ‘disrespect’. Disrespect is not listening to them – they who tell us ‘the world needs to see!’

Disrespect is accusing others of abusing a cause for their own agenda – when the only agenda on  the table is to show the world. The world which doesn’t listen to words – but can’t keep blinding itself to the distressful images of a nation fleeing horror and murder – capsizing on fate on their way to flickering light they desperately sight on the shore.

Dehumanisation doesn’t come with ‘sharing pictures repeatedly until it becomes normal’. I see the sky daily and nightly – and almost every hour of my life – yet it never fails to amaze me. Dehumanisation is assuming your argument and your voice are sound and above all rest – dehumanisation is sheltering yourself and others from the brutality inflicting those less privileged than you are – by hiding their images from your sight. Dehumanisation is not giving the boy in the red shirt a voice in his death – when it was the only voice he was ever given in both his life and death. Dehumanisation is you – how fears immunity – you who cares more for you sanity than the lives of children. Dehumanisation is not an image. Perhaps a cartoon – I see the logic in that. But not in a distressful real image.

The topic is an empty one – and yet one which reeks with privilege. From our safety and comfort we discipline others via screens on respect and the laws of humanity. Nobody wants the images to be shared. Nobody wants such images to even exist. Sharing such images shouldn’t be okay. But in the unprecedented situation of desperateness Syrians are now facing, drowning in the hundreds and thousands at closed borders and in vast endless seas – they’re one of the few thing we can work with to change the situation.

Let’s maybe take a step back from our luxuries and look beyond. These people want the world to know. That boy deserved a life. And if in his life he wasn’t granted his basic rights, perhaps his heart-wrenching death sprawled on the shores of Bodrum will spur us to save the lives of thousands of other children.

There’s something quite awe-inspiring (?) when a student of history suddenly internalises their parents are witnesses of time.

I sit in the living room past 12am, laptop on knees – watching my mother sow a curtain together as I speak to her and my father about the latest article I read on Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Only to be received with distant-eyes, exchanged ‘do you remember?’s’ and an unprecedented roll of spoken memories of that summer two years before I was born. Momentarily, I forget people I know were born before I was and sit perplexed at the conversation unfolding before me. Listening to memories of  a war – distant to me – yet still so personal, narrated in flavour of sweat and tears by a people so close to me. And for the first time I realise – they too experienced it. My own parents. But in their own way, in their own circumstances.

The sight is only too familiar to a day two months ago where upon driving with them to Oxford, they notice the date. My father pronounces it ‘أيام لها عناوين ‘, ‘days with names/labels’. I question him on his phrase, and he mentions one word: ‘1967’. I sit in shock for a few moments, the road and life outside passing by as though a camera film on rewind. Rewinding to a scene I cannot view because my memory ceases to exist before the tape has completed its task. 1967. I repeat the date in my mind. So many books. So many lectures. And yet, my own parents? That too they witnessed. That too they lived. That too they experienced, laughed, wept – carried the nations’ mourning in loss, in displacement, in catastrophe.

I probe for stories. An answer isn’t always received. But when it is, their words speak of a unity once felt, now broken. Of a loss once universal, now fragmented into shares – each nation fixated on its own. Of a genuine love and understanding for a cause – a fight – a homeland.

I remain in both awe and shock. Limiting this post to a few paragraphs, hoping I’ll have collated enough stories to transform it into a fully fledged essay one day. And even now – I don’t know if I spill these words in an appreciation for our parents, an appreciation in constant reverberance and resound; our parents who we know have been through a lot yet never truly appreciate the extent. Or whether in quest to find myself in their memories. To relive their fight and adopt that cause – that flag – wavering – somewhere – amid labels, words, and fragile ideologies, waiting to be found again, embraced like it once was – and held high.

25,000

Something crazy happened last night. I pledged to raise 25K to sponsor a whole school of Syrian children for a year. Including teacher’s’ wages.

He stood on the platform – pleading with the audience “25,000 pounds – anyone? Nobody in this platform wants to raise 25,000 pounds to educate a whole school of Syrian children? That’s 50p per child every day, for a year. Anyone?”

The plea spoke to my heart. Before I knew it Deah, Yusor and Razan’s legacy flashed in my mind – Bashir Osman and all the eulogies written in his honour – his fundraising page pledging far more than 25K. The thought of imminent death frequented in those brief moments of reflection – and before I knew it sudden impulse surged my arm upwards into the air, words resounding repeatedly in my mind – “if there’s one thing you do which will bring benefit to mankind this year, let it be this.” And so be it.

Of course I have much on my plate this year – from starting a masters degree iA, to various demanding projects I’m involved in – to the inevitable countless smaller projects I’m going to partake in, hopefully, once the academic year starts – to family duties, all whilst recovering from a difficult phase and relocating myself in unfamiliar settings –and sighting strength. My father surprised at my decision double-checked with me – “twenty five thousand?? This is an amanah Razan..” And I’m up for it baba, all this weighs little in comparison to the burden parents in Syria carry – of a war-stricken, traumatised generation of children, threatened by ill or no education, haunted by the doom of refugee camps. It weighs little. Though, and after all, how do I fill the plates of those who need it most, without a plate full of my own in the first place?

But most importantly – with all other projects I intend to undertake this year, the weight falls on my shoulders alone – as with this – it’s special. Because the weight although ultimately falls back on me – the duty and mercy is shared by every single person who comes across this page. The duty in educating the future generation of Syrian children, and the mercy of Allah swt – the Most Merciful – who will shower his blessings on His servants who are merciful to one another and contribute, even if a penny, to the upbringing and rebuilding of a nation. This isn’t a pledge I undertake alone, but a pledge which will hopefully be adopted by the many hundreds of people who will sponsor and donate throughout the year, until I reach my target. A pledge which will hopefully pick the most needy in mercy up and send them soaring to the heavens, as they unknowingly pick those most in need of livelihood up – and send them soaring to a better, hopeful, bright future.

In an unfortunate time where guns fool the world in thinking they have the last laugh, it is our duty to break this facade and unveil the true master who conquers all: the pen. Working on an education-based project for Syrian children, I hear of the difficulties they have it in Aleppo alone – I often think to myself – if this is the situation in only ONE city, how is the situation across the entire country? I can’t stress enough the need for education in war-stricken countries, and in this case Syria. The impact of education on a generation brought up amidst barrel bombs and gunfire is vital – it brings hope in a time many render hopeless – it builds the foundation blocks for a future generation – the rebuilding of a nation.

Please do search deep into your hearts, dig deep into your pockets, and donate all you can to this cause. Let’s reach this 25K target together – and surpass! May He bestow His infinite mercy and love upon us, in abundance.

If anyone is interested in helping me reach my target by helping me organise functions/etc. please tweet me on @RazanSpeaks or leave a comment below. :)

My father’s recitation of Qur’an whilst praying taraweeh in the other room serving as a beautiful backdrop, until I realise he’s been repeating these ayat three times, each.

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Ya Allah, ya baba, aameen ya rab. May you and my mother forever be pleased with me – and may He the Almighty reward you with abundance for everything you’ve done and been through for us. For your patience with us, and your ceaseless love and care which knows no limits. For your perseverance on this deen. For your unprecedented taqwa, eeman, and humbleness. May He accept your prayers and hearts desires – may He grant you jannah unconditionally as you enter it without judgement nor punishment – may He bestow his infinite mercy upon, grant you a place amongst the sidiqeen and prophets – and make us the apple of your eyes who will follow in your footsteps and only serve to excel and elevate your ranks in the hereafter – due to the tireless and beautiful tarbiyah you spent on us.

Fifteen years ago today, Hafez Assad died

This day 15 years ago, a number of Syrian exiles rejoiced at the death of a tyrant – thinking that after 20 years of forced expatria, the next flight to the homeland was definitely and inevitably promised theirs.
I was seven when it happened. The telephone rang and my mother picked up from upstairs – a minute passed – then, a scream. We ran upstairs to see what had happened, my first reaction was that my mother had found a snake. But she was in tears, and my father wasn’t home – perplexed at her situation, we crowded round waiting for her to speak – she then looked up and smiled through her tears, uttering “Hafez is dead, we can finally go home!”

I wish mama, I wish.

Too much time had passed, too many friends and family had died without the chance to say goodbye – and for us younger ones – without the chance to even meet, too many people had been tortured – or had disappeared in Tadmur and other prisons – and finally, we thought – finally there was a silver lining. Things were so bad, we thought, they couldn’t possibly get any worse.
But six months in, and Bashar showed that if he didn’t have the capacity to make things worse than his father did, he was definitely going to uphold the Assad tradition of tyranny, sadism, and horror.

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