Letter to my son

Dear son,

you're probably not going to read this, because blogging might already be a thing of the past in your days. The internet might not even exist in the form we know today.
But if there is going to be any digital means to conserve this letter, then this is a story about a country that woke up from a 40 years coma, and a story of a Syrian man, your father, who in his early forties felt young again.

Today, this letter is sent to you as a part of a collective effort by strangers all over the planet to get their country's name down in digital history. you can look up what digital activism is. This was a big thing in our days, and was the peaceful weapon our generation have had.

It was the beginning of 2011 when the youth of the Arab world suddenly decided that decades of dictatorship was enough, and that dooming generations to poverty and hardship in exchange of maintaining foreign political influence by rewarding a few with wealth and power was not going to pass anymore.

Thus, Tunisia revolted booting almost 30 years of dictatorship outside of the country. An electrical current suddenly passed through arab lands, and Egypt answered the call creating another successful revolution. A few months and a few countries later, Syria was due to wake up from her coma, an thus starts 100 days of popular revolution that had to fight against corruption, ethnic and religious oppression, fascist crackdown on dissents, forced exile of millions, and 40 years of completely paralyzed political life.

Your brain might not get around to understanding all of this, as I hope that your days are better than ours. but here is how it all started.

I was born, brought up, and now hitting my 40's and have always known the same president in Syria. I never voted for him, nor was I asked to vote; and when the older president died, his son took over in what seemed to be the only natural thing to happen.

As a young student, I have always been taught that Syria is a republic with a democratic system, embedded in a political format that built itself on the Soviet model. This whole democratic system which we studied in schools was built on active participation of unions in a democratically elected parliament, and the creation of communal organization to make sure that citizens voices were heard.

Of course, this was all a big lie!

I grew older to realize that I never knew how our parliament was ever elected or how candidates were even chosen. I reliazed that although the president was always officially re-elected by 99.9 of the peoples's votes, neither I nor anyone I know ever went to a voting booth.

We, my son have always been prisoners of a kingdom that has been ruled by a family-based mafia. A rule that was enforced by fascist detention and torture to anyone who dares ask for change, and by religious and sectarian tensions that was created to prevent a real popular movement.
We were never allowed to be involved in politics or to choose our political beliefs. It was always the ruling party (which is how the president came to power) that was the only political power on the ground, and everyone was forced to be a member of that party, even without their consent.

40 years my son, we were living zombies; university graduates whose suffering starts when they get their degrees in hands. That was the point where they had to answer this one question: where can I immigrate to restart my life decently.

I slowly watched my friends fly, one by one, to all parts of the world. We, who remained there had to comfort our friends mothers who separated from their children not knowing if they will ever see them again. We felt like hypocrites as we secretly knew that our turn will come soon.

Times and countries separated us, and we found ourselves sometimes forced to deny our nationalities to avoid discrimination or racism. Integration in your new country was sometimes coupled with lying and shame. Some tried to pretend they lived there since they were young, some tried to adapt the accent and attitude of their new country, often resulting in a pathetic clownish display.. we lost our identity, and felt that our original Syrian identity was never ours to begin with.

We had to spend hours and days defending how we never rode camels, and how we actually lived in regular homes, not in tents. We missed our parents, we missed our childhood quarter, our favourite streets, and we sometimes day-dreamed of a genie that will come our of some bottle to undo 40 years of forced exile.

Today my son, I write these letters after 100 days of seeing that genie out in the public. This genie was manifested by hundreds of thousands of brave men and women who go out everyday risking their lives and families to make our dreams come true.

Today my son, I opened my desk drawer, and under a pile of papers I reach to my Syrian passport, a document I have not used in years. I wipe the dust off the cover with a tear in my eye and put it on the top of the pile. The time is near, the voice inside me says.

You will probably not remember this, but you were weeks old when I held you in my arms, walked the living room back and forth, tears rolling from my eyes like a young girl, chanting loudly: The people want to topple the regime.
This was the first day I called you with your Syrian name. This was the day when everything changed, and everything kept changing, and life as we know it will never be the same.

100 days my son, I grew younger, I grew older, I grew weak, strong...
I grew more Syrian than I have ever been before.

if I'm dead by the time you're reading this, please go back to Damascus. Walk in old Damascus after midnight and listen to the voices in the wind. This city has a lot to tell, enough stories to fill a life time, it will tell you the story of this beautiful country called Syria, who was once taken hostage by the evil king and his army. it will tell you the stories of its resurrection, and what it became.

On that day, please remember me, your parents, your people who had to live through these days.. and promise me that you will make up for all the time I lost away from these streets.

your father

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