SYRIA: In Syria, not even once dead do you get peace. You may have thought that you had seen all. Instead, you had yet seen nothing.
Francesca Borri
Italian journalist and writer. She contributes regularly to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 4, 2019
I Have Seen Nothing, I Have Seen All
Country: Syria


«[And your new movie] will be judgemental? »

«No. Not really.»

«And so what’s your aim?»

«I was just thinking that… Now that the winner won…»

«As long as you ask: Why?, you are criticizing.»

«And is that a problem?»

«Criticize is not rational.»

«What do you mean?»

«We don’t have the right to criticize.»

This is the voice of the filmmaker and main character on the phone with his father. It could also be the voice of any Syrian on the phone with anyone. He says, «the winner» for even just saying «Assad» may get you in trouble. That is what peace looks like in Syria.

Sometimes while walking, you mistake unknown passers by for friends killed years ago

After more than 500,000 dead, 6 million refugees, 7 million IDPs, reconstruction costs estimated up to $300 billion, you still cannot even write, «The Assad regime». In Rome, London, New York, and other western media centres, editors replace it with: «The Assad government». For the world, he is the legitimate president of Syria, but for sure not for Syrians. They are either dead, away, or keeping silent.

First, they denied the dead

For those of us who have experienced the war, and still do today, sometimes while walking, you mistake unknown passers by for friends killed years ago. Speaking of Syria is not easy. It never has been, honestly. Because the left wing – that left wing that was supposed to support the Arab Spring, the Syrian revolution, and beyond – sided instead, more or less openly, with Assad; an enemy of Israel and the United States, and so a friend. For years, it totally overlooked the war, until Russia stepped in with relentless airstrikes and, on the ground, the infantry of propaganda. Whoever stood against Assad was accused of being al-Qaeda. Even the White Helmets, the rescue teams who recovered wounded from the rubble with bare hands, under the light of lighters. Even 6-year-old Bana al-Abed, who tweeted from Aleppo with her mother, was accused of actually being in Turkey. For any photo, any corpse, we were told: It’s a doll. It’s all staged. First, they denied the dead, then, their very existence.

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