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In times of bigotry, chauvinism and intolerance toward Syrian refugees, a voice unlike any other–that of LBC’s Rima Assaf

Elie Chalala

Assaf%20Rima%20LBC%20Mys%20Story%20with%20you%20is%20differentby Rima Assaf. Your fault is that you are dying in large numbers. Thus, you have ceased to be a rare scene. Your crime is that the photographs of your body parts no longer attract advertisers, and thus your death, pain, and displacement have ceased to attract TV viewers.

Your crime constitutes one of ordinariness. The news always reports the new, but the stories of the massacres committed against you, repeated daily for the last three years, have become ordinary events, and can no longer be considered new.

Your crime is that the photographs of your small bodies, torn by bullets and mortars, or crushed in the rubble, have lost the element of surprise at a time when the eye no longer lingers on such familiar, bloody scenes.

But as for me, no, I have not and never will become used to the idea that your murders and displacement stand as ordinary news items.

My relationship with you remains different; you have become part of my daily life, and I suppose that no one knows you in quite the same way; I constantly search for your images, for your news and have memorized some of your names. You have become part of my life, my tears, my prayers, my pain and my failures, both in my profession and in my vocation of motherhood.  I fear you are to be murdered twice, once at the hands of those who stole the life from your bodies and then again at the hands of those who neglected, concealed, or downplayed your pains, tears, and ravaged souls.

I wish I owned all TV stations, so I could expose the banality of this world, its malice and selfishness. If I did, I could keep your images alive and on everyone’s television screens. No cause deserves the mobilization of resources more than yours.  I do not know why the world deals so cruelly with you, the most tender and finest of all the creatures, cloaking you in brutal silence.

I wish I possessed the courage and freedom to say all that needs to be said about your murderers. As for you, little child, who finds yourself a refugee in one of Arsal’s camps, I wish I had never seen your mud-splattered image, had never posted it to Facebook, and thus had never read the offensive comment that followed, the one that demanded you “go back to your country for this is our country and homeland.”  No this is not our homeland. I never knew it as such, nor did I know that there were people in my country with characters muddier than the mud that covers your clothes and shoes, oh the child of the camp.  My country is not a place where people are stripped of their humanity, to become monsters in a forest. No, this is not my country and I do not want to belong to it. My country is a place where we are bound by shared human feelings even when we differ over everything else. In my country, all hatred bends down before the tears falling from your eyes.

This is an edited translation by E. Chalala of an article by Rima Assaf of LBC.  Ms. Assaf’s Arabic title is “My Story with You is Different.”

© Copyright 2014  AL JADID MAGAZINE

Artwork, Al Jadid, Rima Assaf (Photo: LBC)