Syrian Crackdown Takes Away Her Family; One by One

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Syrian crackdown has cost 4,000 lives by a U.N. estimate. Maimouna Alammar offers this account--beginning with a strange phone call from her brother--of how it's been devastating her own family.

(WOMENSENEWS)--I was home alone with my 5-month-old daughter, Emar. My mother and mother-in-law had left. The phone kept ringing. I wanted to break it.

I live in Daraya, a suburb of Syria's capital Damascus. It was Nov. 18, the eighth month of the Syrian revolution. That military home raids have become part of daily life doesn't mean our nerves aren't on edge from it.

Around 6:30 p.m. my brother Suhaib, 22, two years my junior, called.

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"I'm coming over."

"Power's out," I said.

The regime shuts off the electricity whenever they're about to clamp down on an area. I wanted him to understand that it wasn't the right time to visit, but because of the police state, not me. I'd delight in seeing him, and so would the baby.

The expected hour passed and he did not arrive. The phone rang again. It was my mother, worrying about Suhaib. Dad was still in prison. At dawn on Sept. 17, they'd dragged him off over mom's cries. He has taught nonviolence for decades. I grew up in a family committed to the sacredness of human life.

"Suhaib just called asking what your father-in-law's name is. They must have him at a checkpoint," my mom said.

"I'll call him."

Suhaib answered. From his voice I thought he was OK but, strangely, I couldn't hear the usual bus-stop background noises of a checkpoint.

"I need your father-in-law's name," he said.

I lost it. Suhaib sometimes does and says things at the wrong time. "Why do you need it just now? It's Ahmed, already!"

"I'll be there soon, Maimouna," he said.

A Baby Named 'Freedom'

I put the baby to bed. My husband, Osama Nassar, had been in prison when Emar was born on June 10. I held off naming her so we could name our first child together. They released Osama June 27. "Emar" is a Sumerian word meaning "freedom."

The doorbell rang. Before I got there, it rang a second time. Whoever was behind the door was impatient. Suddenly I wondered if it could be state police. I peeked through the hole: Suhaib stood there. It was dark; I barely saw the frown on his face. Behind him, on the landing, was another figure that I didn't examine closely.

As I started to open the door, a huge, lightly-bearded middle-aged man who'd been hiding shoved his way in, holding a gun against Suhaib's head. "Where is your husband," he screamed.

I tried to push the door shut against him, saying, "Wait! I'm not dressed! Wait until I put on my headscarf." I ran to the bedroom for it.

He was right behind me, gripping Suhaib. Another armed man started searching the house.

The large bearded man, pointing the gun at Suhaib, asked, "Where's your husband?"

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