April 1, 2016
Khaled Khalifa “Syria is more than the image of a drowned child”

Khaled Khalifa “Syria is more than the image of a drowned child”

Below is an excerpt of a piece Khaled Khalifa wrote for Corriere della sera, March 2016

During my trip from Damascus to Boston, I found myself reflecting on Syria, giving it one last look. I imagined it calm, and strong; it made me think of so many things. Before leaving it for a whole year, I needed to express all these feelings. I am convinced that, despite the huge amount of destruction, Syria, my country, can still elicit an avalanche of positive adjectives.

In my long journey, I met many people who have had to deal with Syrian policy: Syrians, Turks, Arabs, Europeans and Americans. Most of them told me that Syria was over. Others have pointed out that Syria was a failed country. You have to look for an alternative homeland, they said. I am convinced that the old Syria died the moment the first baby was killed in Daraa, in the peaceful demonstrations of 18 March 2011. But Syria is not finished as a nation (…)
In fact I do not believe anyone anymore. I am submerged in a world of my own, that I rebuilt my way, and I look at it as if seeing it for the first time… I no longer pay attention to people who express sympathy… The Syrians have finally learned that they are alone against the rest of the world…

The images of the drowned Syrian child provided the opportunity to demonstrate a low-cost solidarity. But we forget that behind that iconic image, there are thousands of pictures of cities destroyed by the regime’s shelling, of children under the rubble in Duma, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Sarakeb and all other destroyed cities and villages. Such cities have not had a single day without barrels thrown at them. Then, there also are the photos of children enrolled by Daesh (Isis, ed)…

Daesh was the last card thrown on the table to prevent the victory of the Revolution. In the campaign to fight Daesh, the world has forgotten the Syrian Revolution. We – the Syrians and Arabs – need to look inside ourselves radically. We must ask ourselves more deeply and beyond the History and Geography; we must carry out a self-critique of the past and the present and envisage a future. Just so we understand the fallen values of Law, Justice and Humanity… Syria does not only have the icon of Aylan, the drowned Syrian child. It has collected thousands of other icons in the trunk of sadness, but the blindness of the world does not take away its shine.