After years of watching human rights abuses, censorship and detention of civilians in Syria for no other reason than them writing or even commenting on Syria in a negative way, the latest arrest hits me very personally. Razan Ghazzawi is a personal friend, and as others have said much better than I ever could, a heroic individual, and I will add, a true Syrian.
Like many others, I “virtually met” Razan in her role as a blogger. I admired her attention to all kinds of issues, especially Palestine and the fate of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but also her dedication to other issues such as animal rights and women’s rights. I admired her bravery to personally campaign for each and every man or woman detained for expressing their views, and there are probably 20 or so campaigns she sent to me, which I circulated in my own network. I asked her to join the anti-imperialist translations collective I founded, Tlaxcala, and she was enthusiastic, though, never had much time to for it, which was understandable, given her intense writing and research activities as well as her very extensive on-the-ground activities. Our friendship grew, as well as my awareness that she was an outstanding communicator, so I invited her to be one of the speakers at a convention I was organising (not about blogging, but about the concept of living under occupation and attempts to make an Italian public become familiar with the idea of Palestinian right of return and the refugee situation). Unfortunately, she was unable to make it.
It was due to Razan’s older blogs, Decentering Damascus, especially (which contains some of the best writing I’ve ever encountered), but also Free Occupied Syrian Golan and Damascus Spring, which introduced me to the Damascus Spring movement and the repression they underwent, which prior to then, I had not been remotely aware of. She had an archive of Asmi Bishara writing in a blog as well. She gave me permission to use many of her photos on posts for my blog and site and quite often, I would republish her articles on them as well. Later, I got to know her even better, as her posts became more personal, though always strong and focused, on the blog everyone knows well, Razaniyyat. In an interview for Maktoob, when asked who my favourite writers were, it was easy to come up with a list, and topping the list was Razan. Her writing is simply intense, and it could only be because of her very powerful sense of justice, her keen perception and her amazing humanity and compassion for people and animals.
But I wonder if the “authorities” who stole her liberty and are detaining her realise that they do not have an enemy at all. This is the huge mistake that the regime makes, by pointing the finger at various outside entities or a perversion of the idea of patriotic spirit in their repression of dissent and in their will to quelch all who are perceived as their enemy. They fail to realise in the desperate clinging to power, that they are killing off those who love Syria. So, after reading once again the blog of hers that meant the most to me, tears running down my face worrying about her well-being, I invite you to read just one passage and to ask yourselves: is Syria’s regime so afraid of Syrians who THINK about Syria and question it and seek to belong to it as much as their hearts want them to?
“With a country and our belonging to it, the process becomes rather complex. Each Syrian loves her Syria, and each fights or not, to maintain the Syria she sees or wants to see growing. I think most of our belonging to Syria is either fictionist if not imagined. For some, Syria lies in Syrian food, for others it lies in old cafes in Old Damascus. Some belongings to Syria lie in the longing for her. I think some belongings are “touristy” when it comes to Syria’s traditional atmosphere.
Syrian becomes its “ornamentation”.
I believe racism, sexism, sectarianism, human rights’ abuse, are unconsciously celebrated in the Syrian daily life. Just like the Syrians are now the prime reason for everything wrong happens in Lebanon, the Iraqi refugees are the prime reason of everything wrong happens in Syria, if one caught AIDS, it’s an Iraqi girl, if one cannot find a job, it’s the Iraqis’ fault, if a family are sleeping in the streets, it’s the Iraqis fault. Syrians now, and away from the regime’s tyranny, are constructing the “Syrianism” within this binary opposition “Syrians/Iraqis”, as a continuous process that started with the “Syrians/Lebanon”. Syrians are formulating a belonging to Syrian in opposition to the “new comers” of Syria.
I am not here trying to unfold the current Syrianism in order to come up with another, I don’t like fixed entities, I like chaos, I trust chaotic identities. My Arabism is like no other Arabist, neither is my Syrianism. To be a Syrian is not a question to be answered or to look for, it shouldn’t be there or obvious, it should be a repeatedly questioned question.”
Also, in 2007, her article about the censoring of Facebook is definitely worth a read.
Now, all I can add after this is: please participate in all the campaigns to free Razan. A petition: http://www.avaaz.org/en/free_razan/ a Facebook page with many useful campaigns: https://www.facebook.com/freerazan and a site with many useful links: http://freerazan.pen.io/
Please write, call, share information, use the #FreeRazan hashtag on Twitter and don’t stop until Razan is safe at home with her family, friends and loved ones. ALL Syrian detainees MUST be freed immediately.