“Just like a poet, I will try to escape, to make a breakout from prison, to make the road on which I take flight become your road and to take you with me to safety” (Voices from the Spirit – S.H.). Shady Hamadi was born on 23 May 1988 in Milan, of a Syrian father and Italian mother. A very young writer, he is the son of a political dissident who had been tortured and sent into exile.
by Angela Zurzolo, translated by Mary Rizzo
“For a certain period we even tried to go back to Syria. Then, in 1997 we received amnesty from President Assad. Despite that, my father was always stopped at the airport and he was only able to enter Syria twice in his 35 – almost 40 – years of exile.”
Shady Hamadi instead has seen Syria three times, in 2001, in 2006 and then in 2009, “the first time that I can say I had really been there.”
He recounts: “Syria enchants you, it is for this reason that many Italians who have been there are unable to accept and to understand that behind the ‘beautiful’ Damascus, there is a population who for 40 years has been downtrodden and oppressed. If one said anything at all against the President, he would be intercepted by the omnipresent Syrian Secret Services and then they would drag him away in the dead of the night.”
This is one Damascus. Then there is another, the one hidden behind the poetry clubs, the one that is found under Hotel Fardus, where the intellectuals of the “Damascus Declaration” met in 2001: “Directors, actors and poets who wrote verses against the regime. Kurds and Syrians together.”
Since the start of the protests in Syria, Shady Hamadi has stepped forward to encourage the Syrians who live in Italy to publicly air their dissent. A ‘moral obligation2, inherited, he says, even from history and from the example of his father, who had been arrested and tortured various times during the 1960s.
“This revolution is the moment for those whose fathers had been tortured and forced into exile to put themselves on the line, as I have been trying to do since this May.”
Of his father he mentions that “he was a young leader of the Arab Nationalist Party that was ‘thrown’ in prison numerous times, as well as tortured with electrical wires and beaten with clubs. They would kill people right before his eyes in order to try to get him to talk.”
Concerning the Syrian situation, Hamadi insists that Hezbollah are controlling the border between Syria and Lebanon, while the Iranians are alongside Assad’s army at the checkpoints. “Some NGO reports denounce cases of persons kidnapped in Lebanon and then brought to Syria.”
Regarding Turkey, the other key player in the Syrian events, he stresses: “Now they are playing an important role for our people, but we must not forget that Ankara is responsible for the kidnapping of Colonel Harmoush who came from the city of Deraa – one of the first to have founded the ‘free officials’, and who ended up in Syrian hands thanks precisely to the help of Turkish intelligence. The colonel was then executed before dozens of officials. His sacrifice has awakened the conscience of many in the army.”
On the shabbiha, commonly defined as “armed forces that get their orders directly from Assad”, Shady explains that “they are not actually armed forces in the normal sense of the term,” but instead “mafia bands that belong to some important families who deeply believe in the ideology of the regime.”
“The shabbiha are dressed in plainclothes, they ride in pickups, armed with Kalashnikovs, and they are the reason why in Aleppo and Damascus there have not yet been the large protests as we see in all the rest of Syria.”
The regime, Shady affirms, resists because the armed forces number “almost 400 thousand men, 100 thousand of them are loyalists to Maher al Assad.”
And regarding the Arab League proposal, Hamadi comments: “It has been an excellent move, I only hope that the League will keep the same consistency in the future as well, with the other countries that are violating human rights and personal dignity. Because the revolutions of this Arab Spring have been done in the name of dignity.” Indeed, “Assad should have been able to easily have saved himself right from the start, if he had granted freedom of thought, dignity and free elections.”
Then, when asked about the French proposal to open a humanitarian corridor, he observes: “We need to see what clauses this is going to bring with it. The Syrian people have already expressed their will to not want military intervention from the French or from the Americans. No one should be entering into our country. We can save ourselves by ourselves. But we need consistency in foreign diplomacy, which has never happened. Just think about this: Bashar was decorated on the 11th of March of 2010 with honours from the Italian Republic. Is that not scandalous?”
For Shady, consistency has never been a strong point of the Italian government: “Look at the optimal relationship between Berlusconi and Gaddafi or the fact that after having granted honours to Assad, the Italian parliamentary and ministerial authorities welcomed Burhan Ghaioun, leader of the SNC, to Rome.”
“The meeting with the Vatican was instead organised to clarify that there will not be a Christian diaspora from Syria as well, as has happened in Iraq and how it is presumed will happen in Egypt.”
It is precisely the fear of sectarian clashes that dominates, while Hamadi stresses that among the revolutionaries there are both Sunnis and Alawis, many of whom are renowned intellectuals.
“The solution that we are hoping for,” he concludes, “is that of the no fly zone, a buffer zone. Then the defections of the army will reach 85%.”
10 December 2011