My Name is Hanan
This testimony was written by a Syrian civil journalist works inside Syria called Shimaa Al Bouty about a woman raped by Syrian regime soldiers and decided to break her silence and speak. This story is part of what many Syrian women are going through in Syria today. The soldiers loyal to ruling regime use rape systematically as a mass punishment against Syrian women, men and even children.
After I read the story I decided to translate it and post it here.
My name is Hanan
My name is Hanan, I come from a simple poor family living on Damascus suburbs. I am 24 years old, single and probably it was my fate to not get married because no one inside Syria proposed, those who proposed to me all lived outside the country, and I do not want to leave my ill mother, so I decided to stay with her.
I studied feminine arts* high school, I wanted to study in literary high school because I wanted to go to university, but I could not. So I ended up home taking care of my mother and my older brother.
Me, my mother and brother are living alone together after my father passed away. My brother is responsible for providing for us. He worked in different jobs, because he could not stand any insults from his boss, my brother always between jobs. He spent the job hunt phase spending the money he was able to gain in his previous job. Despite his temper, my brother has a good heart and loved our mother too much. He cries every time he sees my mother’s face pang in pain while she tries to hide her sufferings, once he almost slap himself when begging her: “Please mother anything you want I will get, tell me what can I do for God’s sake, just to heal you.”
He probably dreamt of the day when he finds the right girl or he could give away his little sister to her husband, to a good man that protects me and honors me.
The area where we lived in was boiling when people stood up and shouted for freedom and for other Syrian cities like Deraa, Hama and Jisr Al Shugoor. The suppressed and deprived youths who were chocked by their harsh living situation, the youths who were struggling daily to put food on the table, the youths who find all doors closed as if destiny was fighting them. But why does destiny fights only them while the lucky few own more than what they need, and more than what thousands of the poor need.
My brother joined the protests and was arrested for the first time on the 8th May 2011, after 15 days he was released carrying the marks of torture on his body and soul. His back was covered with blood; there were sores all over his body, while his heart was filled with hatred for the unjust regime. Once, he told me that our government always forgot about us, but when we said NO, the government knew that we existed and instead of fulfilling our demands, it arrested and tortured us.
After my brother was released from detention, his boss gave him a salary for another month and released him from work saying: “May God bless you we do not want any problems with security.” My brother continued protesting, carrying signs and distributing food donations on the afflicted. He carried many injured people on his shoulders to take them to the field hospital. Many arrested people mentioned my brother’s name to the security forces under torture and interrogation. His name was sent to all barricades and he became wanted. My mother asked him to disappear, she told him that he must flee and not let security forces arrest him, he is the only one left for us.
Five days after my brother disappeared, security forces knocked violently our iron door, once I opened the door they pushed me to the wall and asked about my brother. They forced themselves in; I was yelling and cursing them. I said: “May God never bless you, you broke the door and the person you are asking about is not here and we do not know where he is.”
One of the soldeirs said: “But you are hiding weapons!”
I became pale; I called my mother to cover her head because they will not wait to scour in the house. This was a serious accusation that we are all innocent from and we had to let them search to show that we do not have weapons as they claim. At that time, I didn’t realize that when they want to accuse someone they will bring their evidences with them. They searched every inch in our small house, they destroyed all our possessions, they broke everything, and they even stole food. They tore up our pillows and mattresses for we might be hiding a manpad in the mattress or bullets in the pillows.
My mother got up from her bed and told me to go and hide in my room and stop cursing them. My mother started to beg them to not destroy the house and not ruin our stuffs, but one of them who seemed the leader because he was the only one putting a stripe on his shoulders. The others were wearing sportswear or military uniforms. The officer grabbed my mother’s cloths and he said a dirty word to her and that she was lying. He said to my mother: “you will say where he is by a shoe (force).”
The bad words poured from his mouth described him and his gang, not us; but we remained silent because I couldn’t stand seeing him beating my mother. I got out from the room and tried to push him away from my mother, I punched his arm with my weak fist, I said to him: “leave her you animal she is sick.” He slapped me hard that I lost vision for few seconds and I fell on the floor 2 meters away. I felt that all of my body was numb and the pain gathered in one spot in my face, I heard him say to his troops, let the B**** see how much she worth.
When my vision restored after few seconds, I saw 5 monsters beating me in a scene that I never imagined it exists among humans, only predators in the wild attack like that. It was like 5 hyenas attacking a defenseless prey. The sight of a weak human on the floor brought up in them a strange behavior, a nonhuman one.
I wish I did not curse them, would they not do what they did if I stopped cursing them? My mother started to beg them in phrases they do not deserve while two soldiers pinned her on the wall. She said: “May God protect you, I will kiss your feet just leave her; you seem a good man.”
But nothing moved them.
I remained cursing them with each kick that almost made a human forgets his name, I was kicked and slapped as if I was in a hurricane of beatings.
With a poisonous face the officer turned to one of his soldiers and said: “Abu Staif, I would like to give you this girl as a present, I want to show her mother that she cannot laugh at me.” I realized what he meant, I freaked out and every muscle in my body started to shiver as if I was taken out from a hot water and put in an icy tub. I had the gooseflesh and I felt that my hair would turn white, and I remembered the verse from the Holy Quran “A day when the hair of the young turns grey.” At that moment I did not remembered God, I remembered everything ugly in life and I was filled with hatred, bitterness and humiliation, an unmatched ignominy that cannot be put in words.
I tried not to look at my mother’s face because it will make me weak. The soldier who ripped my cloths and violated my body his demonic face was printed in my memory in a dark page that I wish I could forget. The other soldiers I could not remember their faces because I fainted.
When the first soldier attacked me I said to him: “Please don’t.” But he hit me on my mouth and blood spattered from my mouth and nose; I tasted it in my throat. I tried to look around the place and did not look like my house anymore. It looked like hell and the demons around me, or as if I was in a grave where snakes and scorpions around me. I did not recall if I said anything else, he just pulled my hair to hit my head against the ground. I used to feel angry and disgusted when someone looks at me rudely, but now look at me!
His hand surrounded my neck, I was about to choke and I wish I died. My tears filled my eyes and blurred my sight, I tried to push his ugly face away, I wanted to pop up his savage eyes, and I wanted to shovel him away. I couldn’t, I was weak and helpless that had to pay for her brother’s heroic stand. The heroism that is considered a crime in a place where no law or sanctity apply.
I lost my virginity in the ugliest way any human can imagine, I lost the feeling that I am a human and living among humans. The only thing I felt was bitterness. Death is more merciful. I wish that they tortured me, this I can handle. Who will bring justice to me? I paid a very high price.
My brother is a hero because he defied this corrupted regime, but I cannot tell anyone of the price I paid because our society will not forgive me. Our silent society will be the first to point at me when it will know what happened, I will be the one to scourge, and I will be punished. Assad regime knows very well when it punishes the rebels by raping their women that it will commit a perfect crime because we will remain silent and afraid of a scandal.
Only three people know my secret: me, you and my mother. Of course the criminals know this too, but where will they escape from the wrath of God? I was afraid and did not tell anyone because I did not want to cause more suffering to my brother. What will he do if he knew? He would either lose his mind, or act irrationally, or commit suicide. He will avenge my honor alone, and our society will remain silent.
Maybe those who are not doing anything think that the danger will not reach their houses if they remained silent and avoided the violence. But I was one of them once. I defended the right and hate the wrong; me and my mother remained silent and left the work for men.
I decide to talk to you, I decided to not remain silent, I decided to stand bravely and break the silence barrier, because silence will allow the criminals to go further with their crimes.
I wish I can face them, but I am helpless, I cannot even think of that moment when I look into my brother’s eyes, or he looks into mine.
*Feminine arts high school is a division of high school where women in Syria study when they don’t have high grades in 9th grade. They study sewing, painting and culinary. Girls who unfortunately end up in this division are not entitled to go to any university.