I walked towards the promised square. All I carried was a heart beating to an unusual rhythm, music flowing through my veins, and words that never left my lips: “Down with fear… down with fear.”
I didn’t know the secret of the sudden strength that overcame me; something inside me awakened that I thought had died long ago. I wondered a lot about the enthusiasm that makes all these women rush to become part of the movement, perhaps because it’s their only chance for change.
I, like them, put aside words and explanations, leaving my husband in amazement. I affirmed that some things don’t need explanation. Our hands were tired of spreading the sheets of sorrow, uprooting the weeds of misery. We were exhausted from evading the demons of despair and the hunger that gnaws at hearts and homes and lying to ourselves. There’s no work for mothers in kitchens groaning with poverty, no supplies to prepare for this winter. I was tired of faking a smile before my children, who echoed with sadness, frustration, and helplessness.
All I knew was that I needed to be with everyone in the square to say one word: “Enough.” I needed to melt like a drop of water in that ocean, hoping it would wash away what had choked me for years. I wanted to scream what had been stuck in my throat but couldn’t be silenced: “Fr… freedom… freedom.”
These words now felt closer. They passed through my heart and rose to my throat. I didn’t understand the secret of what was happening inside me, but that voice touched my conscience. It grabbed the threads of my weak memory, shaking off the fear and pushing it back thirty years. As a high school student, my hair was tied with pink ribbons, and I walked to my school while singing, “Oh Navy hella.” when I reached the part “Oh freedom hella hella,” I lowered my voice. That day, for the first time, I shouted “freedom” with my schoolmates, protesting against our school’s principal and his military orders.
We filled the streets of our small town, shouting, “freedom… freedom.” Many exhausted people joined us. We raised our voices higher. It rained that day with joy and charm, drenching us before their sticks and clubs betrayed our happiness, and their threats pursued us for years afterward.
Since that day, they succeeded in erasing the word ‘freedom’ from my vocabulary. They tied up the walls and streets with images and banners of slogans that made our dreams disappear.
I walked toward the square, saying, “This time, we must succeed. We must continue. There’s no time now for sadness or memories. There’s no time to rest. No. This time, it’s different.”
Isn’t what we’ve lived and continue to live through enough to break our silence? Hasn’t the time come for us to shout out? To protest? To say that we’re tired of living in this inhumane exile we call a homeland.
“I don’t want my children to be separated from me. I don’t want them to live deprived of freedom. I don’t want them to live in fear. I don’t want…” I screamed inside me all the time.
I continued walking until I reached the square. A young man greeted me, holding several signs and boards before me, asking me to choose one. What struck me was the large number of children and adolescents in the square, accompanied by their fathers or mothers. Some held the hands of their grandparents. Like a carnival, the square was bustling with people of all ages and backgrounds.
The youngest children were in a state of complete alertness, ready to respond to the chance with everyone as if they had been prepared for this moment since birth.
The youth had the most prominent presence, breathing life into the square. Hope seemed to have illuminated their path again, finding a chance to live close to their families after all roads had seemed blocked.
I approached further to discover a corps of young volunteers ready to work and protect this peaceful protest. Some coordinated the positioning and reception of protesters from villages to join them, while others monitored the surroundings to prevent any surprises that could endanger the gathering.
Everyone was eager to leave the cement edges to older people so they could sit when they got tired. In the heart of the square, some artists lay on the ground and dedicated themselves to drawing caricatures and expressive paintings.
On the opposite side, musical instruments and young musicians excelled in presenting the most famous folk songs and revolutionary anthems. A group of young men and women specialized in translating all the messages on the banners into foreign languages to make their voices heard worldwide. They listened to public opinions and were keenly aware of what was being shared on social media. They then wrote and selected more impactful phrases for the next day, simple expressions that echoed people’s pain, dreams, and hopes.
This square resembled a homeland despite its size, accommodating everyone. It provided a stage for daily preparations and celebrations of new life. The youth swore not to leave it, taking turns to stay up through the night, singing and playing for freedom. These young men and women had learned a valuable lesson from recent years and were determined to succeed in their mission. Failure this time would be a death sentence for everyone who entered this square.
I held up a sign adorned with the words “freedom forever” and raised it high. I began to shout its words. I wished I had more than one throat, that I could manipulate time and stop it to illuminate the moments with the radiance that had emerged from within me. I wanted to carry it and decorate the streets and alleys with it.
I am now with the people to say that this country, which the world mourned and thought had become a lifeless body, still has a pulse and life.
We know there’s no turning back. We burned all the boats and must continue the difficult path we chose. We stand together on top of a towering mountain, with a deep chasm beneath our feet and a cloudy gray sky above us. We have nothing but our throats and plenty of patience and hope. Perhaps this time, freedom will rain down.
Inana Hatim, an alias for a teacher from As-Suwayda