Friday, 18 December 2015

Writer in Exile: An Interview with Yasmin Merei

Writer in Exile: An Interview with Yasmin Merei

 "Now, it is every side is killing people. But if we want to talk about the first three years, no! Only the regime was killing then. It is very clear for us, as Syrians, the people who are against the regime are still against the regime, whether they are inside or outside. I am a member of the revolution since 2011, and I still am. Because day after day, when you learn how savage this regime is, you cannot change your mind.

The magazine, Sayyidat Suria, talks about Syrian women’s issues. We have five offices inside Syria. They are not in the areas of the regime. In the area of the regime, you cannot work.

My family moved to Suwayda because my city of Homs was bombed heavily. When they were bombing the city, my father always said to my mother, “I want to leave; I don’t want to be killed by a bomb.” We moved to Suwayda because I had a brother working there. But my father was killed by the torture. [she starts to cry for a moment … then regains her composure.]

 It was very difficult to leave a city [Homs] that is still 100 percent ruled by the regime you are struggling against. Do you understand me? You are against this regime and you are escaping from his bombing and shooting but you’re going to a city — Suwayda — that he is also ruling. It is protected by him. So you feel you are leaving from him but going to him.
 A lot of activists there were doing relief work, and I was working with them and so, after awhile, somebody reported me. They took photos of our small relief group and they started asking, “Who is this veiled woman from Homs who is working for the refugees?” And within 18 days of when they asked for me, my father and two of my brothers were arrested. For my mother, it was impossible to think of me being arrested. I have four brothers and they took two of them and two of them remained at home. My mother pointed to her two sons still in the house. She said to me, “Do you see your two brothers?” And I said yes. She said, “I would agree with them if they take these two in addition to your father and your other two brothers, but I cannot think that you would be arrested. They would take you.”
 You see, everybody feels afraid if a woman, a girl or a wife — would get arrested … because they think about rape. Because the regime did that a lot. So for my family, it’s better to be dead than to be raped. Not for only my family, but for everybody, even maybe for me. I escaped, left my country, only because I was afraid of being raped. For no other reason. Because when I went with friends to demonstrations in Homs, they were shooting at us. We knew there was a possibility of being killed.

 My father was in prison for 50 days. And my brothers they kept for six months and after that, they escaped to Lebanon. And earlier this year I went to Lebanon to see them. They told me a lot of things. The guards knew they were a family, so every time they brought them to the cell where they tortured my brothers, they forced my father to watch. They always said, “We are happy to welcome you as a family.” Always they made them take off all their clothes.

I feel, well, I am an activist. Maybe some of the Syrian people did not want the Revolution to start. But we wanted it. We said, we have to do it. This dictator should leave. Now I am out of the country, and, because I am working, I can help my family. If I was still inside Syria, we would have nothing. When you are inside Syria, you feel that everyone is thinking about us, everybody is interested in listening to what is happening. But when you leave — you are shocked, because people are not."

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