Stories from the Syrian Revolution: Love in the Time of Revolution is a Revolution
Posted on 2013/01/09
At the beginning of the revolutionary movement, Syrians gathered in small numbers in front of the Arab embassies in solidarity with the arrival of the first breezes of the Arab Spring. It was an opportunity to meet new people as well as to coordinate the launch of the Syrian revolution that was ignited in mid-March 2011 in the “souk al-Harika” commercial district of Damascus. These gatherings were not just political, demanding the toppling of the ruling regime, but also gave birth to romantic relationships between the revolutionaries. Revolutions do not come by often during the course of history and love flourishes only once, and when their timing coincides love becomes a revolution and the revolution an act of love.
Noura Ghazi, a lawyer and human rights activist, tells how in one of the demonstrations she met Bassel al-Safadi, starting a romantic relationship which was crowned by their marriage. On the other hand, Aliaa Khalifa (photo below), a women’s rights activist, narrates how she met her love Abdullah al-Hakawati in the middle of a protest calling for the departure of the ruling regime.
Noura first met Bassel in April 2011 at a mutual friend’s house in Douma after they came back from a demonstration. When she first met him she would not know that he will become her future love. Noura recalls their first meeting “for the few hours we met on that day I believed he was a foreign journalist because he did not speak a single word in Arabic. For over a month after that meeting I still had the same thought. I had feelings for him but he made the first move.”
On the other hand, Aliaa had known Abdullah al-Hakawati for about four years. But they were just friends. In one of the demonstrations, Abdullah al-Hakawati, a photojournalist working with Ashar3 Institution for Media and Development, revealed his feelings towards Aliaa. Aliaa recalls the details of their first romantic meeting “in July 2011, during one of the demonstrations, I was standing on the side of the road with a few friends. After the demonstration was over, Abdullah came over with his friend, stood next to me and asked me a question, which with was a conversation starter… we kept on chatting and then spent the night out with our friends at the coordination committee house. We talked about the banners that needed to be done for the demonstration the following day. We talked and talked, about anything and everything, politics, love, the arts, and gossip. This was the start of my relationship with Abd. ”
The revolutionary protests against the ruling regime created a unique environment for both lovers. Noura was surprised by how deeply she fell in love with Bassel “I think the time we spent together was very short compared to the strength of the feelings between us and how quickly our relationship developed. Only 25 days after he declared his love to me, he asked me to marry him.”
After Alia was certain of her feelings towards Abd she decided to declare her love in the heart of one demonstration.
“In one of the demonstrations, after I was sure that I was deeply in love with Abd and that I adored and loved him in such a way no words can describe, I declared my love to Abd in the middle of the street and kissed him in front of everybody. It was a very passionate and animated demonstration and a lot of people were present and after my kiss I felt that Bashar will definitely fall. I was so so happy and elated and felt that despite everything love and revolution will go on and on.”
Events were harsh on both Noura and Aliaa. Bassel al-Safadi was arrested a few days before their Islamic marriage contract was due to be signed. He is still in prison where he has now spent about a year. Ultimately Noura decided to finalise the marriage contract while he was in prison. She explains “Bassel has been detained for about a year now. Its been a long time and therefore I decided to finalise our marriage contract and officially get married while he is in prison. Yesterday I visited him with the lawyer and we declared our marriage. Perhaps our joy is not complete while he is still imprisoned but our rings have tied us together as a married couple. Bassel went on hunger strike in prison when they took his ring from him. Me too. I’ll hold on to this ring until Bassel comes back.”
Noura is the daughter of a political prisoner who has spent years in the dictatorial regime’s prisons because of his political position. Noura’s father has wanted his eldest child to marry a political prisoner. “Dad always used to pray for me to marry a man like him, because he was a political prisoner. He is very happy and proud of his son-in-law Bassel, but in the same time he is sad like me because we did not have a wedding party.”
Aliaa recalls one incident where she was late getting back to Aleppo. She was worried about Abd because she knew he will be anxious and won’t sleep until she makes it home. “We were together at school every day, and in the evenings we would do the rounds with the revolutionaries. On one occasion, I went with two of my friends to a hotspot and what actually happened is that we were delayed because of the clashes. It became dark and we could neither make out nor stay overnight. Finally at about 9 pm we were able to make it back. Abd was waiting for us in the street. He was so anxious, almost hysterical. Despite the sounds of bullet fire and shells all I could think about was Abd. That for sure I will finally return to my love. Tthat we will be re-united and we’ll go out demonstrating together and that I will live to see the fall of Bashar and the liberation of the country from his regime and that I’ll party in the streets and sleep without the sight of the security forces or roadblocks or the thoughts that they are going to arrest Abd or kill him”.
Bassel al-Safadi has been detained for since almost a year now and Noura decided to marry him while he is in detention. When she returned from her prison visit after signing their marriage contract she said “I am over the moon with joy today, and he too is so happy.”
Meanwhile, Aliaa is now in hospital following an injury she sustained from a shell that fell close to the place where she was staying. She was injured and so was Abd. They are now both in a hospital in Antioch in Turkey, waiting their recovery to declare their marriage. As Aliaa puts it “we signed our Islamic marriage contract in a demonstration because our beautiful relationship started in a demonstration, so it’s only fitting that we moved on to the next phase in our relationship in a demonstration and our marriage will be in a demonstration.”
Love for both Noura and Aliaa is a revolution.