Our testimony to death

Doha Hasan,

Somewhere, there are scattered corpses along a road that looks completely destroyed, with blood around orange bags holding still bodies. You see destroyed buildings that have chaotically hurled parts of their rubble inside the frame, while keeping their residents under silent ruins.

Aleppo/Al-Jazeera: “The Syrian government forces shelled groups of civilians as they fled their neighborhoods in Eastern Aleppo, killing at least 45 people. Witness accounts confirmed bodies of….”
It is just an image, containing something, a new event; a newsworthy event, but look closely at the image, it resembles an event we have witnessed before, time and time again.

Eastern Ghouta/Al Arabiya: “The death toll of the Deir al-Asafir massacre has risen to 32 civilians, mostly children, following more than 10 air raids carried out by the Syrian air force on two schools and a hospital in Deir al-Asafir near Damascus.”
Today, the audience witnesses images of intense and bloody events, receiving shock after shock, in a very narrow time frame. This sensation could be numbing. The numbness that follow a fifth blow to a certain part of the body, or a fifth slap, or a fifth stitch. This sensation that follows repetitive blows could be a mere defense mechanism developed by the unconsciousness, in a world filled with violence which it cannot control. It is the last weapon of confrontation.

Maha opened one of her eyes and looked at the window next to her bed. It’s still nighttime. She lifted her head with lethargy to look at the clock hanging on her wall. It’s eight in the morning. She quietly moved to put on her clothes, and went into the darkness towards her job in the city, to which she has relocated last year after an arduous journey. Aleppo to Turkey, and then water and land until she reached Sweden.

On her way, she almost collapsed as her body’s strength betrayed her. She sat on the side of the road, placed her hand on her heart. The heavy beats scared her. She felt anxious, as breathing became impossible. Within a few seconds, she fell to the ground.

The 20-something-year-old girl works at one of the organizations involved with the Syrian situation, and her main role entails the documentation of images and videos related to the events in her country. She spends more than eight hours a day following, watching, and documenting massacres, casualties and injuries. She places everything under specific columns: names, dates and places. Watching and documentation is a routine process for her: “It’s just routine work, I don’t feel anything, I got used to watching…,” or so she says.

Routine is a safety net, as Maha calls it. She leaves the office, meets some friends from different nationalities. They talk about simple mundane things. She then goes to her house, located in one of the quieter neighborhoods, where she watches a film and sleeps. For 360 days she did not change her daily routine, until the moment she fell to the ground.

One could say that the reason behind Maha’s panic attack was stress. It is the clash between the conscious and the unconscious; the conscious embodied by her desire to forget, to cope and continue; and the unconscious filled with her previous and present trauma. It is apparent that panic attacks come from a sense of insecurity; complete loss of control and ignoring the weakness and feigning strength. It is the direct alarm set off by the body when it can no longer ignore.

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