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Amal Hanano


One Year of Hope

[A building in Qusair, Homs. Photographed by revolutionary artist and martyr, Ashraf Al-Ahmad. Image courtesy of SNN.]

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, ...

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Houla: Not a Game Changer

[Puzzle of Syrian Massacres in Binnish on 1 June 2012,

Confession: the images of the carnage in Houla did not move me like they seem to have moved the rest of the world. Yes, they were tragic, horrific acts of violence against the most innocent of victims. But they didn’t break anything inside of me that was not already broken, nor did they raise the level of outrage or sorrow I feel everyday over what is happening in Syria. Maybe it was because in the twenty-fours hours before hearing about the Houla massacre, I had heard that ...

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The Real Me and The Hypothetical Syrian Revolution (Part 2)

[Tal al-Malouhi. Image from Facebook.]

Nine months ago my daughter, Tal Malouhi, a student in high school, was arrested by one of the branches of the security for reasons we do not know until this moment and I do not know anything about her fate. Sir, I knocked on the doors of all the security agencies and the presidential palace and all the official channels possible in order to be assured about my daughter or know anything about her fate or the cause of her arrest, but to no avail. Finally, I received a promise ...

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Finding Bayt Across Borders of Stone

[Cover of House of Stone, by Anthony Shadid.]

No roads, not a single one, lead to the place where we had gotten ourselves.*  I “met” Anthony Shadid the only way someone like me, a mere reader, can meet a journalist she admires: I emailed him a fan letter. I sent him my short note through the New York Times website and didn’t expect an answer. The next day, he emailed me a brief but warm thank you. Two days later, on May 10th, I read Anthony’s article on Rami Makhlouf—Bashar al-Assad’s cousin and the regime’s ...

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The Real Me and the Hypothetical Syrian Revolution - Part 1

[A dark cloud of smoke hovers over Homs. Courtesy of Omar Shakir.]

The Syrian revolution undeniably belongs to the street. It’s rooted in the public realm where masses of physical bodies occupy the squares and real voices fill the air with defiance against the brutality of a relentless regime. The virtual realm of the revolution is a strong, second line of defense. Communities of online activists in Syria tirelessly spread the voices and events from the street as far and wide as possible, while the activists outside Syria continue the ...

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The Insha'at Exodus

[Destruction in Insha'at, Homs. Image courtesy of Omar Shakir.]

Nadia* is a beautiful young lady from a prominent family in Homs. Every day for months, she would stare at her closet in agony; she had nothing to wear. Her behavior was typical of millions of girls her age around the world, but unlike those millions of girls, she wasn’t on her way to meet friends, go to a party, or spend the day shopping. She was going to a protest. She said her wardrobe decision was difficult because she had to choose an outfit that was fitting enough for ...

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While You Were Sleeping, Again

[An apartment in Homs. Image from]

Another early morning in Baba Amr, another late night here. My plan is to write a simple post from a few reports on the day’s events in Homs, the fifth consecutive day of shelling in Baba Amr. Keeping an eye on Skype and Twitter and my ears tuned in to Omar Shakir’s livestream broadcast, I begin, intending to finish quickly with the goal of sleeping earlier than the last four nights. Omar’s livestream is calm. The quiet moments before dawn are punctuated by chirping birds ...

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One Morning in Homs

[Baba Amr on the morning of 7 February 2012. Still taken by author from Omar Shakir's livestream broadcast.]

It is nighttime here, and I am about to go to bed. Before I disconnect from Syria, I notice Omar is on Skype. I send him a message telling him that his video on Anderson Cooper tonight was impressive. I tell him that he makes me proud to be Syrian. I tell him that I wished I was with them in Homs. A few seconds later, he sends me a link. I open it. Suddenly I am in Homs, at daybreak.  He messages me: This is my livestream from Baba Amr. I plug in my laptop charger. It ...

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Nothing But My Words

“What are you getting out of this?” This is the question I have been asked over and over for the past ten months and three weeks by people in my real life. It is a legitimate question for all of us. What have all the hours we have spent tweeting and retweeting and Facebooking and blogging and writing and arguing and debating done for the Syrian people? Have they made a difference to the endless suffering of the Syrian people? Did they even minutely affect the tide of bloody ...

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Outside the Walls

[Bouazizi. Image from Unknown Archive.]

Out of all the pieces of me, those little bricks that build what we call our identity, being from Aleppo is the one I can never change. Although I no longer live in the ancient northern Syrian city, Aleppo is the place I call home. Growing up, being from Aleppo was a source of extreme pride. As my father never ceases to remind me, we are not only from Aleppo, but we are from dakhel al-sour, inside the walls. “Inside the walls” is an exclusive term which means your family ...

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The Cell of Survival: Bara Sarraj

[Aerial view of Tadmor Prison. Images courtesy of Bara Sarraj.]

[This is the third part of Amal Hanano's series, Portraits of a People.] In the field of evolutionary immunology, “it is important to recognize that every organism living today has an immune system that has evolved to be absolutely capable of protecting it from most forms of harm; those organisms that did not adapt their immune systems to external threats are no longer around to be observed.”  His story begins on March 5th, 1984, an ordinary Damascus morning. He ...

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A Syrian President's Daughter: Hana Choucri Al-Kouatly

[The Syrian President Choucri al-Kouatly All images courtesy of the al-Kouatly private archive.]

[This is the second part of Amal Hanano's series, Portraits of a People.] In our dictator and monarch infested region, we have become accustomed to seeing the privileged children of power, the offsprings of presidents, kings, ministers, and mas’uleen, acting as if they owned the land and the people. A few weeks ago, I spent time with a certain daughter of a Syrian president who is as elegant and gracious as a queen, but without pomp or false entitlement. Her name is Hana ...

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Framing Syria

[Still image from the documentary,

Over the last forty years, the Assad regime has mastered the method of burying our stories almost as well as burying our people. Our cities, like their residents, carry the scars of brutality, hiding decades of bloody secrets within their thick stone walls. One city in particular, Hama, lives with a twenty-nine-year-old secret, its 1982 massacre. It’s not really a secret, rather classified as a taboo subject never to be discussed in voices louder than whispers behind closed ...

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Portraits of a People

[Burhan Ghalioun. Image by author]

In the end, after the terror, torture, and murder, the tyrant rules with his face. The people cannot escape it, his image is all-consuming, devouring our streets, our walls, our shops, our screens. His face erases all others. Either you become a reflective surface for his image, or you disappear, literally and figuratively. This series is a response to his face with our own. Each portrait replaces his ruthless image with another of survival, resists his narrative with ...

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A Syrian American in Paris

[Syrian flag at protest held in Paris in honor of Mashaal Tammo. This and all other images in this post by Amal Hannano.]

Last week, on the day after the day Steve Jobs died to the rest of the world, on another bloody Friday in Syria, Mashaal Tammo was murdered. Tammo, a beloved Kurdish activist and leader, member of the newly-formed Syrian National Council (SNC), was gunned down by four men in his home in the northeastern city of al-Qamishli, one day before the SNC was scheduled to meet in Cairo to elect its leaders. Tammo was killed by “armed gangs” according to the Syrian ...

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The Opposite of Silence

[Image from Amal Hanano.]

[This is the twelfth and last installment of Amal Hanano's diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here.] There is always a certain acclimation period needed when moving from east to west or west to east, a few days to re-situate yourself. It disguises itself as jet lag, but it is more of a re-calibration of your inner compass. This time, my resetting lasted for weeks not days. The phone kept ringing, from family and friends in the U.S. making sure I ...

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I'm Sorry

[Aleppo at night. Image by Amal Hanano.]

[This is the eleventh installment of Amal Hanano's diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here.] The hours before leaving are always the worst. It is the curse of al-mahjar, the diaspora, no matter how long you have lived away from home, a part of you is uprooted every time you leave. On departure days, you suffocate in a fog of gloom. But this time was not every time, this time the contradiction between the fragility here and the stability there, ...

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The Namesake

[Ibrahim Hanano and company. See text for description. Image from Amal Hanano.]

[This is the tenth installment of Amal Hanano's diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here.] My name is not Amal Hanano. Before you even think Amina Abdallah, I assure you I am a real person, a Syrian-American from Aleppo who was physically in the city this summer, writing under a pseudonym. Of course, the pseudonym turned out to have its own issues which I will address, but first, a story... In the early decades of the last century, when certain ...

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It's Not Him, It's Them

[Aleppo Restaurant. Image by Amal Hanano]

[This is the ninth installment of Amal Hanano's diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here] On the quietest Friday, a few weeks ago, I convinced my parents to honor a family tradition and go out for lunch. The narrow, cobblestoned streets were still and empty, as was the courtyard of one of my favorite restaurants, a renovated traditional house in the historic Jdeideh Quarter. The waiters hovered, not for news, but out of boredom, as they served the ...

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The Corrections

[Assad, Father and Son, Billboard with

[This is the eighth part of Amal Hanano's diary of her trip back to Aleppo. You can read previous posts here] By coincidence, I was reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections while in Aleppo, although it may not have been pure coincidence, as sometimes books seem to possess magically perfect timing. (Last year’s Freedom may have been the more appropriate title for my trip, but I have a habit of reading books out of sequence.) Every afternoon, while the city paused under the ...

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