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Diary from Damascus Chapter 6: My brothers were beaten up in Italy

A Syrian woman writes from the bloody war in Syria. Today about her brothers' escape to Italy.

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“What a night” was the first statement that came into our minds. A tough, violent night. I can’t even remember when I fell asleep. I was counting - not sheep as any normal human being would - I was counting missiles. Every single missile. One day when I’m famous and on TV the introducer will ask me what my least favourite sound is.

With a frown on my forehead my answer will be the sound of the launcher when it launches a missile. A very nasty missile that cleaves the virginity of the air with a loud whistling sound. And the sounds of the explosions, and the collapse of a building, glass smashing and the screams of children and their mothers.

I lived through all these horrifying things last night. I don't know why they increase the violence during the Eid. Maybe it's their way of wishing us a happy Eid.

I washed my face, made a cup of Nescafe with the last spoonful in the jar, switched on the television and automatically tuned in to a news channel. Since the early morning the channel had been showing some old videos from the Syrian detention facilities and prison. The videos showed the methods of torture, and how those arrested were thrashed and beaten to death – and with laughing and giggling sounds in the background.

Almighty God. How could you put such cruelty in their hearts, how could they be that heartless. To beat, to hit, to kill, to chop, to take the souls of other human beings.

What about the children of that man on TV? How will they feel if they see him naked and covered with blood. What about his mom?

I forced myself to switch channels to a music channel. Nice peaceful songs with my Nescafe. I saw a message on my mobile that my two brothers had started on their journey from Italy to Sweden, the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. They paid another smuggler 800 euro per person to take them. Hopefully everything will be fine and nothing to worry about. I’ll stay lazy and enjoy the strange peace of this morning.

Eight hours later

I knew it. I knew there was an eerie peacefulness about this morning!

Abed, called us from a borrowed mobile, and told dad that they had been caught, arrested and were now in detention. That can't be that bad, surely. I told my mom to stop weeping and my dad to just listen to me. “It’s a test for them,” I said. “And trust me. Being in Italian detention for a year is a million times better than an hour in Syrian one. Keep calm, everything will be fine. It’s just a matter of normal procedure for any country," I added.

It wasn't normal procedure and it wasn't better than Syrian detention. What can I say? I am shaking. All my life we have grown up to think and believe that Europeans and foreigners are human and kind to animals. I watched videos for 23 years, and in every movie I was sure that God had given European a humanitarian conscience. They take care of the homeless, they respect all living things - even plants and animals.

When all these oppressed Syrians and Palestinians decided to put their life, and all the money they have, at stake to be in a European country, I know why. Because they saw Europe as a mother; a kind, goodhearted mother where they could rest from the injustices and repression of Arab leaders.

To hell with all of these Arab leaders who won’t help their deprived people. Most people only choose to seek Europe just to go to a place that will take care of them, respect them, not exploit them, not arrest and beat them for silly reasons.

Italy wasn't that much different. Italy was as bad as any Arab country. Right now I need a miracle to calm me down. I am the essential part of this house and I am collapsing.

Abed told me 'I will talk and you write it down. Don't ask me for details, details are painful. After we were caught and taken to the police station, the first thing they did was to strip us. They were laughing. We told them it is Eid and they must treat us well on holy days. One of them smiled mockingly and said; “So, happy Christmas man”.

They forced women to take off their scarves. Ten guards to every person just to watch us. No food, no moving around, no bathroom unless they are there and watch us through open doors. Dear Sis, I think they are ethnically Syrians, or the Syrians are ethnically Italian. They have the same way of pressurising people and terrorising them. And when the hour of torture came, I was shaking from the screams that came from the room.

»My turn and they pulled me to the ground and beat me with sticks, their foot on my belly, on my head. they beat, beat and beat. I told them you are as bad as the Syrians. They said ”then go back to Syria”. I felt like scum. Naked on the floor, my nose bleeding, my hands shaking. I give up! I gave them my fingerprints, and I told Mazen just to give them his. They beat women and strip them. Don't ask me for details. I told you the details are more painful« …

Dad and mom started fighting. Mom hadn’t approved of the idea of setting off in the first place, while dad was one hundred per cent sure it was the best way to get away from the war.

The morning video came to mind. My precious brothers had been beaten like that poor man. To force them to give their fingerprints. As I explained in one of my earlier posts, fingerprinting in Italy or Germany is a nightmare for refugees. It removes the chance for them to get nationality and asylum in Europe.

A fire began burning in my heart. I have something important to do. I have a duty to write and write until my fingers bleed. I will shout until my voice gives out. Not just for my brother, but for the refugees who have to go through that horror.

How they beat traumatized people who have just escaped a war and lived through the terrible trauma of the boat and the sea. Where is the humanity in that? Where are the human rights organisations?

We are not terrorists. We are just seeking safety. We are just seeking your humanity.

All my life I have dreamed that I would like to have my honeymoon in Italy. The country of romance and love. No more.

After they had been fingerprinted, they released them, took them to a hotel and paid. They left them broken in heart and mind.

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