Seven Widows

Racing through Amman on an almost flying carpet. The little car of the Sheikh finds its way magically through the traffic jams. Climbing the stairs of a building where high pitched childrens voices swirl around in the stairhouse like butterflies in May. On the balconies the wash is hanging in rows, jam-packed. In front of the door a mountain of shoes, mainly high heels. The wind blows a white curtain out of the open door. A little girl grabs the hand of the Sheikh. ‘Ahlan wa Sahlan, tfadal’. ‘Welcome, please come in!’ We take off our shoes and enter the appartment. The Sheikh is a regular visitor, he greets the women out of respect with his hand on his heart. I am shaking the hands of the Syrian women, embracing, kissing cheeks, levelling. The family from Homs have been living in this rented and furnished apartment for the last few months. While the Sheikh asks about their latest news noting things in his diary, I let my eyes drift around the room. Five women sit down quietly, the two little ones take everyones attention, cartoon network is on. The little boy, the only boy in the family immediately finds a spot near the Sheikh, crawling onto his lap. A smell of coffee enters the room, sweet and spicy, probably cardamom. An older woman comes in and the Sheikh rises to his feet, as do I. Umm Ahmad and her eldest daughter. We are welcomed again and we do sit down for the second time while the seventh woman is pooring out coffee in small cups, following Arabic traditions, the ears of the coffee cups are all facing one direction. IMG_3608 (Large)Umm Ahmad tells her story from Homs. ‘It was sudden, we didn’t expect anything… One of my daughters from Damascus was visiting with her husband. Everyone was at home, we were having lunch. There was a sudden knock on the door. A man from the secret service asking for all the men of the family to join him to come and register… Even for the visiting brother in law from Damascus there was no exception nor for the younger boys. Seven men and seven young boys. It went all so fast…, it was like a raid.’ Afterwards it turned out that Christian neighbours where warned beforehand and were asked to keep their doors closed. They were left in peace. All the Sunni men and boys in the whole neighbourhood never returned, they were killed. Families have been robbed of their loved ones by the ruling Alawi. ‘They think that we are getting weaker by this..?! What do we have to do?’ asks Umm Ahmad looking devastated. The Sheikh breaks through the silence by saying: ‘There is nothing else to do then to drink coffee together…!’ Everybody laughs and we drink coffee, bitter and sweet. This must be the famous lighthearted spirit of the Homsi people, about whom so many jokes are told in Syria. The courage and sisterhood between the women is deeply moving.

Over Esseline van de Sande

Opmerkelijke Ontmoetingen Wondrous Encounters
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Een reactie op Seven Widows

  1. Tjonge R. van Hoogstraaten, wat een cynisme.. Ik lees een verhaal over een familie van wie drie generaties mannen zijn vermoord. Compassie. Dat is de clou.

    tineke bennema

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