“To leave or not to leave, seems to be the question”

by The North Star on October 9, 2012

First published by the Arab World in Revolution(s) blog.


“The battle has reached to a bone-breaking stage; who will fall apart first?” Martyr Bassel Shehada.

The biggest talk now on the streets in Syria is that everyone is leaving, families, business people, and most importantly, activists. This problem has reached to a point where many in Syria are getting angry at their friends who left or considering leaving the revolution at this difficult stage, some even consider such a thought of leaving as betrayal to Syria.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, those who are leaving Syria are either well-connected or come from well-off families. Syrian economy is deteriorating, so if you can buy a ticket and spend money in some other country, it really means nowadays that you’re rich enough to do so,” said Somayya, whose friends are leaving one after another, escaping regime detention campaigns.

“The regime is deliberately pushing the youth to leave, some activists’ names were on the wanted lists on the borders but now they’re not. The regime is leaking lists of thousands of wanted activists so they’ll get scared and think of escaping. It’s precisely because the regime wants us to leave that I believe we should stay. I think our mere staying in itself is resistance,” Sumayya affirms quietly: “to leave is to be defeated.”

Maya, Sumayya’s friend, also refuses to leave Syria at this critical moment: “I am not even considering to leaving, why should I? Yes it’s dangerous and the situation will get even worse, but that’s exactly why I should stay. I have to be careful, watch my back closely, use a nickname all the time and anonymity softwares, I should be fine, and if something goes bad, well I guess then that’s what is meant to be.”

Ismail is a 20 year-old activist who fled to Lebanon ten months ago after his name was mentioned by security forces during his imprisoned friends’ investigations. I asked him how does it feel to be a revolutionary and away from home? He replies with the following:

“Every time I get drunk I dream of coming back, once I get sober I find reasonable reasons I why shouldn’t. I feel guilty;, the more violent this regime becomes, the more I feel guilty towards the martyrs. I think plight  units people, if you’re under the shelling, you’re constantly reminded of why this revolution started in the first place. The absence of witnessing such violence, or experiencing it, reminds you of who you are: a runaway revolutionary.”

I asked Ismail why he feels guilty if his escape was only to protect himself, he replies: “I called for this revolution, I believed in it long time before it started, and I left, I left the working class to die.”

To leave or not to leave, remains to be the question for many activists inside, most of them struggle to come up with a resolution. Am I allowed to go on with my life while tens are dying daily? Am I allowed to have a job, a new life, a future, when many young people were killed for daring to build a future in their home? Is there a home elsewhere?

With these questions I end this article with Mahmoud Darwish’s following verses:

I gave my picture to my beloved:
“If I die, hang it up on the wall.”
She asked: “Is there a wall for it?”
I answered: “We will build a wall.”
“Where, in what house?”
“We will build a house.”
“Where, on which spot of exile?”
(Mahmoud Darwish)


Photo: anonymous graffiti in Syria says: “A country is not a hotel to be abandoned when the service gets bad – we will persevere.”

Razan Ghazzawi is a 32 year-old Syrian blogger based in Damascus, defending human rights, not only in her native Syria but throughout the Arab world and beyond.

She has been detained twice by the Assad regime and is now under military trial. Razan is an English Literature graduate and got a Master degree  in Comparative Literature from Balamand University in 2011. She started blogging under the name of „Golaniya 7“ years ago, but chose to write under her real name 5 years ago. She recently won the Front Line Defender’s prize for Human Rights Defenders 2012.

You can follow Razan on Twitter and write her under @RedRazan or follow her on her blog: razanghazzawi.org

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