On September 16, yet again, Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square and some of the main roads leading to Lebanon’s Parliament building came back to life. The families of the Lebanese soldiers kidnapped by Daesh were reiterating their endless calls for the government to bring their sons, brothers and fathers back alive. Others were protesting against the government’s failure to resolve the garbage crisis in a sustainable and environmental way. But everyone was there demanding that the political class meeting under the guise of an unconstitutional, worthless, ineffective so-called national dialogue, start listening to its people, be held accountable, even step down and have mercy on a country they have used and abused for far too long.
The demands are important, but on September 16, it is the human stories that made the headlines and broke our hearts. The stories that we never knew about or never cared to know about. The ones that were too far from the little world in which we lived in or that were too close to home but we had no way of telling them to the world. The video of the most amazing encounter between Ajwad Ayyash and an Internal Security Forces police officer made the rounds and made us cry every time we watched it (you can see the video here, courtesy of Alex Tabbah).
But there is another story that doesn’t have a video to go with it, but is not less emotional and heartbreaking. A story shared by countless others in this god forsaken country whose voices are never heard. Hikmat Al Amine, a courageous activist and friend, was one of around 30 who were detained and released on September 16. He got his freedom back and gave a promise to someone still behind bars, a promise to give him back his voice and tell his story to the outside world. This is what Hikmat wrote:
We stayed in custody for just a couple of hours. During this short time, we were worried for everyone that was inside the police station and outside; everyone that was arrested, everyone out in the squares, our hearts were anxious for our families and loved ones, especially since they had no news about us and our well being.
But during these couple of hours, we met someone with the sweetest heart that one could possibly imagine. He is 21-years old and has been under arrest since August 23. An illiterate young man, whose minimal financial means have stood in the way of getting a proper education. A young man who lives off of selling CDs under a bridge. A young man who lost his mother when he was 11-years old and is now anxiously awaiting for his release, to go back to his daily routine, which includes visiting his mother’s grave. A young man who was getting ready to be released today with us, but was let down by the judge who didn’t sign his release forms. A young man whose only crime was attempting to remove and destroy barbed wire set during a demonstration.
Before we were released, I asked him what he wanted. His answer was innocently spontaneous, “I feel like a shish taouk [chicken sandwich].” Before tears started rolling down his cheeks he continued, “please do not forget about me! I want to get out before the [Adha] Eid and see my younger brothers and visit my mother’s grave.
This young man isn’t anonymous. This young man is Amer Al Halani from Chiyah. Please don’t forget him!
(Original Arabic version)
نحنا قعدنا كم ساعة و طلعنا، بهل كم ساعة كان قلبنا على كل حدا جوا و برا، كل حدا اعتقل، كل حدا بالساحة، قلبنا على عيلتنا و الناس الي منحبن، و مقطوعة كل الأخبار عنا. بس كمان بهل كم ساعة تعرفنا على أطيب قلب ممكن انسان يحملو، شب عمره ٢١ سنة، الو من مظاهرة ٢٣ آب معتقل، شب اميي منعته الظروف المعيشية من انو يتعلم، شب بعيش من بيع السديات تحت الجسر، شب فقد امو على عمر ال ١١ سنة، و ناطر ليطلع و يرجع لعادته اليومية بزيارة قبرها، شب كان عم يحضر حالو ليطلع ليوم و خذله القاضي و ما مضالو إخلاء سبيل، تهمته انو كان عم يتعدا على الشريط الشائك بالمظاهرة. قبل ما نضهر سألته شو بدك؟ كان الجواب العفوي البريء: عبالي طاووق. قبل أن تدمع عيناه و يقلي: بشرفكن ما تنسوني! بدي أطلع قبل العيد و شوف اخواتي الصغار و بدي زور قبر أمي..
هيدا الشب منو مجهول، هيدا الشب بكون عامر الحلاني ابن الشياح، بشرفكن ما حدا ينساه
Please don’t forget Amer.
This isn’t over yet. #YouStink طلعت_ريحتكم#