Let’s Light Up a Candle in Their Darkness

Translated by; Aishah Barazi

In the article’s main picture, part of a leg is showing with a dirty shoe pressing against a young man’s chest who is laying on the ground and was written in its caption “Detention Campaign.” On the same picture but in a smaller frame, some women were leading a gathering and another caption “Parts of The Riot”. The article itself says that the families of the detained Iranian students gathered in front of the prison, where their sons are captured behind the thick walls, and calling for their release. The students were detained because they went out in demonstrations against the authorities. The article continues “the families that gathered lit up candles to celebrate the holiday, in the freezing weather, near their sons at Evin prison”. I went back to the picture over and over, looking at its details and staring at it from all corners in vain; I could not see more. However, each time, it takes me to hundreds of similar images as if my memory has vividly kept a huge album of facial expressions and glances: the ones right after detention, days after, months or years later. Angry faces and crying others whereas some smile in pain and pride at the same time however all of them wear fake masks that could barely hide their eyes in Eids (holidays).

Any one who experienced the world of detention, detainees and their families, knows very well that there is nothing bitter than celebrating with the ghosts of the beloved ones bypassing the bulky fences of prisons. And that there is nothing more noble than the faith and the suffer of parents, wives and children of those who are fiercely absent of their families. Actually, these families live the pain detention twice: one by living a life calling for the absent ones and another by continue to steadfast in spite of all their suffering. From that point, many families started their move in several countries of our prison-loaded region; letters, committees and sit-ins, financial pressures, torments by security members and retributions that involve the “entire family”. Also, not to mention the kids who are growing up comprehending the meaning of “justice” in the oppressive sense and mothers raising their sons pictures with quiet prayers which were suppressed by an infinite compulsion. You have to be a stone to stand still in front of the mothers’ tears specially those who were overly patient.

In Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Palestine and several other countries, the detainees’ families played vital roles in keeping their sons’ cases present and defending them. Moreover, they had their uneasy share of injustice and retributions.

Many sons of the Syrian political detainees have recently published a holiday greeting letter concluding it with this phrase: “happiness did not visit the families of the detainees in the holidays… and we are still waiting”. To be frank, waiting has become a profession those people have painfully and courageously mastered; they truly deserve badges of honor for it and cogitation moments.

The notion of retribution in Third-World countries when it comes to political activists has reached to an unprecedented level of revenge besides bottlenecking the detainees to renounce the public affairs. If this is untrue what could be a possible explanation of firing the wife of detained activist Anwar AlBunny from her job right after the issuing of a juridical-political sentence against him?‏

In a study prepared by an Egyptian Human Rights organization on the social and humanitarian effects of detention, it covered a small part of the suffering, damage and miserable situations the families of detainees are living in. The study says “Security departments do not just detain a citizen but they further practice threats against his family. They periodically raid their homes to check it and observe them all the time in addition to the economic crises these families are experiencing due to the absence of their main providers.” The conditions of detainees’ families rarely get the attention of social and humanitarian workers or the media. People usually are compassionate, sympathetic or let’s say supportive of the displaced, paupers or victims of natural and humanitarian disasters. There is similar but not so common support to the victims of injustice, oppression and political detention. Those victims who deserve a special day to honor them and remind the people about them just like Global Woman Day, Children Day, Anti-Execution Day… etc. They deserve more attention to achieve the minimal solidarity level with them. It is just like lighting up a candle in their long nights on one hand and adding an immersive humanitarian dimension to the cases of Human Rights and Freedoms Violations on another. In the end, a detainee has more than just a name, date of birth, history of detentions and a case. He also has a family, home, a dream and tiny details that never end; all of which have been confiscated till further notice.

This solidarity must be cross-borders since pain and agony are the same and due to the fact that the possible sorts of compassion are few; most of them are spiritual and emotional but have a great strengthening effect on detainees and their families.

In a letter from the families of political detainees in Morocco, they were thanking all those who stood by them and adding: “Do not underestimate the power of your solidarity with us, all your letters even the simplest ones are creating real emotional motivation to us and to our detainees.” I would only exclude one sort of solidarity for a reason. In a past holiday, I gave a present to a kid who has not seen his detained father since 3 years. He asked me if the present was from his father! His grandmother immediately responded: Yes, he sent it you from Hajj (pilgrimage)! The kid did not believe his grandmother, and I don’t think that he believed her. Therefore, to save myself such moments of extreme coercion, I decided not to give presents to detainees’ kids in holidays‏