Fresh Apricots – A Prison Story

another-prison-image

Saydnaya prison, Damascus, Syria

Nancy Lindisfarne writes:

For forty-six years the Assad regime has ruled Syria with murderous brutality. A measure of this brutality was the quelling of a popular uprising against the regime in the city of Hama in 1982. Assad (the father) bombed and killed some 20,000 Syrian citizens. Or perhaps 40,000 – the violence was so comprehensive and effective that it has never been possible to establish exactly how many perished.

The massacre in Hama and the violence of the Assads’ secret prisons served to terrify the population and kept people quiescent. Until 2011. In the Arab Spring hope was contagious. Syrians rose up to rid themselves of a tyrannical regime. Continue reading

Advertisements

Rida Hus-Hus – Holding onto beauty under the Assad regime

 

Lindisfarne0215 (3)

Rida Hus-Hus 1939-2016

Nancy Lindisfarne writes:

The Syrian painter and printmaker, Rida Hus-Hus, died in Mannheim, Germany on the 30 July 2016 at the age of 77. His courage, uncomplicated generosity and celebration of all that was beautiful is to be remembered and cherished. His life drawings and portraits reflected his affection and interest in other people. Through still-life drawing and flower pictures he celebrated the joy of quotidian detail, while his vibrant pastels captured the sweeping landscapes outside of Damasus, and literally painted Syria in a most beautiful light. Yet Rida was also intensely political in the dangerous environment of the Assad dictatorship, and to keep himself sane, and preserve the independence of his art, he lived an extremely modest and cleverly managed life. Continue reading

Night of Power: A Ramadan Story

Nancy Lindisfarne writes: The lunar month which began in mid-June this year is the Islamic month of Ramadan, the month of fasting and charity. This is a story to mark Ramadan, and one day in the life of Basima. At forty five, she is still unmarried, on the shelf, and as the youngest daughter of a large Syrian family, she has become the sole carer of her elderly, difficult mother.

dervishes

This short story  is set in Damascus in the 1990s, where I did a year’s anthropological fieldwork among well-to-do Damascenes. For me, unlearning academic writing and writing fiction was a lengthy and salutary experience. The impetus came from my anger and exhaustion at countering simplistic, popular stereotypes of Arab or Muslim women and men as fundamentalists, terrorists, or both. My hope then was that the stories might be a way to reach an audience beyond the academy.

During Ramadan, observant Muslims fast each day of from dawn to dusk, preparing themselves for the day without food or water with an early breakfast before daylight, and breaking the fast at sundown, with, if they can manage it, a lavish, sociable meal. Leylat el-qadr, the Night of Power, at the end of the month is a night of prayer, a night when Mohammad received the revelation of the Quran from God.

[A collection of stories, Dancing in Damascus, was published by SUNY Press in 2000. Al raqs fi dimasq, an Arabic translation of Dancing in Damascus by the Syrian poet and playwright Mamdouh Adwan, appeared earlier, published by Dar al Mada in Damascus in 1997. Şam’da Raks, a Turkish translation by H. Ash Kőksal, was published by İmge, Ankara, in 2002. And for a Valentine’s Day Story click here]

Continue reading

Sing-Along Gender Theory: Sometimes it Takes Balls to be a Woman

Elizabeth Cook

Elizabeth Cook

Nancy Lindisfarne and Jonathan Neale write: There are three keys to thinking critically and clearly about class and gender. The first is to avoid thinking that there are essential ‘men’ and ‘women’. The second is to understand gender as relational – between men and women, but also between dominant and subordinate men, and between dominant and subordinate women. The third key is to remember that we are not actually unique, bounded individuals. Rather, we are social animals who are fashioned and exist only through exchange and social interaction.

These ideas are familiar to us in our everyday lives. However, it is easy to forget these ideas when ideologies of gender overwhelm us. The point of this Sing-Along is to make it easier to hang onto these ideas when gendering gets rough. Continue reading

A Valentine’s Day Story

For Valentine’s Day, here is something light – a story by Nancy Lindisfarne from DANCING IN DAMASCUS, her collection of short stories about Syria in the 1990s (SUNY, 2000).

valentine_barbies_on_sale_003

LOVELY TITS

‘Come on. I’ll help you if you want.’ Rana grinned. She was lively, shiny, like her curly dark hair. And she was a gorgeous shape. So he didn’t really mind that she was also saying he was hopeless, the kind of guy who didn’t have the gumption to buy a Barbie doll for his kid. Continue reading