In Memory of Ghassan al-Jibai, His ‘Nails’

The skin on my feet swelled and tore as blood and pus broke it open.  I was no longer able to stand, walk on all fours, or even crawl on my stomach as before.  They crushed my knees.   It was not as long as one would have imagined it in order to pass through the thick wall.   I began to feel the wall with my fingers, not knowing what I was looking for.   I could not make out what was being said. Here, Ghada Alatrash shares a short piece,   مسامير,   in celebration of the author’s life and work. But those stupid organs continued to function without paying any heed to our desire; they did not feel our pain, shame, or humiliation.  It did not matter whether you were happy or depressed, a hero or a coward.  It made no difference whether you were flayed or burnt in the face and ears with electricity or oxy-fuel welding flames.  Their only task was to keep you alive, even if your flesh was rotting.  Death does not come to you, nor are you able to go to it as you wished, for life was sacred and protected by a supreme will; and not even its beholder had the right to trespass on it.   I tried to many a time but failed.   Hesitant, I felt a sudden urge and crawled toward the door. Once released, he taught theater in Damascus, yet was banned off and on from teaching at the university, including after expressing support for protesters in 2011. After studying theater in Ukraine, al-Jibai returned to Syria, where he was imprisoned for a decade. Late one night, I heard a rustle that sounded like whispers.   Someone from behind the wall was blowing air for me. In Memory of Ghassan al-Jibai, His ‘Nails’ August 17, 2022August 16, 2022 by mlynxqualey The writer and dramatist Ghassan al-Jibai (1952-2022), acclaimed author of works that included   The General’s Coffee   and   Banana Fingers,   died earlier this month.   I felt a new drive come to life in my body and soul. I needed to turn into a corpse as soon as possible,   and   to let it be that the blue flies do as they please   unto me.   They were your partners in a homeland, Syrians like you, but they were evil, with no morality or conscience.   It was coming through, slowly, as if asking of me, “pull me out.”    I took a step back.   I only understood one thing—that,   contrary to what I had assumed, I was not alone nor completely isolated from this world. They hung me on the ladder.   It was obvious that it was as old as the prison.   I did not dare pull it out.   The sound was coming from behind the walls.   The excruciating pain was preventing me from sleeping. She holds a PhD in Educational Research: Languages and Diversity from the Werklund School of Education, the University of Calgary, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Oklahoma.   It was not permissible for you to die only once or when you wished.   They could force you to swallow a fly, a cockroach, or a mouse. I wished I could find a way to stop my heart from beating, puncture my lungs, or ring my neck with my own hands so that I could die painlessly.   When you refused to eat a dry piece of bread they threw at you, your torture was multiplied. * Ghada Alatrash, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Critical and Creative Studies at Alberta University of the Arts in Calgary, Canada.   I later came to find that this   was a   fly that specialized in cemeteries and dead corpses.   I reached to feel its place again.   It didn’t occur to me that there were flies   of such a color.   I had seen butterflies in all colors:    white, yellow, purple, red.   I was not sure who had sent it to me.   And the people here were not Israelis for you to fight them with a hunger strike.   But its tone was apprehensive and dithering.   Unexpectedly, I began to hear voices and hisses.   I accepted the challenge, although I didn’t understand the point he was making about the blue flies.   Perhaps there was a needle or a metal cord that was pushing it through to me.   I wished I could fall into eternal slumber before I would be subjected to torture again.   I was alone, without a friend or a companion, amidst   dark and   sticky walls. Her current research speaks to Syrian art and creative expression as resistance to oppression and dictatorship. They were worse than   the   fiercest of beasts and their imagination was greater than that of the devil.   It was a real nail, solid, pointed, and warm, but it was not adequate   for   suicide.   The nail suddenly disappeared and hot air came out of the hole. Nails By Ghassan   al-Jibai   Translated by Ghada Alatrash It was necessary that I die because I had lost my humanity.  They managed to humiliate me and break my will to live in only one day.   Despite the darkness, I was able to locate it. The jailor had to drag me to the torture rooms like a bag full of bones.   The investigator said it to all victims.   The hole was not new.   But I had not heard of the blue fly. His writing often returned to the subject of Syria’s notorious prisons.   I first thought that it might   have been the jailor lending a close ear to make sure that my moaning had not ceased. I filled the place with my hysterical screaming; I begged them for mercy.  Confessing to the crime of demonstrating and chanting for freedom was no longer enough for them.   And I began.   It also became obvious that the place was filled with spirits.   I also understood that it was now my turn to perforate the facing wall.   To my big surprise, I felt a thin nail emerging from a hole in the wall, poking my palm. He appears in   Hala Mohammad’s 2006   documentary   Journey into   Memory. I confessed to crimes I had never committed in my life and to other crimes I planned to commit along with my father, mother, and younger siblings.  They continued to ask for more.  I could not bear it any longer.  My wounds festered and began to ooze, to the point that the jailor had to wear a mask and cover his nose before opening my prison cell.   I was not able to strangle myself with my own hands or cut my veins with my teeth,   for this would require a brutality that I did not possess.   It was also on that day that I came to the realization that,   no matter how thick and solid the wall, it   was bound to have a hole or   puncture. They broke my back with the German chair. “I swear I am going to make you beg for death and not find it, you worthless thing,” said the investigator, and he did just that. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading… I didn’t believe he could, but the brutality led me to the deepest ends of frustration and despondency, and to question my own humanity.  Who would have ever thought that the smilingly wilful person, who was full of optimism, love, and life, would come to a day when he asked for death and couldn’t find it.  I had no access to poison, a rope, or any sharp objects.  They confiscated any tool that would make death feasible.  Had I owned pins, I wouldn’t have been satisfied with only pricking out my eyes in the manner of King Oedipus.  They confiscated my tie, eyeglasses, belt, watch, and my wedding ring, and they placed me in a bare and cramped prison cell where it wasn’t even possible to smash my head against its walls.  The investigator said another thing that I would never forget, “I swear I am going to make sure that not even the blue flies can find you, you dog.” These statements were not only dedicated to me.   I felt my neck.   I felt the nail come to surface again, smoothly penetrating the hole until it fell to the ground.

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