This Body: My Eucharist.


“On Samira al-Khalil’s "Diaries of Seige in Douma"”

Author: Rana Issa


On Samira al-Khalil’s Diaries of Seige in Douma (in Arabic). Al-Mousaasah al-Arabiyya lil Dirasat wal Nashr, 2016.


Samira has disappeared. Here is her book on my bed. I looked for Samira al-Khalil’s book in four bookstores in Beirut. Then, I sent her husband Yassin al-Hajj Saleh a Facebook message to help me locate a copy. That is when I discovered that he had bought all the copies, effectively taking the book out of the market. Only as a gift—this book. Yassin put me in touch with a young friend of Samira’s. The friend responded immediately. We made plans to meet the next day. In Ain Mraisseh, next to Uncle Deek. He got me that sweet nestle coffee. We took our drinks and stood by the sea. The wind was blowing. The sun glorious. Snow covered Sannine. He had a typical Syrian demeanour. Remarkably soft spoken, cultivated, hard working, sharp.


I took the book home. I went immediately to bed. I opened the book and started reading. Her writing is too poignant. Too vivid. Her comparisons so painful. I could not finish it in one session as I had planned. I put it on my night table. She said that living under siege in Douma was worse than the four years she spent in the jail in Douma. She said so repeatedly.


I put the book down because Samira began to haunt me.  Her words is all I see. She is in a place where no one loves her. She is not somewhere safe or known. She disappeared in Douma. 17 December 2013. Five months after that fateful chemical attack that changed everything. The situation after Yassin made his way to Raqqa became considerably worse. The siege was merciless. It was watertight. Hunger. Disease. Barrel bombs. Poison gas. Islamists. Torture. Destruction. Death. She was trapped. In her book, she seems content to be with the people. She had friends in Douma. She took care of many.


She is now here with me. In my own house, in my room. I remember a picture of her that circulated before she was kidnapped—in those early days of the revolution. Samira and Razan Zaytouneh cleaning the streets in Douma. She had a smile on her face and the curve of her back was brimming with activity.


Samira dislikes fame. She never wrote to be read by others. But now, with her prolonged disappearance—what choice? Sometimes she was angry. But she always asked her eyes to see beyond her self. Together, in this body of text, these fragments of her thoughts reveal a most horrific picture of how daily life was. Today, three years after her disappearance, life is still as horrific, the agony prolonged. More people have suffered. More have died. More have been tortured. More have disappeared. More are exiled. More loved ones separated. And the source of their pain is the same now as then, when Samira was still writing.


I translate:


Paper 7:

Words, Oral conversation—about death and nation

People’s spontaneous tales, their feelings simply articulated, content in form. Then comes the intellectual or the philosopher and outfits them with an appropriate dress…But the fertility is in the spontaneity of the tear drop on word.


Feeling. Shared and pure feelings 

Popular religion is an inner system of values, of myths, opinions, labour, and beliefs—ways of seeing things

Conversations (the narrators of events are alike)

All of them have a position and a perspective about what is happening to them

A simple culture…this “shared feeling” for things and events



Paper 10:

You stand on the threshold of the house, let your gaze wander the long street, you find many using crutches to walk

Many carry scars on their faces

Their bodies were punctured with stray bullets

Many women showed me the bullet holes in their bodies

Others carried the scars of torture from prison

Others shrapnel passed through their bodies.




A big lie

These organizations


Human rights

Animal rights

Environmental rights

Children’s rights

None of these organizations say anything about the violation of everything.


And none of these parties



The left

The Right

The Centre


International and Local Organizations

International and local parties


And No Nations



Civilized nations

Backward nations

So-so nations

Big nations, grand, small




Neighbouring tyrants open their borders to terrorists and close them in the face of families escaping with their children from death. They clutch at straws, and drown in a boat at sea.

Tomorrow the world will have stories that are stuff for movies and action series about people who were killed deliberately—with stubborn insistence.




Deadly hunger.




#Article  # Douma  # Samira al-Khalil  # Razan Zeytouneh