How Syria's Men Mourn

Article Summary
While a mother sobbing at the death of her sons and daughters killed in the Syrian violence is now a common image on television, that of emotion-stricken fathers appears less often, writes Bissan al-Bani. In a society that values the image of male strength, the impact of the violence on fathers should not be forgotten.

A mother kneels sobbing in front of the enshrouded body of her martyred son. She does not care about the crowd attending the funeral, and even less about the cameras that have become accustomed to coldly monitoring the pain and sadness that the Syrians endure. Unable to hide her pain, she sobs uncontrollably. Her young man is dead. She keeps weeping and weeping, uttering murmurs and shedding tears to alleviate her pain.

This is a Syrian scene that is broadcast daily on satellite channels covering the country’s bloody events. Away from the cameras — yet clearly in the scene — the father of the martyr is burdened by sadness. However, he is forced to stay strong in a society that denies men any act or tear that would reveal his weakness, thus doubling their burden. The father fights back his tears and tries to comfort the mother, the wife and the rest of the family members in an attempt to give them strength.

"Men do not cry, they build ​​nations," says Abou Mohammad confidently, the man in his sixties who bids farewell to his 20 year-old son. He adds, "The nation is important, too.” He looks at his bereaved wife and firmly tells her, "Raise your head high! Your son is a martyr and he will rest in heaven.”

Abou Mohammad is only one of many Syrian fathers who have lost their loved ones because of the merciless violence that turned death into a daily and collective reality for the nation. Death hurts mothers and fathers alike. If the strong Abou Mohammad managed to escape this ordeal, stand by his family and help them overcome their grief, the fact remains that hundreds of Syrian families are fragile and threatening to collapse. Some families have lost their sons, some have lost their fathers and others have lost both.

Unlike Mother's day, Father's day is not part of the Syrian popular culture. However, the fathers' role in the family is of great importance in a society that is patriarchal par excellence. Many countries across the globe celebrate Father's day in June each year, but Syrians, however, do not have such a holiday. They do not devote a day for the father, the head and provider of the family and the protector of the land and its honor. Nevertheless, they honor him and recognize his key and critical role every day, particularly now during the continuously traumatic events that the nation is experiencing. These events have turned ​​the father into a pillar for the family and a greater symbol of sacrifice and devotion. Thus, his absence disastrously affects the family, with profound negative consequences in the long term.

A Martyred Father and a Child in Pain

According to Syrian law and the Islamic Sharia, orphans are those who have lost a father. By extension, the community says that orphans are also families who have lost their custodian. Once a father is dead, his entire family is orphaned. Fathers are pillars, protectors and providers for their families. They play a leading role in taking the family’s important decisions.

As they grow up, children look up to their fathers and to their behavior at work, in the street and in public life. Their social personality is shaped by this behavior.

Additionally, the absence of the father increases the mother’s burden and changes the socio-economic roles within the family. Bereaved mothers become increasingly responsible, having to play the role of the mother and father simultaneously. This situation forces mothers to cope with grief while paying attention to the family, ensuring its safety, making ends meet and taking care of the children’s future.

A father's loss affects the psychological and mental development of the child, as well as his behavior and personality. Thus, children who lose their fathers suffer great deprivation. They feel vulnerable and permanently threatened. They often suffer behavioral and emotional problems and disorders caused by the lack of security and spiritual balance that fathers provide. A father's loss affects children's self-acceptance and their independence, self-reliance and their ability to tolerate others.

Thus, self-confidence decreases and social roles are mixed up, leading to lower educational productivity in the future. Finally, all of this is added to the pain experienced by children who keep comparing themselves to colleagues who live a normal family life.

This year, the political situation is dominating this social peculiarity. Children are living in a state of crisis between two sides of a battle who do not care much about their daily problems and needs; and much less about their emotional state and innocent minds that sometimes fail to tolerate concepts such as martyrdom, paradise, freedom and alleviating pain by fighting it.

Day by day, families are losing their fathers in Syria. It is a multifaceted, political, social and economic human tragedy that may require decades of sustained effort from our country to address the painful consequences that will be felt by children first and the family and society later.  As the world celebrated Father's Day, Syria was saying her goodbyes to thousands of fathers, and other fathers are bidding their loved ones farewell.

Found in: syrian crisis, syrian, patriarchal society, media, images, father's day

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