A List of Death and Loss: Syria’s Names
How does one begin to quantify the dead when they are in the hundreds of thousands? How does one begin to comprehend the sheer loss of life that the Syrian people have suffered in their quest for freedom and dignity? How does one remember? How does one vow never to forget?
In a quest to answer these impossible questions, we created the How Many More? Oral Memorial for Syria in 2014. The Oral Memorials are a series of temporal events designed to remember Syria’s dead by reading their names aloud in public spaces around the world. A Book of Syria’s Dead is the physical artifact of the How Many More? events. This book is Volume One of a permanent, living, and growing document of the names of the thousands of Syrians we have lost since March 15, 2011. It is a list of death; a record of loss.
The concrete syllables and the written letters of one’s name represents everything that person is or was supposed to be. As we record the thousands of names, our dead gain the weight of recognition that they deserved but were never granted. Within each name in this book, there is an embedded question: How many more?
This terrible war has devoured us all — the living and the dead. Death mocks us. It sneers at us. It challenges us to remember every name and search for the names we will never know. Death cruelly hovers near the tortured still being tortured, cradles the refugee children who will never return home, and shadows homeless mothers begging on the streets of Amman, Beirut, Istanbul, and Cairo. Although it seems that Syrians cannot escape death, in this project we choose to face it, expose its cruelty, and honor the memories of those we lost to its brutal grip on Syria.
The revolution vowed to face death before humiliation. But the regime, the extremists, and the entire world is heartless — it intends to deliver both in unimaginable doses. Over the past decades, over several genocides in different countries, the international community solemnly vowed: Never again. We remind the world with each name in this book of that universal promise to protect innocent civilians; a promise that was not granted to Syrians.
We will continue to record the names of the dead and ask, “How many more?” Until it stops. Until the books of Syria’s dead are complete and the last name is written on the last line.
And after that? This book and its subsequent volumes will remain in the realm of history. The story of Syria — written in the blood of its people — will record the time when the world turned its back away from injustice and genocide.
This sacred book is a document of Syria’s dead. It is a testament of solidarity with the Syrian people who, like every other people in the world, deserve the right to freedom, dignity, and self-determination.
It is a promise to never forget the dead. It is a promise to never give up fighting for the living.
– Lina Sergie Attar –
Syrian-American writer and co-founder of the How Many More? Oral Memorial for Syria