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Nobody knows where the man with the leather suitcase is headed to but we all know that he carries the most precious thing he still has: hope. That child is the hope and the deep yearning for peace in Syria.
For over ten years Syria has been the theatre of a heinous, fratricidal war that we have come to learn about through the images circulated by news and the media. It is those very images we thought we would no longer see other than in old documentaries on the Second World War broadcast on television every now and then. We had all imagined and hoped that the last major conflict in modern history would be the one that over half a century ago caused death and devastation, an image indelibly fixed in our collective memory. But that did not happen!
Sixty-five years later, from a small Middle-Eastern country resurfaced the same images, the same faces, the same stories of men and women torn apart by an endless conflict, fleeing a country that no longer exists. These images feed into the sadness and shock of those who helplessly witness the annihilation of a people, millions of families forced to live with the pain of having lost their dear ones in the battlefield or under the bombings, or innocent victims of arbitrary executions.
The risk of growing inured to the thousands of images circulated by news media on the Syrian conflict is always very high, and at the same time, just like every process of desensitisation, it entails the danger of making us numb and of passively accepting what is happening just a two-hour flight from our home. Thus
We must give credit to all those working in communication, still capable of triggering emotions, forcing us to reflect on the absurdity of what is happening in Syria.
The latest case is the photo of a child in a large leather suitcase carried by his father, with a firm hand, as he fled from the martyred area of Ghouta, in Damascus. Incredibly, the face of that child transmits deep tenderness and serenity, despite the fact that war is all he experienced in his short life. Perhaps for him that journey inside a dark-red suitcase was not that extravagant. It’s part of the absurd reality that in his eyes was the norm. Just like him, thousands of children were born in Syria in the past 7 years.
They are the children of war, young Syrians who don’t know the meaning of the term “normality”, whose days are marked by the sound of gunshots and by the rumble of warplanes bombing the little that is left of their cities and villages.
Going to school, shopping, strolling in the park, are experiences they never had. They learn about them in the many stories told by their parents. It’s a way to remind their children and themselves that a normal life is possible. Nobody knows where the man with the leather suitcase is headed to. But we all know that he carries the most precious thing he still has: hope. That child is the hope and the deep yearning for peace in Syria.
– Oliviero Forti