12 Apr 2023

I am Malak and I am a former detainee

I spent my night laminating the covers of Maher's new books to take him to school in the morning.

We spent the night talking about his brother Mohammad, my eldest son, who was arrested by the Syrian Regime. That night it was his birthday, the 18th of October 2012, and  I did not expect fate to slap me again with the arrest of my son Maher the next morning.

I am Malak Odeh, a former detainee, who had been arrested in 2015 and detained in the prisons of the Syrian Regime because of my work as a volunteer in field hospitals and because I participated in providing first aid to those injured by the Regime forces' bombing of our homes and schools.

My son, Mohammad, was arrested for refusing orders to shoot peaceful protesters in 2012 as many of his fellow soldiers did while on compulsory military service.

On Mohammad's birthday, Maher was arrested from his school at the age of 15. When I took him to school and asked him to come back home later, I looked at him and felt that he was the most beautiful person in the universe. The smell of his perfume filled the place. He let go of my hand and went smiling into his school, and I returned home wondering why I did not hold him to my chest and kiss him. I thought about going back to school to do so, but I held myself together and said, "I will do that when he comes home," but he never returned to this day.

I cannot describe my days in the absence of my sons, but I held up a little better than their father, who suffered from a nervous disorder and was killed after a while by a sniper from the Syrian Army. He died and never knew the fate of our children Mohammad and Maher, but I do not want this to happen to me, too.

I live in the hope of meeting them.

I want to hold them and kiss them and tell them that the sun does not shine without them. I am waiting and working hard. I will tell my story everywhere and I think that humanitarian organisations should not stand idly by.

The detainees must be released and Al-Assad must be held accountable.