Forty one years………. How can that even be possible……
Like, I am sure, all of you my daily in box is filled with urgent calls, appeals and newsletters from amazing organisations doing extraordinary work to alleviate the suffering that our cruel and belligerent world inflicts on so many innocent families. While I try to give each at least a modicum of attention, there is one that I always read in full – that from the Syria Campaign, a group set up in 2014 to campaign and to ‘creatively intervene’ in support of Syrians still living in their war ravaged country. The campaign also supports and reports on the activities of The White Helmets, the heroic humanitarian volunteers who regularly risked (and lost) their lives attempting to save and support the civilian population in Syria during the war.
So when I received an email from the Campaign headed ’41 years without a trial’ – I read it in full…
’41 years. That’s how long my father, Ragheed al-Tatari, has been held in detention by the Syrian regime without ever being granted a proper trial…..
A Syrian air force pilot, my father was first arrested in 1980 for refusing orders to bomb locations in Hama during the regime’s crackdown on the city. He was released only to be taken again the next year. For most of my childhood my family had no clue where my father was being held.
It took 14 years to find out where he was and secure a visit to see him. I was preparing myself mentally, as who knew what state my father would be in, but when I saw him, although he looked tired, his eyes were not those of a broken man and his voice was so clear and kind……
This week my father will complete 41 years in prison – the longest serving prisoner in Syria. It’s outrageous that anyone should be forced to spend a single minute behind bars for opposing the Syrian regime, let alone an entire lifetigme.….’
What Ragheed’s son, Waill al-Tatari, wants us to do is to ‘walk for Ragheed’ – and then to publicise what we are doing in the hope of raising a large enough international storm to force even the Syrian regime to release Ragheed..
Waill is aiming for 75 million steps to be pledged, a rough estimate of the steps his father has missed out on taking during 41 years in detention. It is easy enough to do.
Just go onto the Walk for Ragheed site and chose the number of steps you think you could walk – 4km (5,000 steps), 8km (10,000 steps) or 16km (20,000 steps). Make your pledge and then upload a selfie of yourself walking onto whatever social media sites you use with the hashtag #WalkForRagheed and a link to the site in the hopes that others may be inspired to get out their walking boots.
If you cannot walk for any reason, Waill is asking you to reply with a message of support instead. ‘If you are an artist’, he goes on, ‘and feel inspired to create work in solidarity please don’t hesitate sharing this with us in the same way – my father enjoys drawing and making sculptures from bread dough and any other materials he can get his hands on in prison’.
I walk so much anyhow that I went for the 16k pledge, a third of which I had already completed yesterday on my way from Highgate to Golders Hill and back for a Heath Hands session. Another 4k will get knocked off today as I walk across the heath to Belsize Park and the balance will come tomorrow as I walk from Highgate to the Hill Garden and back for another gardening session. And to prove it, this was me striding off this morning in the rain….