In this text, Ghufran al-Mishaan recalls her memories with her young uncle Bashar al-Mishaan and tells the story of his loss at the hands of ISIS in the city of Deir Ez-Zor in 2014.
I look at my cousin Al-Muthana’s photo that my mother sent me and I see the obvious similarity between him and his father Bashar, who was kidnapped by ISIS on May 15, 2014, depriving him of seeing his son and carrying him in his arms as well. That means that his son Al-Muthana was deprived, in turn, of his father’s protection and care. I could see him watching my nephews chanting Baba, which made me torn apart in pain. I well understand his pains because I was also an orphan, for I lost my father when I was young. In fact, I lost my uncles, and Bashar was the last one to lose. Bashar and I were the same age which doubled the pain of his loss; he was not only our uncle, but also he was our childhood companion. My name is Ghufran Mishaan. I will tell you about my uncle Bashar, who ISIS deprived us of. We used to live in my grandfather’s house and spend most of our time together. That’s why we became childhood friends. He was born in 1995. I had five uncles and one aunt. My father got married before his older brother (my uncle Qutaiba, the only survivor among all my uncles). My brother Abdul Rahman was born in 1997, and I was born two years later. That’s why my brother Abdul Rahman, my uncle Bashar and I were friends at school and the neighborhood. Bashar was the last of the bunch, so he was a very spoiled boy, and he always liked to quarrel. He always quarreled with my brother Abd al-Rahman, I remember, and as a result, they got angry with each other. Therefore, each time they quarreled, he came to me if he needed to use something from Abd al-Rahman’s stuff, and in turn, I brought it to him without my brother’s knowledge. I was always the mediator who put an end to any dispute between them. My father was arrested several times by the Syrian regime in 2001 and 2006 and at the beginning of the revolution and we stayed for years without knowing anything about him. We went through tough times, and it was Bashar who relieved us with his cheerful spirit. Bashar always had a sense of humor: he loved pranks and jokes. Everyone loved him. So did his teachers; they thought he was a nice student. However, Bashar was deprived of going to school and fulfilling his childhood dream of studying informatics and programming. When Bashar was born, my grandmother named him “Bashar” because she thought he was a good omen. On the same day of his birth, his brother was released from Assad’s prisons, as we had lost hope of his release after spending four and a half years in the prisons of the Assad regime. Bashar hated his name, which is the same name as Bashar al-Assad who caused the death of his four brothers. The so-called Bashar al-Assad and his regime turned the Syrian revolution into a war that stole the most beautiful young Syrians, including Bashar’s four brothers: Zuhair, who was killed in the demonstrations, Ubaidah, who was killed while treating a wounded person, and my father Tishreen, who was killed only ten days after Ubaidah, and finally Uqbah. Uqbah was arrested and no one knew anything about him, but his photo would appear later in Caesar’s list of photos. It was one of the photos leaked by the defected officer Caesar, which meant he was killed under torture. I never imagined that I would one day see Bashar, who had that sense of humor and that cheerful spirit as well, sad and troubled. The loss of his brothers wiped the smile off his face. I saw Bashar day after day changing and becoming more withdrawn; I no longer saw the person whose jokes and love of humor I used to. Despite all that, and despite his grief for his brothers, he was always our only remaining support (for both his family and us). He kept fulfilling the needs of the house and helping everyone. Under the desire and insistence of his parents desire to see their grandchildren, my uncle Bashar got married. We were impatiently waiting for his next child who would bring happiness to the house with his laughter and smile, but soon we were saddened by the loss of Bashar, the fifth son that the family lost. I remember my brother coming to the house in mid-May 2014 to tell us that there were some wounded at the “Albu Omar” crossing, which ISIS had attacked, and that he had to go to help the civilians and take them to safe areas, so he wanted to use my grandfather’s car. My uncle Bashar could not sit at home, so he went to give a hand. In the meantime, we were not aware of the seriousness of the situation. We thought that they would only help the families and transfer them from the crossing to safe and comfortable areas. We did not feel how hours passed until my brother came back and showed signs of anxiety, and when we asked him about my uncle Bashar, he told us that he would come back after soon. My brother entered the house and one of our relatives followed him. We did not know what was happening. Actually, our hearts knew it, but we wanted to deny it in those difficult moments. My mother, in turn, followed them and heard our relative asking my brother, “Is the news true?” My brother replied: “Yes.” He looked down and said, “I am to blame; I had taken him there.” It was heartbreaking news for all of us. Bashar went to help people, but he disappeared, and he has not returned since that day. Someone told us that a shell fired by ISIS killed him instantly. We didn’t see anything. The people who were at the crossing told us that the shell fell on him and left no trace of him. When we went to inspect, we found ISIS controlling the area. When we asked them about Bashar, they told us that they burned all the bodies. Their answer was a thunderstorm to fall upon our heads, not only because we did not say goodbye to him, but also because we did not see him after his death. It was a great pain for all of us, especially for his wife. Bashar left and did not see his child whom he was waiting for. My grandfather began to search. He did not believe a word of what he was told. I saw sadness prevailing in the family, especially since started hearing conflicting news about Bashar: sometimes about his murder and at other times about his kidnapping. Up to now, no one has known the true story of Bashar’s disappearance. We fled to Turkey after ISIS started going after my brother, uncle Qutaiba, and my aunt because they were civil activists. There we received another shock when we learned that my uncle Uqba had died under torture after the Caesar photos were leaked. I can’t choose the words to describe Bashar, and I still miss him so much. I laugh when I mention his jokes and pranks, and then I choke on them so that I start to weep. I wish I knew what had happened to him, I wish I could find his grave in which I could plant some flowers. I wish both my grandmother and my grandfather knew about his grave so that Muthana could visit it. My only consolation is Muthanna, who takes after his father and has got many of his qualities. Ghufran Al-Mishaan