A Syrian’s love story
ISTANBUL – Anadolu AgencySyrian revolutionist Raghda Hassan, whose life is the subject of award-winning documentary “A Syrian Love Story,” filmed by British director Sean McAllister, has been living in Istanbul for nearly three years.
The 76-minute documentary, which focuses on the killings in Syria over the last five years, was aired on BBC last year and was a big hit at international film festivals. The film will be screened as part of the 15th !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival to be held between Feb. 18 and 28.
The film begins with 45-year-old Amer Doaud meeting 40-year-old Hassan in a Syrian prison cell 15 years ago. Doaud first saw her bloodied face when Hassan was placed in a neighboring cell. During their months-long incarceration, they communicated through a tiny hole they’d secretly made in the wall. They fell in love and when released, got married and started a family together.
Hassan says she was released from prison four months after the revolution started. She said when she returned home, she met McAllister. “When I returned home, I saw a new member in the house. McAllister was living in our house with his camera,” she said.
Hassan said she first made life difficult for the director, because “I was newly released from the prison and I had problem of security. I did not like being filmed and followed. This is why it was difficult for Sean for a year. Then I realized that his camera is like his eyes that see everything. Sometime later I forgot its existence. Events during the revolution distracted me; I completely forgot his camera.”
Despite their initial difficulties, Hassan started to trust McAllister. “My English was not very good and I expressed my thoughts in another language. But like me Sean believed in the Syrian revolution. That’s why I had no doubt that he would tell my thoughts in a different way,” she explained.
She said during the filming of the documentary, the director was interrogated by the Syrian intelligence and arrested, while his film and computers were seized.
Hassan nevertheless continued to resist the regime. She said, “There was a death warrant issued in absentia for me. As a family, we fled to France. My husband was Palestinian; we did not have a passport or ID. I went to France for my children’s safety. But things went bad, and I and my husband divorced.”
‘My husband asked me to forget my country’
The reason for divorce, Hassan said, was her undying dedication to the Syria Revolution. It is for this reason she moved to Turkey: to be closer to her country. “I left France nearly three years ago in order to go to a place where I could work for the Syrian revolution. And I am living in Istanbul. I work for the Syrian National Council as undersecretary of culture. To support the Syrian revolution, we have formed a platform against the al-Assad regime. Turkey supports this platform and I work for my country,” said Hassan.
According to Hassan, her husband asked her to leave her country behind and forget it, but she didn’t want to. “This is why we divorced. I will continue fighting for revolution in Turkey,” she added.
Hassan thinks women are extremely devoted and their maternal feelings stay for life. “It is very easy for us women to sacrifice ourselves for others. We can easily do it for our family, children and friends. Why don’t we do it for our country?” she said.
Meanwhile, ex-husband Doaud laments, “It is very hard to be both Che Guevara and a mother,” towards the end of the film. But Hassan doesn’t see it that way. “Every mother should become Che Guevara a bit. Having the attributes of a leader is necessary for being a good mother.”
“A Syrian Love Story” will premiere in Turkey soon, Hassan said, and her children will come to Turkey for the gala.
All Syrians who have been under oppression for years believed in revolution, she said, adding, “We fight with this dream. And we will continue believing it until Syria becomes liberalized.”
Hassan thanked all the people who supported Syrian refugees in other countries, and said, “But Turkey is a very special place to us. I never felt that I belonged to France when I was there. But I never feel like a stranger in Turkey. I feel like I am in Syria, thanks to the people of Turkey. I thank Turkish people very much because they never make Syrians feel like they are away from home. I want Turkish people to pray for us to bring back our freedom.”