Love goes on, even in time of war.
We human beings have an immense capacity for resistance even in face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
These lessons were evident in a joyous wedding in the ancient city of Aleppo. Aleppo has been surrounded for weeks by the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has bombed his own people for months, butchering tens of thousands of civilians.
Here in Aleppo was one of the freedom fighters of the Syrian resistance, still dressed in his military fatigues, standing next to his bride.
They met on the hospital bed: he, wounded in war; she, the nurse who cleansed his wounds.
The 20-year old Abu Khaled says that he fell in love with her “min al-nazar al-ula”, literally love at first sight.
He adds, digging his fork in the chocolate cake that the newly weds were sharing:
“I saw her at the Coneta school first aid point. From first sight, I loved her. Then I got shot in my leg and she was cleaning my wounds everyday and, day by day, I know her better and love her more.".
The blushing bride, 23-year old Hanan, said:
“When we met there was something in the air…”
This was no fairy tale love. In the midst of their courtship, Hanan’s brother was killed by Assad’s forces.
Abu Khaled’s comforting of Hanan through that grief is what brought them even closer, and ultimately to marriage, according to the bride.
War. Love. Life. Chocolate cake.
Even in the midst of war and destruction, there is the great spirit of the Syrian people that is determined to live, to love, to celebrate, and even to die with this love.
“We love life, and are still here.”
That is what the sign that those who attended the party waved.
The songs sang in this wedding were a reminder of all that there is to be done:
“Freedom, we want freedom!”
This quest for freedom is what they want, and ironically, what brought this husband and this wife together on the battle field.
Another guest said: “No one can stop life. No one can stop people. No one can stop who goes with God,”
As the wedding party went on with the guests eating the prepared dishes (fruit in bowls), Bashar al-Assad’s army took down another building in the distance. Aljazeera reports just today that there is extreme alarm over Assad's ongoing encroachment upon Aleppo.
The late and great Palestinian Edward Said used to say that one of the greatest examples of heroism and courageous is the determination to go on living fully in the very midst of oppression and atrocity. The oppressor can strip away one’s freedom, one’s rights, one’s home and even one’s blood. But there is something redeeming and redemptive to refuse to hand over one’s existence.
Congratulation to this bride and groom, and all those who defy the oppression of this regime, and all regimes, everywhere.
This willingness to find love and beauty in the very midst of war and destruction is the very nobility that will someday,
God-willing, deliver the Syrian people to a future beyond tyranny.