For Sama: To Fight is to Show the Truth

By Carla Fischer

I was honored to have attended an online premiere for the film documentary ‘For Sama’ in October last year. It made me question how some places in Syria are left untouched by the war while, for Waad Al-Keteab, an 18-year-old university student, her life shifted entirely over a couple months from protesting peacefully, to her friends and family being killed - its a saddening story of a mother protecting her daughter, Sama.

The documentary follows daily videos taken by Waad over a period of time of political violence; “filming on mobiles was the only way to show the world we were fighting for our freedom”. People began to protest corruption and oppression by the government of Bashar al-Assad - or what Waad called a dictatorship (rightfully, as there are scenes of civilians being handcuffed or killed, and later being found in the river). Waad explained that this is what happened to people who opposed the regime - the message was clear. Die or keep silent and obedient to Assad's regime.

What made her survive was - what she called her ‘headstrong recklessness’. To me, this was her sole cause for survival - for her to fight was to show the truth, and a sort of revenge against what happened to her friends and family. But more importantly it is for the people who are still in Syria. The 12 million refugees in camps around the world, innocent victims of political discrimination. In the end Hamza, Sama, and Waad pass the border. “Allahu Akbar!” proclaimed Waad - yet Sama was crying and Waad began to question whether Sama would remember Aleppo and blame him for not leaving, or blame him for leaving then. Waad had her footage, a plant, and whatever left in her memories of a life, which Sama will never experience. 

What struck me about this documentary is how persistent and strong the people of Aleppo are - and it is a reminder that it is the little things which we overlook that matter, as in one scene Waad's family friend finds a Persimmon which makes the wife beyond happy. 

But more importantly, what makes ‘For Sama’ watch-worthy is that among all this pain we feel for her, Waad is still able to pull through the good parts while not downsizing the horrid side of surviving war. She is able to fight back by showing how strong the people of Aleppo are and that they are humans, with feelings, with families, and with a story.

What intrigues me is why the regime is still not held responsible for these crimes - the bombing of innocent civilians, who were peacefully protesting corruption. What Waad did was send a message to us. Our duty now as a world community is to assure peace - to protect from the moral wrongdoings. I recommend everyone to go and watch it, and to think about our responsibility and accountability. But further to question why some lives are valued more than others because, how can someone be eating at a fine restaurant and lounging at the pool of the Four Seasons and Sheraton in Damascus, while bombs are being dropped on other Syrians less than 400km away?

Thank you Waad Al-Kateab for bringing this story towards the international community and for being safe. What Waad was able to do was let us realise once again how valuable human life really is.

Use this piece as a reminder that we have a responsibility towards the 12 million Syrian people in need of assistance, and dislocated; most of whom are now being affected by COVID-19.

Blitz Editor

Anandi Ganguly