I’m at a loss for how to write this obituary, this tribute to a life lost so horribly. The usual forms a reporter uses won’t work in this situation. I don’t know her birth date or the exact day she died, and because I don’t want to put others in harm’s way in Syria, I can’t even use her real name.
What I do know is that this is the last email I received from Yana in June of 2012.
I know she lived in an area of Syria where the fighting was intense and foreign fighters, allied with local Sunni fundamentalists, had taken over the adjoining area. When she, like other Pagans in the area, no longer responded to attempts at communication, I hoped she had fled with her family or was staying quiet to avoid detection. She told me the rebels were targeting women and she was especially afraid they would find out she was Pagan.
See January 2013 article: In Syria and Egypt, Pagan voices fall silent
What happened to her is so ugly I’m struggling to … I can’t even finish that sentence. I’ll just tell you what I have learned, and although i trust this source, there is no way for me to independently confirm this. Some time in late June, Yana’s brother, who had become radicalized, informed the rebels that his sister was a Pagan. They took her, tortured her, then her brother publicly denounced her as a whore and a witch. After that, she was drug out onto the street, raped, and killed.
What I remember about Yana is she was always joking, always smiling. She injected joy into everything she did, from talking about the Gods she honored to showing off her latest hair style. She had more hair combs than anyone I’ve ever known. She wanted to come to America and eat bacon. She was fascinated and repelled by the thought of bacon so I would tell her about putting it in chocolate and on maple ice cream. She was nervous about getting married. Her father doted on her and she worried a husband might not be so kind or forgiving of her free spirit. She told me younger men like to show how manly they are so she thought about telling her parents to find an older man for her to marry. It was hard to see her become less exuberant as the fighting started, and then drew closer. To see fear creep in and hear from her less often. How sad she was that she never left her home anymore because it wasn’t safe.
Yana is just one of the estimated 70,000 people who have died in the fighting in Syria. What may have started out as a fight for freedom quickly turned into something far less noble as foreign fighters, terrorists, and local Sunni fanatics purged the ranks of the pro-democracy movement and asserted control – with the help of foreign (including US) funding and weapons. Yana wasn’t a warrior, that wasn’t her path in life, but she died as one.
Hail Yana! May Nemesis seek justice for you so the Kore can welcome you to the Fortunate Isles. Until then, I will set out bacon and hair combs for you each month at the Deipnon. Hail Yana!
PAGANS DONATING TO SYRIAN RELIEF – IN YANA’S NAME
A Tribute page, where you can donate to help other injured and sick Syrians, has been set up with Doctors Without Borders here. We have set a goal of $1000 and the Tribute page stops accepting donation on March 28th -1 week.
Doctors Without Borders says, “The situation[in Syria] is dire; the needs are massive and the overall humanitarian response is extremely limited. … Surgical operations are an important part of our work because civilians are caught up in bombings virtually every day. We treat around one seriously wounded person per day, but when a bomb falls in a place with lots of people we treat up to 30. When there’s a big battle, we treat 80. But it’s not just surgery. As more and more people fled away from the frontlines of the fighting, we started running an outpatient clinic that enabled us to identify other needs, such as care for chronic diseases.
In the big city nearby, for example, people are desperate to escape, but it’s not easy. Many people slip out, pretending they are just off to visit some relatives, on foot or by taxi, taking nothing with them. At first these people settled in houses abandoned by their owners, but there are more and more tented camps in the mountains. Because it is so cold, we immediately started donating blankets as a first step to helping these people.”
Editor’s note: I have heard from a Pagan in Lebanon and a Pagan from Syria recently commented on an article. Both are fine and safe.