A UN spokesman has called the situation in Aleppo ‘a meltdown of humanity’ and perhaps nothing encapsulates this better than the reports that 20 women have committed suicide in Aleppo to avoid being raped by Bashar Al-Assad’s advancing forces.
In particular, a suicide note allegedly written by a nurse in Aleppo has held the world’s attention this week amidst this ‘meltdown’. In it she says that she “will be raped in just moments”, she says that she is committing suicide so that the Assad regime does not get to “savour” raping her. Her language is brutal and desperate, she believes that “Hell-fire” could not be worse than her current situation.
The letter, found here alongside a version in English, is a hard letter to read. It is hard to read it and acknowledge that we are almost helpless in the face of such inhumanity. That for this woman, whose words have brought her to us as a desperate friend, it is too late. Perhaps desperate is too simple a word because this nurse is also defiant.
With her words she does not beg us, she even refuses our “supplication”, but she tells us her story and her choice, refusing to let us comment on them, just holding us captive for a moment and making us listen. We cannot save her, nor can we save the other 20 women, but we can listen. We can listen to the stories of the women who are still alive in Aleppo communicating with us on Facebook and Twitter. We can listen to the stories of the women who have crossed oceans because when men with guns and bombs came to their door the only choice they had was to run.
Just as in the end all the nurse in Aleppo was left with was a choice that is what we have now. A choice as to who we listen to. Whether to listen to our governments who insist that we do not have the resources to help these desperate people, who call them terrorists to cover their own shame. Or to listen to these people tell us in their own words of the “Hell-fire” they have come from and of their friends who, like the nurse in Aleppo, “died pure despite everyone”.
Then once we have done listening let us quietly ask what can we do now? Then may we open every door we can to bless these people. Those still holding on in a country that has become in the last six years almost unrecognisable, and those scattered in other unfamiliar places around the globe. For in a time like this it is tough to die pure, but it is even tougher to live pure.