If you live in America — and based on our analytics that’s about 87% of you — and you are reading this, the probability that you don’t know who Ruqia Hassan is probably 2:1 (maybe higher, I don’t want to underestimate the power of media though). I don’t blame you if you don’t know her, because you probably don’t read The Guardian, and you don’t live in Raqqa, and maybe you don’t even know where Raqqa is (it’s in Syria).
Ruqia, a 30-year-old journalist, wrote about daily life in Raqqa — you know, like the weather and what she was having for dinner. Oh and also what it was like to live with ISIS up, in, and around your entire life under the pen name Nissan Ibrahim.
Quickie review: ISIS, if you don’t know, or have tried to forget, is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They call themselves the Islamic State for shortsies, and, to put it mildly, they are not very nice. These are the same sweet guys who created a guide on how to treat sex slaves — which includes the following: have sex immediately with virgins, and even pre-pubescent girls if "fit for intercourse," Fighters can have sex with non-virgins, although the "uterus must be purified."
(Quickie review: While they are Muslim, these are not your Muslim neighbors; calling all Muslims members of ISIS is akin to calling all Catholics Nazis).
Back to the matter at hand. Our Islamic State pals decided that, for whatever reason — maybe they didn’t want her talking about Raqqa, or ISIS, or her hair, or whether or not the sun was out, and also I guess offering any messages of hope or happiness — Ruqia deserved to be (probably, but not assuredly) beheaded. That was back in September, but ISIS only just revealed Raqqa’s execution to her family. This week, Abu Mohammed, a founder of the anti-ISIS Syrian activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), tweeted Ruqia’s final words.
This same woman who, in July, as coalition planes circles, said, "God protect the civilians and take the rest.”
Of course Ruqia isn’t the only woman, or journalist, to be murdered in Syria –– she just happens to be the one we know about.
Which brings me to my (sort of, tip of the iceberg) point.
It’s currently 9:29 PM on a Wednesday night. My husband sent me an article about Ruqia about 45 minutes ago, while I was putting our two smallest children to bed. I had just read them three books, which they were given for Christmas, which we celebrated in our home, that we own. He sent me the article after having received (from me) a video of our daughter washing her hair (she’s five, so that’s pretty big news). His link came with the disclaimer, “Yes. Sorry to follow your cute movie with that. I just came across it and it seemed important to share for some reason.”
Yes, for some reason.
I know I can’t prevent Ruqia or any other journalist from being beheaded, or murdered in some other equally brutal manner, for simply writing. And I can’t make women equal. And I can’t stop misogyny. And I can’t stop thousands of Syrian women from being raped. In front of their children. And I can’t stop ISIS.
And I can’t stop crying (though it admittedly may be PMS). I am typing this at (now) 9:36 pm (I had to research a bit. That took at least 3 minutes.) and I call myself a feminist. I am the Editor-In-Chief of a feminist magazine, where I work with other people who also write, and also are feminists.
And we can say things — even the terrible truths — about ISIS, and not be afraid for our lives, afraid that we might be beheaded, afraid that our families might be killed. We can feel safe saying these things because we aren’t under ISIS rule and we don’t live in Syria (or one of the many other nations where ISIS claims rule).
The world is such a strange and scary place sometimes.
And Ruqia, the particles of you that now float among us, or the you that lives in heaven, or in another creature, or wherever you might be, I send you my love and my humility. And my gratitude.