Raed Fares and Hamoud Jnaid were assassinated together on the 23rd November 2018. They were both prominent figures of the Syrian Revolution, leading many critical projects in Kafr Nabl, (Kafranbel), Syria. I think most people who have followed Syria know exactly who these men are.
This has taken me some time to be able to share anything. A light was turned off in my heart when they left this earth.
I have always kept a level of privacy with who I know and all I do, but I genuinely could not have been more proud to know these men. I didn’t publish a tribute mainly because I would have to limit my personal emotions and that is not something I wanted to do. So here I am sharing this personally here.
I am sure the world can understand the work Raed & Hamoud have done; life changing projects that never stopped growing; but I wish to share a little about the Raed & Hamoud I knew personally.
Raed Fares was not just a best friend to me, he was my big brother I never had before we met. He was my light when I struggled in the dark in my work in Syria. I am still somewhat in disbelief and still check my phone awaiting a reply sometimes, or replaying voice messages wishing it was yesterday. This has destroyed a part of my heart like I could never have imagined.
Even in the moments we should have been deadly serious, we never could be. We laughed our way through everything.
Raed was a husband, brother & a father like no other. He was a face for inspiration of freedom across the world; but at home he was a very proud father of three wonderful young men, and he was merely a young cheeky boy in love teasing his wife. They had a bond that was unbreakable, they were always smiling, his wife was a love he fought for through a very troublesome younger era, and when I would sit alone with them the sparkle in their eyes still would shine bright; it was a love I hoped to have in my life. His dear wife has not just lost her husband, she has lost her spirit; they completed each other in every way. He was the wall she would lean on. “My heart burned for Raed… I am shattered and ruined…” as she shared in the tragic aftermath of his death. This truly is an incredible, loving family.
Through all his foreign trips many would give him gifts or ask for things to be brought back into Syria for others; Raed would accept of course but would make sure the space in his bag at the border was reserved for gifts for his precious wife. While Raed was a cheeky charming innocent flirt in life, his heart was lit for his one and only lady deep inside.
He was an instigator in all the best ways with a heart of gold. We spent most of our time with new unexpected ways to get into mischievous adventures together. Every encounter would be a random unknown experience.
Everything from arguing over vegetables in the market that somehow would bring us to tears in laughter with everyone looking at us like we are crazy, shouting at each other in cars for his insane driving skills, randomly sitting in an impromptu meeting with the family of what was to be Khalid’s wife so he could get me to see how beautiful she is secretly, getting him active on twitter & us being stuck on the bio so I simply wrote “I have a big nose.” which had us laughing for days; that bio lasted for quite a while before he had to try to be more professional in public (he totally should have kept my bio!), the dreadful singing skills, the random always blurry selfies of guys together with a thinking of me message, the awful photos he would always take of me and send out to others that made me crazy, his laughter when I ask about ‘crocodile’ because I could never remember his real name even as the years passed by… where do I begin or even end, these are just a few of so any memories engraved in my soul.
Raed would often share how proud he was to know me; he never did take me seriously when I would respond to tell him he was one of the biggest parts of my inspiration in life. He was so important to me that I was planning to have him as my celebrant when I finally got the moment to have a real wedding celebration. How he laughed & loved my crazy plans.
Hamoud Jnaid was an incredible man of integrity & care. I had first met Hamoud on a trip in 2014. Raed, Hamoud, Khalid Al-Essa (who tragically was killed in 2016 in Syria), and myself would laugh like crazy with the others, my jaws would truly hurt for a couple of days after I would leave, I have never had such joys like this in my life and the fact is; somehow through the worst tragedy I will ever witness in my life in Syria I was blessed with the strongest bonds & experiences.
Raed was insisting I relaxed and take off my hijab as he couldn’t understand why I was keeping it on inside in private with them… after long humorous bickering as usual together, I took it off to make him shut up and understand why I didn’t want to take it off. There was a second of silence with an uproar of laughter as he told me to quickly put it back on after seeing the mess I was under it all. I had been in Syria for many weeks at that time and hadn’t been able to wash my hair; many locations I had been to before I arrived to Kafr Nabl had no water due to the crisis and the water available was not to be wasted on something as mundane as washing my hair.
Hamoud insisted I came to his home to have a shower and change. Hamoud’s wife and children were so kind to me as the amazing true people of Syria are. We sat for dinner together with his family and his beautiful daughter Rafif became so close to me, a photo taken of us together that evening became the one photo that Raed and I would be laughing about years later because he was so tired of Hamoud always showing the same photo. We even laughed to test his theory about this photo shortly before his death. Hamoud was not with us, so Raed wrote to him to say he was with me and that photo arrived as the only reply with a big heart emoji; you cannot imagine how we laughed until we cried at the response.
One evening in Syria Hamoud brought back arabic sweets for me knowing I love sweets more than anything, even with all the things he had to do he took a moment to think to do something so kind.
These men are the most honourable men I could ever encounter in life. I trusted them with my work, with my life, with my privacy. These men didn’t have one bad bone in their body. These men are exactly what the world should aspire to be. I trusted them as family to me; they were family to me.
Somehow anytime I was with Raed whether in Syria or Turkey I had him cooking for me. One of the best memories of my life was watching as Raed, Hamoud, Khalid & ‘Crocodile’ cook together for me in the centre, the building would vibrate to the sound of bombs as laughter would echo through the rooms with our never ending humorous vulgar insults for one another. They would be clueless as they struggled to put together vegetarian meals for me yet it would be delicious. What I would give to have such moments again.
I even had the honour of being trusted to have my own key to his offices; that’s yet another comical story. Those buildings are full of people from every generation working on incredible projects their mastermind fought to create.
There is much more to Raed than the man many of the world identify with in knowing as a their activist friend. There was really so much more to the joker he always acted to be. This was a man of deep love and deep pain. Under that laughter was a deep-rooted pain; a pain for so much loss in Syria. That pain could be seen at rare moments deep in his eyes sometimes when he played his oud alone. He carried heartache for so much loss; especially after the death of Khalid who was a son to him.
The last time I parted ways with him at the border shortly before his death we struggled with words as usual with that awkward goodbye hug, masked under vague weak attacks for each other to cover emotions, there was a look always that look that would leave me crying after; we just never know when it is the last goodbye in Syria. We had a long silence as we parted ways knowing things were always so unknown. These silences became longer as time went on, I guess a slight moment of realising it truly might be our last goodbye.
I was scheduled to be back with him shortly after, we had been trying to work out the final details which was getting harder with the threats on his life.
That love I speak about between him and his wife was the side of Raed I was working on showing; the man under the journalist & activist he is widely known as, I was chasing his love story. While I respected greatly all the work he did, this was not my interest, just Raed as a person was all.
We had a long-standing twisted humour when we would contact each other “Why are you still alive!?” Poking fun of each other and our ridiculous lives. We would joke with each other over the emotional speech people give when someone dies even if they hated them, he promised when I died he would just say “Yasmin, I hated her” I promised in return I would say “Raed, the biggest ass**** with the biggest nose.” How we laughed through our stupid humour.
I never really thought the day would come foolishly as the years continued. I can hear Raed’s laughter as I write that echo in my head through my tears. At least I can say I kept my promise now and wrote it.
Sometimes just a random “I hate you” “I hate you too” message exchange and nothing else would be spoken. Over the years years it became a comfort to get such messages. We could even sit together in Syria under air strikes and be tweeting silly messages to each other. There were the moments of long deep conversations of mutual support and care too. Through tougher times these conversations were lifelines to me; to be honest I could not have kept going in Syria without this friendship giving me strength.
There is no coward that can silence such people. There is not an act of violence that can be done to bring fear to others for the sickening actions that have been carried out; not only on Raed & Hamoud but across all of Syria. What happens now is a stronger voice will grow; this voice will echo not only in Syria but also across the world in support of Raed’s work & belief. These names will be written in history for our future generations to learn about and be inspired by to achieve greatness as they did.
The uneducated fools who carried out this heinous crime are only worthless murderers who will never have their names remembered; they will never gain respect.
Raed & Hamoud are the winners. Everything was achieved with a voice, a pen, a camera, a smile and love; nothing can challenge this.
Raed, Hamoud along with Khalid and so many others will remain indestructible in my heart; just as they will to everyone they loved, along with the people they have inspired in every country in this world.