His smile will not be erased by a number

Today is about remembering the victims of torture but my brother Okaba is much more than a number. All of our loved ones have stories, lives, families that have been left incomplete by their absence. My name is Yasmin Mashaan and I’m a member of Caesar Families Association, a group of families who found out about the death of their loved ones in regime detention centers through the leaked Caesar photos.

My brother Okba was arrested in March 2012, due his participation in anti-regime demonstrations. We knew nothing about his fate until I saw a photo of his dead body in 2015, it was a person with a number on his forehead that means the end of your search journey and uncertainty. After hoping your brother will come back home with a big smile on his face, I imagined the moment we will be reunited!

One of our rights as families is to have the lovely photos of our loved ones in our minds, not Caesar photos. Everyday, I fight to keep the memories of Okaba in my mind and heart. Okaba loved animals, and studied to be a veterinarian. I want to stick to the memories of him, treating animals with love and care. I won’t forget about the first time we played chess together, but he was proud that I would beat him in chess games, which still makes me smile.

Okaba was always looking after me, he is four years older than me. Okaba was married with two daughters, Alia and Rehab, who were three and one years old when he was arrested. He used to call them “ My sun and my moon”. I never imagined they would grow up without their father. The girls are now 13 years and 11 years old.

On this day, I want to say that all of the people who were killed or went missing in Syria are not only numbers and headlines. We are humans not numbers, and the only thing we did was having a dream that our small country could have freedom, dignity and democracy