We and the ones we lost..

My name is Feras Selim and I’m Palestinain Syrian from Yarmouk Camp. My brother Usama was born in 1983 and is 11 years younger than me. We lost our father when Usama was just a child and soon again we had to face the loss of our mother. He used to say that I was like both parents for him. 

Usama and I used to run a cafe inside the technical agricultural institution in the eastern Damascus suburbs. Every morning I would go to his apartment and knock on his door to wake him up, we’d have coffee and then go together to work. 

Usama was the only family I had for a long time, until I got married and started my own family, and he became the most loving uncle for my children. 

When it was Usama’s turn to get married, I can’t forget the tears of happiness in my eyes on the day of his wedding, seeing him in that wonderful tuxedo. It used to be just me and Usama, now we had expanded our family with loving wives and energetic children. Usama was always organizing family picnics and activities for us, he loved to talk and socialize and never liked to be alone, and our lives were full of laughter and conversation. 

In 2008, Usama had to travel to Oman for work, and missed the birth of his first son, Omran. I helped Usama’s wife travel to Oman with their newborn son. I still remember the joy in Usama’s voice when he called me to tell me about meeting Omran for the first time.

When the revolution started, we knew that we had to be part of this moment that might not be repeated. It was an opportunity for freedom and a better future. But things didn’t end the way we hoped in a country ruled by oppression and violence.

Usama was detained in February 2013, a day that would change our lives forever. Like so many other families of the missing, we couldn’t find out anything about Usama’s fate. The only answer we could get was a photo of his dead body from the Caesar files. No goodbyes and no proper way to grieve, I still live in shock.  Sometimes it is so hard to think about that I don’t feel that it is even my own story, it is so painful. But it’s our story as families with missing loved ones that I will never give up on. We will never give up on the story of our loved ones who believed in change.