Rihab Allawi: I Am Not a Statistic

05 April 2015

In January 2014, Pictures of 11,000 detainees killed under torture in Syrian security branches were smuggled out of the country by a former Syrian police photographer and renowned defector, who uses the pseudonym Caesar. Horrifying photos emerged: beaten, burned, bruised and strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor, and many showing signs of starvation. However, the photo of 24-year-old activist Rihab Allawi, stood out among the others. Her tragic story summarized the Assad regime's indiscriminatory hate against all those who dare to oppose it.

لوحة للفنان أنور الغيسى. المصدر: الصفحة الرسمية للفنان على الفيسبوك
A work by Anwar al-Issa on Rihab Allawi. Source: Facebook.

Rihab Allawi was ٍa Syrian activist and relief worker who was tortured to death in security Branch 215, known to Syrians as the "branch of death". Allawi, who comes from the city of Mohassan in Deir ez-Zor, was a civil engineering student in Damascus University.

Allawi was arrested from her house in Harasta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on January 16, 2013. Two years later, her face was identified among the smuggled pictures. Markings on her forehead, which were applied by Syrian government officials, indicated the detention center where she was held and which security agency was responsible for her.

After Allawi's photo was leaked, many Syrians posted pictures of themselves with the same markings found on Allawi's forehead, as part of a solidarity campaign with detainees titled "Syrians are not numbers".

لافتة رفعها أهالي مدينة كفرنبل ضمن مظاهرة لهم. المصدر: صفحة لافتات كفرنبل المحتلة على الفيسبوك
A Kafranbel banner on Rihab. Source: Facebook.

Syrian artists also recreated the picture of the young woman in their paintings and sketches. A painting posted anonymously on social media depicts Allawi's featureless face with the two numbers on her forehand. Furthermore, artist Ahmad Jalal repainted the same picture with Allawi's peaceful face surrounded by flowers.

The cause of the slain humanitarian activist has found resonance not only on social media. The town of Kafranbel dedicated their banner to the courage and suffering of Allawi:

"Rihab Allawi, your eyes transcend martyrdom and condemn those who are fighting amongst themselves, and overlooking your killers."

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad