EVERY NOW AND THEN, the conflict in Syria produces an iconic image of horror and suffering, which many brandish as an undisputable truth that will finally shake the world into “doing something”. Others break down at the sight of such images, or instinctively avert their senses. Mass killings and disappearances, industrial-scale torture and sexual abuse, gruesome staged executions, starvation tactics, the continued use of chemical weapons, napalm, cluster and barrel bombs, not to forget the torments of desperate emigration – all have spawned morbid emblems of their own.
For the public at large, as well as most officials tasked with the chore of “managing Syria”, such visions come and go, leaving at best a fleeting malaise – subliminal inserts disturbing, imperceptibly, an otherwise repetitious film. But for those who have experienced more intimately the monstrosity of this conflict, these impressions stick, accumulate and take over. Repressing them becomes a largely unconscious daily struggle, and a losing one at that: they lurk in the shadowy parts of the mind; they thicken and grow heavier with time; and they pounce in a moment of weakness.