May 29, 2013
By Kristen Gillespie
On Tuesday, Syria Direct reporter Nuha Shabaan’s son Qutaiba was killed fighting Syrian regime and Hezbollah forces in the mountains outside Damascus.
Qutaiba was an engineer in his 20s who joined the Free Syrian Army to fight the Assad dictatorship. He believed in a free Syria, and despite his mother’s many pleas for him to leave the FSA and come to Jordan, he would say: “Mama, who will stand up and fight this tyranny if everyone leaves?”
The problem is, Nuha raised her son in her own image: with the strength and integrity to live life on his own terms. And so she spoke to him on Skype as often as she could, worrying if she hadn’t heard from him for several days.
This past winter, Qutaiba and a few of his colleagues were out scouting in the mountains when they came upon a Syrian army tank. They ordered the soldiers inside to show themselves and lay down their arms, which they did. The soldiers had been inside the tank for a few days, and had run out of food. Qutaiba told them they should defect and join the FSA, but the soldiers said they would not because their families would be killed. They said the regime knew they were stuck there and had been told that help was on the way; they would wait. Qutaiba gave them the food he had and they left the two soldiers in the tank.
A few days later, Qutaiba went back to check on the soldiers. He found them both dead, frozen from hunger and the cold. “This is what we are fighting,” Qutaiba told his mother. “A regime that does this to Syrians.”
Nuha is one of the strongest people I know. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, and she’ll dive in to the toughest assignments, even when they go against her passionate beliefs about the future of Syria; one she has given her husband and sons to fight for.
She’s hilarious and provocative and inspiring with a strong personality that can be intimidating (she’s the only person I’ve ever let smoke in my car. When she lit up, I meekly showed her where the unused ashtry was under the dashboard).
But Qutaiba, the “light of my life and love of my heart,” as she wrote about him today on her facebook page, is no longer with us, and though Nuha is a devout woman who believes in the will of God, she is first and foremost a mother who has lost her son. I can’t help but wonder whether the principles Qutaiba gave his life for can ever defeat a regime so defiantly, deliberately and tactfully brutal.