40 Rules of the Siege
The 13th century poet Rumi had Forty Rules of Love. Syrians have the 40 Rules of Siege, written piecemeal by 25-year-old Abdullah Al-Khateeb, a former sociology student and resident of Yarmouk, which the Guardian describes as the “once-bustling once-bustling neighbourhood in southern Damascus … in ruins after being starved of food, water and electricity by the government in a brutal three-year siege. Now, the terror group Islamic State stalks what is left of the camp, a short drive from the heart of Syria’s capital.
“During a Skype interview from his home, Khateeb disconnects every half an hour. He has five laptops that he charges every night on a generator because electricity is cut off. The laptops belonged to activist friends who were killed, one on the first day Isis arrived as he tried to document the invasion with his camera.”
We’ve posted a compilation of all 40 rules, edited only the clean-up missing spaces and line breaks, below:
40 rules of the siege: 1
There is a direct relationship between love and death
The more you love love, the more you fear death
And the more you love death, the more you fear love
Me, I am afraid of love
40 rules of the siege: 2
There is a direct relationship between life and death
The more you love life, the more death loves you
And the more you love death, the more life loves you
Be careful with death and you will be given you life
Me, I am careful
40 rules of the siege: 3
The siege has a way of getting you addicted to even the simplest of things
And there’s no harm in that.
But beware of getting addicted to friends, or smoking
Because the siege chooses the most severe stages of your addiction to let you down.
Me, I am an addict
40 rules of the siege: 4
The siege brings out the worst of humanity among most who live under it
And the best among the remaining minority
Be sure to be one of the minority, so that you can own yourself forever
Me, I’m of the majority
40 rules of the siege: 5
The siege moves from a temporary to a permanent state of affairs
A ‘fact of reality’, where the besieged will thank the one who put him under siege in exchange for a handful of grain.
When you get hungry, close your mouth and get out your knife
Me, I have closed my mouth but I don’t own a knife
40 rules of the siege: 6
Under siege there are many reasons to die, the most significant being how life hurts
To the point where death becomes something you’ve got used to
Beware of getting used to death, for you will die inside and become a pile of rubble
Me, I’ve got used to it
40 rules of the siege: 7
Under siege, the bad news comes at once
And just at the moment when you’re not expecting it
Beware of being surprised by disaster… Be shocked only by the enormity of it
Me, I am surprised
40 rules of the siege: 8
Don’t die until death comes for you
40 rules of the siege: 9
Under siege you can survive death and killing and kidnapping dozens of times
But staying alive doesn’t mean you’re a hero, just that the killer was a coward, and that the Lord has protected you
Beware of getting dragged into the role of a hero and destroying yourself.
Break your mirror.
Me, I don’t own a mirror
40 rules of the siege: 10
Under siege, the human instinct for life wrestles with the divine instinct for death
And when the struggle reaches its height, the ending comes
Don’t despair and cling to this moment
Because if life wins, you have won for yourself and for others, and lived a complete life
And if death wins, you’ve won either way
Me, I’ve won
40 rules of the siege: 11
Under siege, the day goes so slow you doubt it will ever end
And the month goes so fast you doubt it has really passed
Time kills you when you watch it. Forget it and search for ways to fill the void
Beware of wearing a watch on your wrist, or having a clock in your house
Me, I don’t own a clock
40 rules of the siege: 12
The extra moral worth that you gain from the siege is an illusion
That is over as soon as the siege is, or as soon as you leave the besieged place and return to your former ways
For this reason, we find some who have left clinging to the siege in order to maintain their worth
Search for your own worth, regardless of time and place.
Be your own worth.
Me, I am searching
40 rules of the siege: 13
Under siege, you discover the real value of simple things — a glass of tea, a cup of coffee, a cigarette.
You learn how to enjoy the smallest things and turn them into a ritual of happiness.
For happiness under siege is a decision…
Me, I’ve decided
40 rules of the siege: 14
The siege, in all its stages, is an important route to madness and suicide
And in order to protect yourself from madness and suicide, you just have to look for a remarkable woman to live for
Or think about what the country will look like after all this suffering
Me, I have found and I have thought
40 rules of the siege: 15
The siege has a strange ability to raise your sensitivity to the things around you, and enable you to uncover people’s hidden feelings with a single look.
And it develops your ability to discover what they are like through instinct alone.
Under siege, forget your head, because it will wear you out, and walk behind your heart.
Me, I’m following my heart
40 rules of the siege: 16
The siege can make you contradictory in everything
Like how it makes you fragile, crying at the simplest things: a Fairouz song.
And it makes you hard like a stone, unaffected by the greatest losses: losing a friend.
If you have a choice, try to be as fragile as you can
Me, I am am stone… if only the boy had been a stone
Rules of the siege: 17
The siege unites all social classes into one class, for everyone becomes equally ‘poor’.
Except for a small group which form a parasitic class that feeds on people’s hunger.
They are vile to the core, their nature is depraved and their character is despicable.
They are the worst of the world, so beware of them
Sleep hungry and of the majority, rather than stuffed and of the minority.
Me, I don’t sleep
Rules of the siege: 18
The siege is a very complex experience that gives rise to a wide range of new values.
And for the value to be real, it must be accompanied by free will.
The martyrdom of ‘death’ is a value when we choose it of our own will alone.
No to dying by mistake
I will choose how I die
Me, I am free
Rules of the siege: 19
The siege forces you to eat anything, even grass that’s meant for livestock
And even when conditions get a bit better, you have to keep treating grass like it’s something sacred, a gift from heaven
Because the checkpoint might betray you and close again, whereas the grass will stay loyal to you till you die
Don’t tread with your feet on something you might have to eat one day
Walk on air…
Me, I don’t have feet
40 rules of the siege: 20
Under siege, you will live days of ultimate pessimism and utmost despair.
You will turn into an irritable person and the most trivial things will get to you
When you reach this stage
You must go to the nearest group of children and watch them, observing how they laugh and poke fun at the siege
Laugh at yourself, and go back home
And write on your Facebook page, I am an optimist
Me, I am a pessoptimist
40 rules of the siege: 21
There is an inverse relationship between the siege and dreams
The harsher the siege gets, the narrower your dreams get
So instead of dreaming about the nation, you dream about a loaf of bread
Don’t let the siege get the better of you
Shout loudly: The harsher the siege gets, the wider my dreams get!
The harsher the siege gets, the wider my dreams get!
40 rules of the siege: 22
There is a dialectical relationship between the siege and resilience.
For resilience is choosing to stay in a place you are able to leave
And the siege is being forced to stay in a place you are not able to leave
Total siege is the antithesis of partial resilience
In this case, it is better to improve the conditions of your stay and beautify the form of the siege, in order to continue
Me, I am under siege
40 rules of the siege: 23
There is nothing logical about the siege; everything that happens is illogical
1+1=3 and sometimes 4, and you have to embrace this result with open arms
The only logical thing is your acceptance of illogicality
The more you realise this, the greater your ability to acclimatise
Widen the parameters of your realisation
Me, I am mad
40 rules of the siege: 24
The siege, like everything in life, contains the beautiful and the ugly
And sometimes they envy you the beauty in it and place you under siege again
So you decide to commit suicide and climb up onto the tallest building to implement your plan
But then you find yourself under siege from snipers too, in all directions, and they kill you
And condemn you to a new siege.
Beware of contemplating suicide, no matter how bad things get …
The siege will follow you everywhere
The siege is your siege
Me, I put it under siege
40 rules of the siege: 25
The siege has two levels, one physical and one mental.
When it comes to the physical, dealing with it is simple and the worst it can cause is death by starvation
But when it comes to the mental, dealing with it is very complicated and the best it can cause is death by stroke
And the worse it can cause is driving you insane
And in this case, the only thing you can do is resist madness with madness
Like walking down the road laughing out loud for no reason; or claiming you’re a writer, and writing
Me, I am resisting
40 rules of the siege: 26
Under siege, the material value of things changes.
Things that used to be expensive become worthless, and vice versa
A fridge is worthless without electricity, and so on; just like the size of a television — the smaller it is the better
And a bike is better than a car
In times to come, don’t look for the most precious things, instead look for things which won’t betray you during the next siege
Me, I own a car battery
40 rules of the siege: 27
The siege has its way of organising your day as it wants, so the day doesn’t begin with the sun nor the night with the moon
And the hands of the clock go in opposite directions to each other.
So the day ends with difficulty, but the year ends without you noticing.
In order not to end up outside of time and on the margins of life
Buy a radio that tells you each morning
It’s seven o’clock, Damascus time… siege time
Me, I have a radio
40 rules of the siege: 28
Under siege, the rate of marriage rises to the highest level, while the former material value of marriage falls to zero, as does its expected cost
Under siege, every man will discover that woman is the only creature able to break the siege, and transport them to the edges of a beautiful yesterday, and an even more beautiful tomorrow
Marriage under siege is an escape into the future, and an irrational way of dealing with what is happening.
For marriage is an act of settling down in a completely unsettled reality.
Me, I am not settled.
40 rules of the siege: 29
The siege has the ability to bring out all the latent potential in the self, from good and evil to skills and talents, strength and weakness.
The siege is the place that will blow up all our human contradictions and bring them to the surface.
Take the opportunity of your time under siege, as long as you can stay alive, and let yourself fly into the distance. For the siege is a good place to hone your skills and build your capabilities.
And what comes after the siege is not the same as what was before it, and what you can accomplish during the siege you will not be able to accomplish after it, if you are still alive
I am besieged therefore I am
40 rules of the siege: 30
Under siege, sources of happiness are few and sources of misery many
The only way to avoid misery is by not having the time to ask yourself if you are happy or sad
Grab a camera, a broom, a hose, a pen, a shovel, etc
And go down to the street and don’t despair
Me, I live in the street
40 rules of the siege: 31
Under siege, you don’t have to lose directly in order to have lost. Being inside the tight circle of the siege is by itself enough to make you lose
Under siege, individual pain does not exist, there is only collective pain. This is how to be human, and this is how collective pain and collective hurt becomes one of the adjectives of the siege in particular and of the war in general
Under siege, try to feel the pain of others in order to become human together
Me, I am apart
40 rules of the siege: 32
Under siege, danger is the only inherent thing that exists from morning till evening, leaking even into your dreams.
Danger is a stray, rabid dog that follows you when you try to run away from it, but when you run behind it it runs away from you.
Beware of fearing or being afraid of it, for it will grow bigger and bigger until finally it eliminates you.
Instead, try to make it your best friend; train it to be loyal, look for it every morning and tell it about your day, and don’t sleep without it next to you.
Me, I sleep on its lap.
40 rules of the siege: 33
Under siege, faces shrink until they almost disappear, and the crowd grows smaller and smaller, until you start to doubt that there is anyone there but you.
Under siege, everything decreases except death, which increases.
If you wake up in the middle of the siege one morning and you don’t find anyone but you, go to the cemetery and look at the faces of those assembled there and shout as loud as you can: “Why you and not me?”
And if you get the reply “Because we got tired before you”, smile and tell them “Tiredness is tired of me. Damn you.”
Me, I am exhausted.
40 rules of the siege: 34
The siege is the worst social experiment a human can be subjected to, other than being imprisoned
The oppression of the siege pushes people to extremism despite themselves
Not out of love, because the person is radical
But out of a desire to escape from the painful reality and search for any type of victory Under siege, resist yourself before you resist the siege… win for yourself and you will win over the siege and extremism
Me, I am an extremist
40 rules of the siege: 35
Under siege, the true value of beauty changes, for what you see within the borders of the siege as beautiful is unremarkable outside it
Under siege, beauty is an exceptional matter. Search for it and if you find it never let it go
And if you don’t find it, try to be beautiful yourself
Me, I am searching.
40 rules of the siege: 36
The siege changes the rules of the social contract that was in place before, returning it to the very first contract: ’My neighbourhoods, my clans, my families’
For people find in this contract a way to protect themselves from dissolution
Don’t allow yourself to be tribal in your response to it
And build a new contract on the premise that we are all human, and try not to fail
Me, I have failed
40 rules of the siege: 37
Searching for a way out of the siege is like searching for the corner of a circle
There is no corner, and there is no way out
Indeed, the word siege would be inaccurate if there was a way out
For the siege has its criteria in order to be complete and to have meaning. It has to be total
Under siege, don’t try to find a way out.
For just like you were put under siege without warning, you will be released without warning or die without warning, and either way, you are liberated, and you have won.
Me, I am searching
40 rules of the siege: 38
The siege fuels the latent hatred in your heart, especially against whoever put you under siege
And raises it to the worst level. You do not even consider the death of the latter to be revenge enough. For death from starvation, and slowly, is not like any other death
The faith of people under siege in their Lord grows because most of them have become completely incapacitated and find in God a road to salvation, and because among his names is ‘vengeful’, and that is the name they love the most
Beware of excessive hatred, for it will make you hate yourself
Leave it to your Lord
Me, I am hateful
40 rules of the siege: 39
When the siege ends, if it does end, you will be struck with a strong fear and filled with strange tension. You will say, what comes after the siege? How will I live without the siege now that I’ve become addicted to it?
And you will write on the wall of your house, “I can’t picture my life outside the borders of the siege, and I can’t picture the end of the siege outside the borders of my death”
If one day the siege ends, hold onto its rules in the hope that you might survive another siege in another place.
And if you meet your end before the siege does, be glad that you survived a surprise death outside the borders of the siege, where you learn that everything is natural; even your siege, to them, is natural
Look for the bright side of everything and be careful not to fail.
Me, I have failed
40 rules of the siege: 40
There are no rules under siege, just the experience