"They took off my clothes!”, the 11-year-old girl screamed. She didn’t seem to know what she was saying as she wandered the streets of her village, located in southern Syria near the city of Daraa. For safety reasons, Fatima did not want the name of her village to be used. As if crazy, the child, Nora, yelled snippets of words, sentences with no beginning or end and repeated again and again: "They took off my clothes! They took off my clothes!"
Nora’s mother, Fatima, stumbled across her daughter by chance when she turned down this street. For the past few hours, she had been frantically searching for her child after hearing a rumor that a group of children who had been detained in a military base might have been released. As soon as she heard, the 35-year-old mother took to the streets, hoping beyond hope to find her missing daughter.
When she finally saw her child, Fatima struggled to recognize the features that she had once known by heart. She moved closer. Nora, in a state of shock, didn’t recognize her.
They had last seen each other only a month and a half before– 45 days to be exact. Yet it was as if an eternity had passed since May 3, 2011. It was the very beginning of Syria’s Arab Spring. All across the country, more and more people were joining protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the regime was cracking down. The wave of repression was at its bloodiest in Daraa and its surrounding region, the epicenter of the popular uprising.