As young Syrians, we used to say lies since our childhood; our parents’ fears made them ask us to be always silent or to say lies, what we say inside our home could never be the same as what we say outside of it.
When the Egyptian and Tunisian uprising started, my daughter said in her school, “the people want the regime down,” which is what almost everybody was listening to all the day and night, but her teacher asked her to say “Allah Souria Bashar w bas” which means “only God, Syria, and Bashar”
My little daughter, Zya, asked me whether to say what we say at home or what they do in the school, it was at this point that I realized our big problem that we have had for years. Here, I remembered that we never said what we wanted to say or what we believed….
Once I was with Zya in Damascus when she asked me, “isn’t this our street?! Why don’t we say what we want!!??” Then I felt like this must be changed and Syria must start a new round with no fear.
The revolution started on March 18th 2011, on the 25th of March 2011, the demonstration took a place for the 2nd time, I joined this one, we were about 2000 in the main square of Homs, which is the 3rd biggest Syrian city, we were chanting for freedom, we were saying peacefully, peacefully, we were chanting for Daraa, the city that witnessed tens, or maybe hundreds of civilians lives lost, who were also chanting for freedom.
The reaction for these three words was unexpected. The regime reacted for these words by a very hard crackdown: tear gas, beating, insulting, arresting, etc.
I remember there were about six security men beating one protester, people started to be angry and so they started to chant “the people want the fall of this regime”
If the regime has not reacted that way, there might be space for dialogue for reforming a way of having some personal freedom as the regime stays but these sort of dictators cannot offer any sort of freedom, that is why there is no way to have any kind of dialogue or anything with this regime.
On the 18th of April, the first strike took place also in the main square of Homs “Sa’a” but since that date, the name of this square became the Freedom Square.
The strike was a beautiful thing, all of the people were there, all people were together there, hand in hand cleaning, from hand to hand passing each other the water, all hands were raised together in the prayers, all the hands were raised together as they were chanting all in one voice. In the strike we saw a civilized organized social cause, when everyone took on a role (cleaning, giving food, etc). The strike lasted for almost 12 hours (2pm-1:45am), then this wonderful social cause was suppressed by a massacre that we don’t know till now the exact number of its victims, until now there are people who disappeared in that day and we know nothing about them.
Homs woke up the next day over a sea of blood, with so many broken shops and destroyed places. Here I saw the difference between our civilized people and this criminal regime that understands only the language of guns.
After the strike, the revolution moved to a different round since the military and security checkpoints divided the city so that people could not gather and head to one place all together any more, every neighborhood had to protest by itself. The revolution was still very peaceful and the regime’s reaction continued to be bloody, the security and military checkpoints started to shoot directly or randomly at people, more and more military checkpoints means more and more soldiers. Some of them are just doing their obligatory military service and they did not want to kill or shoot at people. At this point, some soldiers and officers started to feel the need to defect because either you have to follow the order to shoot civilians or an order to shoot you will be given, so it became kill or be killed. And, at the same time, protesters started to be sure that they need some sort of force to protect their peaceful demonstrations.
And so the SFA (Free Syrian Army) showed up, when there was a demonstration, some defected soldiers took the district or street entrances as place for them to stay and protect the protesters, but that was never enough because there wasn’t enough defected soldiers and they didn’t have the sort of weapons to fully protect any area, they only had individual guns.
I participated in the protecting and so I saw big peaceful demonstrations demand a civil state, freedom, human dignity. All these demands are supposedly what the “1st World Countries” support and protect. Unfortunately, later the international community disappointed the protesters and didn’t want to see their demands. And the regime’s reaction for this aim? In 21st century, we were killed for asking for such inherently natural things!!? And no one supported or helped these protesters; no one helped the Syrian people!!!!
The demonstrations I could attend were really wonderful and peaceful ones, once I was in a demonstration in Khaledyeh (a district in Homs), then the security forces came to break into this neighborhood so we had to escape inside houses and buildings, I stayed in Khaledyeh that day, I heard very loud gun shots fired. I saw the BTR (military vehicle) . We went with some activists to see what is going on and we saw an old man, later I knew that his name is Mouhamed Khayr Shmalyeh, he was shot by a sniper, we tried to help. I personally couldn’t touch him or do anything, I stayed a bit away but still Mouhamed’s blood found a way to my clothes. A few hours later I went back home to hear that this man is my neighbor uncle and I knew that he died already. This old man’s fault was to cross a street where we were protesting. This is one of the things that had a tremendous effect on me. For three days in a row I stayed in my room, I threw away my clothes because I didn’t want to see blood again. As a Syrian citizen, my friends and I asked only for freedom, democracy, civil state, human rights, and dignity. Thats all that we wanted, but……
Instead , some of my friends have been arrested, some were killed, and some have become disabled.
But still the revolution stayed a 100% peaceful uprising for over six months, then the SFA was born, and here the regime started to use heavy weapons, morter bombs, tanks, rockets, and sometimes helicopters, as if it were a real big war…. why!!??
Until August, the average number of people who were killed was about 15 per week!! But In August (during Ramadan), the demonstrations became daily, and even more than once a day, so the average increased to over 20 a day, 140 per week, because before that, the protests were only on fridays after the prayers, since the mosque is the only place where Syrians could gather, but in August (Ramadan) people could gather every day and so they were protesting every day.
As the number of martyrs was rising every day, the defection wave became bigger and bigger, and so the SFA started to have a real role.
After December, the regime started to shoot randomly in all the neighborhoods because the regime felt like it’s impossible to stop the protests and everyone is protesting, so they figured that a random heavy attack was easier and would need fewer soldiers.
In the 4th of February, the regime attacked Khaledyeh. One of the heavy shots targeted a house which included parents and their 5 children. Then another shot to a building that had 38 residents in its first floor. All of them were either killed or wounded immediately, so other people from around the area came to this building to help. At that time, another shot targeted all these people together. On that day I lost my best friend, Mazhar Tayara. At 01:00 am my friends told me over Skype that Mazhar is wounded on his head; Anees,another friend, lost one of his eyes; Morhaf, also a friend, lost both of his legs. At 5:00 am they told me that Mazhar had died.
I did not know what to do when I heard that, I felt totally disabled until I got a sign which said, “Mazhar your blood will not be forgotten,” and went to the Syrian Consulate, here in Istanbul, to raise it up in the very early morning.
Mazhar was going to Khaledyeh because he speaks English, French, and Arabic, so he went there to speak to some media to tell the world what’s going on.
Mazhar was only a journalist citizen.
Anees and Morhaf, they were trying to help people and move them to a field hospital.
In that day, at least 168 civilians were killed, followed by many others who were wounded that day.
Early morning, on February 5th, 2012, I lost Mazhar, my best friend. Syria lost Mazhar. Then in the 6th of February, another friend was killed on the day of Mazhar’s funeral!!!!
On that day, I felt like my heart must stop, I don’t know what to say. I felt disabled, I felt hate… he is my friend… what would I feel, I felt disabled, I felt thatlife became nothing, how people get killed for spreading the truth, another was killed for singing, another because of nothing except just to cross a street….
I cried, I cried a lot, I don’t know…. That day my life was completely changed, I was changed.
I became another person after Mazhar’s death. I felt like we could never stop the revolution. I felt that no one believed he had done enough for the revolution, but that he was the only one who died for his beliefs.
I felt guilty for leaving home. I felt that I should go back to die where I was born.
I started to write messages to Mazhar, hoping that he would respond like he used to.
The Syrian state media would screen programs to confuse us and get people to believe that there is no revolution. It’s all lies. I waited for these programs and hoped that they would tell me that Mazhar was still alive and that the world media was the one lying about Mazhar’s death. I used to laugh at the lies, but on that day I realized that it was no longer funny.
The regime said that we are radical Muslims and armed terrorists and that the revolution was not in the streets but produced in media studios. But then where was Mazhar?
The defectors left because they rejected shooting at people. Why does the regime dare to call them terrorists? They risked their lives so they would not become terrorists.
Unfortunately without any kind of protection or support these defectors are carrying the sole responsibility for protecting civilians.
I support the Free Syrian Army.
Karm El Zeitoun, March 12th: About 45 women and children were killed by knives. Not guns, not tanks, but knives. Two of my friends went to help people get out of the massacre, Ezo and Ahmad. They both became different after what they witnessed. I could feel it in their voices, in their behavior and words. The blood, the children and women’s bodies; all that they saw broke something inside of them. I don’t know what it is, but they were different after that day. All I know is that they are not the same Ezo and Ahmed I knew before.
28th of March. Two of my friends, Nora and Ali, were arrested.
Nora has still not been released. Ali used to work in the media office in Baba Amro. Before that he used to sell vegetables, but then he found himself in Baba Amro, where he learned how to shoot videos and became the best at it.
I saw Ali on Syrian state T.V., saying what the regime wanted him to say. I cannot imagine the kind of torture he faced to get him to say that. I believe Ali would rather die than say that, but I don’t know how and why. I still cannot even imagine what Ali faced and still faces. I imagine it involves sexual threats and torture, maybe even sexual assault.
After Karm El Zeitoun the regime started to spread rumors that they would attack certain neighborhoods, so people who lived in these neighborhoods ran away out of fear, because nobody wants to face what the women and children faced in Karm El Zeitoun.
Homs is a city that had over one million inhabitants. Now it is a city of 350 thousand, mainly because of this.
In April, the security forces arrested Mayed and Samer, other friends of mine. They were released after 45 days.
Samer faced horrible torture, but both are okay now.
In May, Simo was wounded. Simo is one of my close friends, but when I found out he was wounded I did not cry at all. My family started to worry and feared something would happen to me, because this is not my usual reaction and they didn’t expect it. I don’t know why, but I didn’t cry.
In the massacre of Hola I also didn’t cry. I don’t cry anymore and I don’t know why.
On the 29th of May Basel AlShhadeh was killed. Basel had been studying in the United States. He left his school and came back to Syria to help show the truth of what is happening in Syria. Basel went to Homs about 3 months ago and trained about fifteen activists in Homs how to use cameras and shoot photos and videos. Basel was a person who seriously loved life. He always smiled and he used to say ‘Ahm shi Elmsdayeh,” which means “the most important thing is the truth.” By that he meant to say, “We don’t have to show anything more than the Truth. The Truth is enough for every country, not only for Syria.”
Basel was a Christian guy from Damascus. Basel was covered by the Syrian revolution’s flag, which is Islamic, as a shroud. The one who read the Christian prayers for his soul is a Muslim.
Syrians started to say that Basel is the heroic martyr for Christians, but his mother asked us to say that he is a martyr for Syrians. Abd El Basset Saroot, a Muslim who used to play football and is now an activist in the Syrian revolution, raised a Christian sign that read, “Ya ysou3 ya sou3 3an thawratna ma fi frjoo3,” meaning “Dear Jesus, Dear Jesus there is no way to go back on this revolution.”
I used to talk with Basel over Skype. Basel used to feel the people’s pain. He was torn between his love for life in Damascus and his desire to stay in Homs. In the end he stayed in Homs to keep trying to show the world the horrible situation there, until his blood was in the soil of Homs.
Now I’ve been in Istanbul since the first of November. Istanbul is a beautiful, great city, but you can never love being in a place when you are forced to live in it, when it’s not your choice. I feel guilty that I am not in Syria. At the same time I feel guilty about going back because I have my daughter to take care of.
Maybe I will stay here, or at any moment I will go back to Syria to die there.
My message to the world:
When we started the revolution we never believed that Bashar Al-Assad, the president, could do what his father did in Hama in the early 1980s, when over 45,000 civilians were killed. Nowadays there are cameras that shoot videos and photos, there is the Internet, T.V., and all these other media tools which would definitely protect us. But unfortunately, as long as the world keeps its eyes closed to the truth, the son will do even worse things than his father.
We are in the 21st century, but other countries don’t understand the morals of this century yet.
I want to say that as you are at home playing with your children, remember that there are children getting killed every day in Syria.
We started this revolution and we will not give it up.
I really just wish if you could, as you are looking at your child or someone dear, think about me and the other hundreds of thousands who have lost people dear to them.
My message to the artists: Your art might be a way of helping Syrians, of saving the lives of some civilians. It might help humanity.
And to psychologists, I say; When Al-Assad leaves and when this regime falls we will need you to help our children, if Al-Assad leaves before he kills all of them.
To the leaders, I say; Whoever thinks Al-Assad will stay is only fooling themselves. It is only a matter of time, and your support will only reduce the number of lives lost.
What I want from the revolution is Syria. I want a Syria where I can say what I want, in the place I want, in the time I want, so every martyr can rest in peace. Because that is what they died for. Basel, Mazhar, and every single man, woman and child died for that.
I want to live in a state lead by law, with laws that will not forget the killers and their victims.
I want to step forward. We have been in the same place for over 42 years.
I want my daughter to live in Syria, not Syria Al-Assad (Al-Assad’s Syria), as they used to call it, but the Syria she loves
I don’t want her to say, “Allah Souria Bashar wa bas.” I want her to say what she loves to say, what she believes in.