by Aloosh Devrim
Araa, a 37-year-old mother, dashes through the house, hysterically inspecting one room after the other. She is shivering in panic. She tries to collect as much as she can from the shattered household items.
Here and there she stops, interrupted by a flashback triggered by the memories scattered all around her home. In the devastated TV lounge, Araa had celebrated her master’s degree with her family. In the left corner of her living room, she had cried all night when her husband was posted to another city. Now she stands in the children’s play area of her large living room. She sees glimpses of the last six years of her life with her husband and children.
Her husband Ahmad, 45, watches her from a distance as he collects books from the study room. “Thankfully, they are safe. My books are like my children or maybe more important! I cannot live without them,” he teasingly says to his wife, who ignores his provocative remark.
“When I got the call from our neighbors about the attack on our home,” Ahmad carries on, “I wanted to cry aloud or jump out of the window to end my life.” Araa still does not respond, for she knows her optimistic husband, and his humor has never impressed her.
Ahmad and Araa know that Moaddamieyha, a small town 35 kilometers southwest of Damascus, is no longer a peaceful place since the Assad regime started using violent force against protestors in March 2011.
March 15, 2013 marked the second anniversary of the regime’s retaliation against Syria’s peaceful uprising. By early 2012, air force fighter jets aided the use of tanks and artillery to bombard, slaughter and besiege towns like Moaddamieyha. Over the last several weeks, as the military hierarchy crumbles, the regime has been using SCUD missiles to increase their firepower against the Free Syrian Army.
Without any warning siren or provocation, shells land in people’s homes in the cities of Homs, Dier al-Zoor and Damascus. Many locals from these cities have left for safe places within Syria or become refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. It is estimated that shelling claims 130 to 200 lives every day. There is no count for how many have been injured.
Araa and Ahmad Jasim have lived for two years amid the roars of tanks, the sound of automatic machine guns, and at times have been awoken by sudden loud sniper fire. There have been thousands of casualties and those lucky enough to survive usually lose a limb or two. This time, bad luck visited the Jasim family when two mortar shells tore down the walls and destroyed most of their home.
“Would you care to help me, please?” His wife’s sad voice interrupted his stream of thoughts.
Ahmad realizes that all she wants is to mourn her home. He sees her looking out of the window at the home of their neighbor, Umme Khalil, who lost her son to the indiscriminate shooting of military personnel.
“She used to walk every morning to the cemetery to talk to her dead son. Once I thought to offer her a [ride], but she always refused, saying it could distract her prayers against Assad,” she tells Ahmad with tearful eyes.
According to human rights observers, the city has so far lost over 4,000 people out of its population of 70,000. Many of the victims are women and children. Thousands rot in prisons.
“The house is laden with memories of my kids and friends,” Araa says.
Assad’s killing spree adds a sad twist to what has been a novel-like life story for Ahmad and Araa. These two journalists were not supposed to be married, for Ahmad was a Sunni and Araa a Duruz, or in simple terms, a non-Muslim.
Some 14 years ago, it was love at first sight for Ahmad. Their “impossible” love story began despite clear knowledge that a Duruz is not allowed to marry outside the faith. Defying all odds, the couple got married in a Gulf country and lived there for six years.
The family returned home with Rasha, their eldest daughter.
“We lived hand to mouth there to save money and buy a home in Syria,” Araa recalls.
Araa’s family accepted their wedding and Ahmad gave her the home as a gift and a testament to his love.
“We struggled for another four years to buy furniture and household goods for our home,” Ahmad says, collecting the last few surviving books.
The UN estimates that the uprising in Syria has cost the nation over 80,000 lives and created over one million refugees.
Pointing to bullet holes in the wall, Araa says, “This home is no more a witness to tank columns or soldiers running crazily, but is now itself a victim.”
She never left her children’s room during the siege. “I used to leave them in a safe corner when going to the kitchen or rest room, with instructions of not leaving the place.”
Seven months ago, the family was forced to leave the house as the violence soared. “I saw today my savings of six years stand in ruins because of shells fired by Syrian tanks and no one else’s.”
She may be deeply hurt, but refuses to take refuge in Turkey or Lebanon.
“We will not only suffer the wounds [like the rest of] Syria, but also live to give safe and clean streets to our children,” she says hopefully as Ahmad looks into her shining eyes.
About the Author: Aloosh Devrim is a young social media activist whose family struggled against Hafiz Al-Assad's rule and policies. She has traveled to the Americas, Europe, and Middle East for work.