The first one in

I run in, I’ve got the gopro on, there is so much destruction. I’m usually the first one in. As I am running I am asking where is the strike, but no one is answering they are just scared and running. It’s all happening so fast. I see a man carrying two children, I open my arms as I run towards him, there are women crying. I hand one child off to someone else, I keep the little girl, help them help them. Run, run, another strike is coming, run. We’re speeding towards the hospital, she’s in my lap, I think she’s ok, I pray she’s ok. She’s covered in gray dust but I don’t see any injuries. We screech up to the hospital. How many times have I done this? I don’t remember anymore. She’s in my arms, I run in, I put her down on the stretcher, she’s ok, she’s ok. These children, when I carried them, I felt like they were my children. At the time I had two. Mahmoud, he’s named after my brother who was killed in 2015, he was around 4 years old. He was walking at the time but he wasn’t in school. Rawan, she was born in 2018, she’s younger than Mahmoud. She was like two years old. She’s five now and wants to be a doctor. I also say that Mahmoud should be a doctor, so they can treat each other. That was on 11-1-2020. Idlib. We have a thing, us Syrians. We remember all the dates. We always remember the exact dates. Ghouta, where I am originally from, 13-3-2018. Running, running, this time I take the child from a mother. You can’t describe these feelings, always seeing children injured, so many crimes committed against us. These children were never able to live a day without fear. They were born in this war. I guess this is what fate wanted for us. Because of this criminal. I wanted to be a car mechanic when I was a kid. The teacher would ask us, “What do you want to be?” A friend of mine wanted to be a pilot. When our revolution started, I remembered this classmate of mine, he did end up with Bashar al-Assad’s forces. I don’t know if he became a pilot. If he was one of the ones who rained down destruction and hell on us. This is my life. From 2012 until now, even before I officially joined the White Helmets – a civil defence unit – as a volunteer, whenever there were strikes, I would go out, I was drawn to go to those places, I was still a teenager. I was a kid. I wasn’t afraid. My mother would say no, why are you going people are running away. But I would feel that I was needed. I couldn’t stay away, I wanted to help, I always wanted to help. I was 19 or 20 when I officially joined the White Helmets, I had just gotten engaged. I got married about a year after I joined. My fiancé, yes she was against it, but it really was my mother who tried to stop me. She would grab me by the arm and beg me not to go out. “I’ve already lost three sons, I can’t lose a fourth.” She would beg, beg, beg. “Please just stay, stay with us.” 29-9-2015. The day my brother was killed in front of me. We were on our farm. Him, his wife, my nephew, my mother and my little brother. There was an airstrike, I’m pretty sure it must have been Russian, we didn’t hear the plane. I heard some sort of a sound, I heard the explosion, black smoke like 10-15 meters away. It’s too hard to talk about it now, I need to remember too much, it’s not that I forgot, it’s just … My nephew’s head exploded. My brother’s eyes. One of them had exploded from the pressure, one was just hanging there, my mother grabbed his head, she was trying to wipe the blood with this white cloth. She was just wailing at me “Oh Ahmad, Mahmoud is dying, Mahmoud is dying.” He was breathing still at that point, but it sounded like snoring. I named my first son after him. My other two brothers were killed earlier, one was with the Free Syrian Army, the other a few years before him. Death, so much death. 17-1-2016. The day I got married. That’s a good date. A joyful date. We don’t have many of those. 31-3-2016. The day a  friend of mine was injured. He was injured in a strike on a clinic. 14-3-2018 I left my parents in the basement and I went out. I went back the next day, I wanted to find my mother but she had already left. She waited for me, to see me, especially since 3 of her sons were already dead. She wanted to say goodbye. They had to flee, my parents, my family, they had to flee. They are “safe” now. I stayed alone with my wife in Ghouta. For 10 days. So much bombing. We knew the end was coming. We were ready to be a sacrifice, it was like joint suicide for all of us who stayed. We didn’t think that there would be this displacement, that the green buses would come. 26-3-2018 The green buses came. They are the buses the regime used to evacuate civilians and fighters left behind, after they would bomb us to smithereens and starve us into “surrender”. Took us from Ghouta to Idlib. The bombings followed us there. It’s where I am now. This trust that people have in us and this pride in what I am doing, in all of us just for still being alive, it’s what keeps me going. The feelings that come with doing this work, they are so hard to describe, it’s like I am their parent, I always see the children I am saving as my own. They aren’t Syrians, or a displaced family, or a population under fire. They are our family, we see them all as our own family. We might be strangers but we’re closer than blood. I always have faith in God. We went through so much, as Syrians, but the joy I want to one day feel, the happiness that I seek, it is just one main thing. To see my mother, my parents, and Syria as it was. And justice. I want justice. Justice for the crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad, all his people who have our blood on their hands, the Russians, all of them. Syria is not in the news. But it’s not forgotten, it’s in my heart and in the hearts of others. But people, the world, they are trying to forget it. This actually drives me more, everyone has abandoned us, they know who the criminal is. The UN knows everything, everyone knows everything. But the criminal right now is free, no one has seen justice. It’s a pain that squeezes my heart. My heart is crying. These images I can’t forget. I cry, of course I cry. I remember and I cry. I remember the children I saved and I cry. I remember those I couldn’t save and I cry. Homes that were destroyed. There is a pain in the heart, no one can forget. Maybe a day or two goes by where we don’t think about it. But no one forgets, no one forgets the death of their brother. The children. It’s a pain we carry. There are still strikes, smaller ones. Like every other day. Its mortars. Mostly just to remind us that they are still there. They strike a lot when its foggy. We still have hope, I still have this hope that things will get better. Can you hear me world? I have hope that I am going to see peace. Syria will be more beautiful and better than before. And it will be rebuilt… Those living in tents will be able to go back home. Those who fled to other countries will be able to come back. We will live in peace. We will live without strikes. Not with this regime. But I have hope. I have this dream …
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One Response

  1. Yes, Syria is no longer in the news. And I had all but forgotten its pain. Till the recent moves by brothers to normalise relations with it. Wait, there is something so wrong here. But, of course, “birds of a feather”! Now here am I, trying to make up for lost time. Time I should have been praying for the oppressed. I’m sorry. Truly sorry.

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