Yesterday, I wrote a full summary of all the news I’d gathered about the fighting near my village. When I hit the “publish” button, everything I had written, except for the title of the post, disappeared. After I stopped crying, I wrote a quick summary because I knew I couldn’t go through it all again. Here’s everything I left out, including the effect this is having on me and my family.
During the initial evacuation, my sister and her family decided to stay, but then, the next day, they left the village and returned to Homs. My mom told me that some of the terrorists had come and broken into a house, stealing everything they could find. The army fought them off, but because of this, all of the women and children have now left the village. It’s scary to me, because my sister’s family left Homs for the village after the FSA and other terrorists overran their neighborhood, threatening to kill whomever remained in their homes. That was almost two years ago. The army has improved the situation in Homs in the last year, but is it safe?
My cousin in Las Vegas talked to his brother, who has lived in the village with his parents for many years now. They fled to a town nearby. The fighting has been in Zara, up by the Crusader castle, the Krak de Chevaliers, what we call Qila’t il-Hosn. The artillery fire is constant. (This piece of information will become a recurrent theme with everyone I talk to). Yesterday, there was some hope that the terrorists would surrender, but that has not been the case. His brother told him today that the fighting continues.
I tried to talk to my nephews, who have remained in the village to protect their home. One of my nephews answered the phone the first time I called, but the connection was bad and he couldn’t hear me. We shouted “hello” back and forth a dozen times, but the connection never opened up. I hung up and tried three more times, but no answer after the first call. I tell myself, “at least I heard his voice.” I worry so much over them. They are in the middle of the village. They stay to protect their home, but I don’t know how they can protect it against fanatics with U.S. made weapons. Why is the U.S. government doing this to Syria? I wish someone could explain it to me. I wish it would stop before it’s too late. My niece said to me the other day, “I know the Syrian government will eventually win, I know the army will be victorious and our country will survive and prosper once more, but in the meantime, I worry that I will lose someone I love. That is what I worry about now.”
I spoke to my sister-in-law and niece, who are staying in another village about a forty minute drive away. My sister-in-law confirmed what I’d already heard. There is constant artillery fire and ground combat in Zara. If the army defeats the “rebels,” everyone will be free to return to their homes. “Yes,” she said, “all the women and children left the village. Some of the men stayed to protect their homes.” My brother’s home was destroyed in the first year of the war, when the terrorists overran Homs. If their home in the village is destroyed, they will be homeless.
My niece said, “Don’t worry. We’ve lived this long. God willing, we’ll keep on living.” My sister-in-law told me she had talked to the boys and that they are okay. They have enough food and there’s heat in the house. She said, “it’s cold, but not raining.” There’s no electricity at all in the village now and the boys will sleep downstairs, in case the terrorists shell the village. You’re probably beginning to have some idea of just how much worrying there is.
I worry for my nephews, of course. But I also worry for their mother and father, who must be out of their minds with fear for their boys. I worry for my niece and her children, a 5 year old boy and a 4 year old girl, both of whom have only known war in their lives. I worry too, for my nephew’s older kids, his thirteen year old boy and ten year old girl, who still have memories of a happy, carefree childhood, memories crowded out now by the constant fear that comes with the war. Memories marred by the last three years of food insecurity, lack of normal life, the news of massacres and beheadings. Both of them are old enough to understand everything they hear, and I have no doubt that they have been emotionally damaged by this war already. If the war ends and my whole family survives, will the children ever feel safe and secure again? Will they recover someday? Will any of us ever recover? I wonder.