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Two Damascene Nights



The sky was raining meteors like poorly chosen coal would spit sprinkles of fire all around the circle of small stones near its flames.

It was a moonless night, unlike tonight, but that didn’t stop the image from coming to my mind, for the shining moon never stopped the flames from lighting up the skies of Damascus even more… For a moment there, you would simply stand, eyes full of tears, witnessing the practice of turning the long heard metaphor “the night became day” to pure reality. The image that came to my mind wasn’t so pleasant either.

It speaks of a night that I’ll never forget, gathered with my family on our luxurious roof garden, in a town we never thought would get harmed by either the regime or the unfortunately armed resistance. The night was a night of celebration for we were going to witnesses the astrological phenomenon of “meteor rains."

The plan was really simple, we watch the meteors we know are falling far away from here, we try to take some pictures, we make a couple of wishes, we have some tea, and then we go downstairs to sleep. A slight change of plans, however, very out of our hands, turned the night into a catastrophic nightmare.

The place from which I witnessed the sky that night is different now. An orange sky exists now, something I’ve only seen before in the news about Gaza or Kosovo, maybe Iraq too, but never the oldest inhabited capital in the world; Damascus.

It’s very important to mention that the dates of the two nights are not very far apart, but the circumstances are. For in the first night, the future was foggier than ever. The protests and the civil movements had been on hold for a little less than a month with only little exceptions, the march towards Damascus by the armed, mostly Islamist resistance, had just begun. While the second night was long after the battle of Damascus had started.

So, on the roof garden, while witnessing a meteor once every second or so with dad trying to make sure his fake smile makes the rest of the family feel happy and safe, my younger sister reaches to the edge of the roof. She looks at a little boy down on the street, staring at the sky just like in all those Disney movies trying to count the stars. While she stared at him a weird voice started to fade in from afar, becoming louder by the milliseconds.

Tonight, the sky became as bright as it gets. I was on my way back home when the first explosion occurred, the shock was too immense for me to absorb before the second explosion, then came the third, then the fourth. What’s really ironic about tonight was the fact that the resistance blew up bombed cars in an area being simultaneously hit by the regime’s air force. Yet what hurts is the fact that nobody cared, nor paid attention. Everybody was fully aware of that fact, but it wasn’t something new, as the war going on in Syria never cared less about the people of this country. Still, both parties claim to be fighting in the name of the people.

The memory hit me first as I heard the screams of panicking men and women all around me, everybody was in shock for a second or two, especially those standing in the same street in which I stood, most of us were several seconds too late for death, and several seconds too early for it, as the cars that were blown up were on the two ends of that very street! That memory, the one that crushed my mind while still in shock, is as simple as the following:

I rushed to take my young sister off the edge with plans in my head to take her and the rest of the family to the basement, but as I reached her, I saw the young boy in the street, reaching out for what he thought was a meteor, I look up, then down, then up again, then a final look down before I scream as hard as I can “go away!”. The boy turns his head to smile at my little sister and I up on the roof--a smile beyond my words.

I cover her eyes and the two of us fall down to the dirt of the garden out of the pressure caused by the explosion.

The next hit was at our roof, clearly mistakenly, or maybe with the intention of making it look like it was a mistake. By the time of the second strike we were on our way down to the basement, crying, and at least for the moment safe.

Tonight was another nightmare; I could literally see people walking with parts of martyr’s bodies on their shirts or on their shoes. The first explosion gave the people around a minute to gather around the blown up car in order to clear the area of injured people, then came a bombed regime car, bombed not by the regime “I think,” but by those very Islamist groups moving through the rushing-to-help crowds. When people witnessed that, they started running in every direction they could, they went through the street in which I stood amazed to reach a safer place perhaps, but as many of them reached there, took a breath, and stood back, the third and fourth car blew up, causing a panic wave that I’ve never seen before in my whole life. 73 people died there alone. Why? They were not of the same religion of those who held the guns.

Another aspect that reminded me of that day after the whole thing was done, is the reason for which my neighborhood was bombed at the first place. That day witnessed a protest that was very intimidating for the regime to endure. It was titled “neither Islamic, nor Christian, we want only a civil country.” The Syrian regime fears such protests more than it fears the weapons of those practicing Jihad against it, for it ruins the reputation he’s selling of this revolution to be only about religion, a 100% false accusation, yet the opposite is being proven by those holding guns against the regime in the name of Allah!

The smile on a kid’s face, and 73 martyrs; that was the cost of only two out of many incidents I’ve witnessed in my hometown, the first by the regime, and the second by the resistance. And while I still refuse to leave this country, hundreds of activists, children, students, and others, are either being forced to leave, or leaving willingly in order to avoid worse times.

Why am I saying this? I’m a secular, idealistic activist, from deep inside Damascus; I have suffered some of the worst things sufferable by both the regime, and the armed resistance. I long for the days in which we used to get hit and shot at while protesting. I long for the days in which my voice was heard along with millions of other voices. I long for the days in which supporting the revolution with a gun was rather a sin. I long for the days in which the blood of the martyrs meant something more than just a number in the news bar on the bottom of the screen! I have always stood against the regime, but neither me, nor thousands of Syrian people will ever tolerate the intolerable, we won’t accept a regime nor a resistance killing innocents in our name. Period.

Stop the killing; we want to build a home for all the Syrian people.


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