Damascus, Syria July 3, 2012
Maya Naser wrote:
Maya Nasser killed by sniper fire
covering events in Damascus,Syria
September 26, 2012
It was a beautiful evening of May, the weather was charming, and I was sitting on the balcony in my apartment enjoying a cup of coffee when the phone rang, shivering voice on the other end, it was my best friend from Homs begging me to arrange his Emergency escape from Hamidiyeh after the militias asked the families there including his (him, his wife and two kids) to clear their houses for refugees coming from another areas.
Next morning I jumped into my car, thinking to myself, this would be the most stupid and adventurous thing I have done since long time.
One hour and half to get from my place to Homs city, very slow traffic on the highway, no police, no speed cameras, and defiantly no army or militias for that matter. I couldn’t think of anything bad might happen, enjoyed the high speed driving, the loud music, and I was singing like super star.
Upon arriving at the entrance of the city, an army guard at the checkpoint stopped me, a grumpy face soldier approached my car, asking to see my papers, checking my ID, matching it with a list of wanted names they have (as the soldier had explained to with smiley face), I couldn’t help but noticing that the soldier’s face had changed upon seeing my ID and my name, then with a cheerful face he wished me safe journey and let me go.
My destination is Hamidyeh, and I used to know the city as the palm of my hands – the city, not what’s left of it – however I passed the Statue of late Syrian President Hafez Al Assad heading to what’s called Bab hood in way to the final destination, roads were empty, traces of bullets were everywhere on buildings, one building had huge holes, garbage was everywhere and the smell was disgusting… Bottom line is, I am heading into the city of ghosts.
I had to admit it, that’s when I started to feel how stupid my decision was.
Few kilometers ahead and exactly at the Midan exit, another checkpoint, yet this doesn’t seem to be any sort of regular soldiers or security forces, long beard, no mustaches, some of them are bold with strange weapons and machine guns.
They had the road blocked using a pickup truck with machine gun installed in the truck box.
An almost 16 or 17 years kid approached my car with a machine gun AK-47 in his hand, drawing it to my face, asking for my ID and my direction, I gave the ID and told him going to hamiyedeh (my cousin is sick and I need to drive to hospital)
He checked the ID asking me in a strange accent (more likely from Homs outskirts) “are you Christian and where are you coming from?”
With more fear to be hidden: yes I am christian and I am coming from Damascus. I answered with as much steady voice as possible.
“Do you memorizing any of the bible, and you had to come all the way for your friend?” He asked with sarcastic tone.
Yes I memorized the bible and yes sir I had to drive from Damascus, this is my friend as well as my cousin, that’s where I had to lie so he can believe that I drove all the way for my cousin, not to mention giving credibility for me being Christian. I answered while couldn’t keep my steady face anymore.
“Well, thanks God one christian less”. He said followed by you don’t need to be scared of us, you can keep on your way now saying so while handing over my ID. And talking on the radio to someone not to shoot (who apparently been a sniper on some roof with a view on the checkpoint, as my friend explained to me later).
I drove few meters ahead until I reached the new clock square (Sa’at Homs eljadedah) army checkpoint stopped me, they seemed panic to see me, they reloaded their guns ordering me to show my both hands and asking what I am doing, I answered the same.
“Please reach for your ID slowly!” The officer requested.
I did, he checked it, matched with a list in his hand and said:
“Okay, son be careful, it’s very dangerous area and you might get killed, there are killers over all roofs.”
I left heading to the old clock square, where another checkpoint was waiting for me, with people with beard and those appeared more professional, black shirts with an Islamic slogan, middle age men with RPGs and rifles with each one of them, one of them approached me.
Almost same questions emphasizing on my religious background, and implying that it’s better to take my relatives away, but he said I had to change the road because I am not allowed to go down this particular One.
So I had to drive back to Abdul Mun’em Ryad street next to the main post office of Homs, heading toward alKonrsh area to reach Hamidyeh.
However; 7 checkpoints for militias, 2 for the army and with almost another hour took me to arrive my friend’s place in Hamiydyeh (the road usually from Homs entrance to Hamiydyeh is 10-15 minutes max).
All roads were filled with rebels checkpoints and armed men, garbage was everywhere, signals to snipers on the roofs not to shoot were given repeatedly by checkpoints using radios upon allowing me to pass by.
Picture wasn’t taken by me
To be continued