"The people still believed that song, dance, slogans, and prayer were stronger than fear and bullets. They were wrong, of course, and their illusions would soon drown in a river of blood.
America, traumatized by two useless and disastrous wars to the point of forgetting its own founding myth—that of a people rising against tyranny with their hunting guns, helped only by indomitable spirit and idealism—stood back and watched, petrified. Europe, weakened by economic crisis and self-doubt, followed suit, while the regime’s friends, Russia and Iran, occupied every inch of the political space thus made available. And geopolitics is always written with the blood of the people. The day after I left Homs, on February 3, a series of mortar shells targeted the neighborhood of al-Khalidiya, where I had spent so much time, killing over 140 civilians. As Talal Derki, the Syrian director and narrator of the magnificent documentary Return to Homs, comments at that point in his film, this mass murder was the turn of the revolution: “The dream of a revolution with songs and peaceful protests ended.”
Mani and I were able to document what seems to have been the first deliberate sectarian massacre of the conflict, the murder with guns and knives of an entire Sunni family in the Nasihin neighborhood on the afternoon of January 26, 2012. Many more would follow, first of other families, then of entire Sunni communities in the village belt surrounding Homs to the West, in the foothills of the Jabal an-Nusayriyah, the so-called “Alawite mountain” from which the regime continues to draw its main support. Up to that point, as all our interlocutors kept repeating to us and as we witnessed in the demonstrations, the revolutionaries were doing everything in their power to prevent the descent into sectarian warfare; the FSA response to this massacre was not to slaughter an Alawite family, but to attack the army checkpoints from which the murderers had come."