Monday, 21 September 2015

For My Father, Living Under the Siege of ISIS and Assad


 ' "We will never forget the blood of our martyrs."
 I lay down, with my headphones in my ears, listening to the people of Dara'a chanting the Syrian revolutionary slogans in March, 2011. A few weeks later, those same sounds started filling the streets of my own neighborhood. My disbelief that day led me to think I was dreaming. I remember I left my house and ran to join the rally. It was a solidarity march with the martyrs who had fallen in Dara'a. "We will never forget the blood of our martyrs," they repeated.
 As time proceeded, martyrs began to fall in my city. During their funeral marches, I would walk next to those carrying the coffins. One day, I turned to the man next to me, the street lights reflected the many lines on his wrinkled forehead, and I asked "How was he martyred?" I was shocked to find that the man I was asking was my father; he had been a part of the marches, as well.
 As events escalated in Syria, the secret police would raid the demonstrations killing and arresting people. In July 2011, one of the demonstrations I partook in was raided by a military bus. I found myself running, with many others, through narrow lanes that I had not discovered in my city before. A car came to pick us up, and many of the guys and I stuffed ourselves into the back. After catching my breath, I looked to find that the driver was my father. I left to Turkey to work in press and media freely, but my father stayed in Syria. He refused to leave the city of Deir Ezzor, which was under regime control and under constant threat, bombardment, and gunfire from both ISIS and the regime.
 The siege is now entering its ninth month and people are starving to death. There are seven documented deaths from starvations, three of whom were children. The current siege on Deir Ezzor is categorized as the worst siege in Syria, with the price of food being three times more than any other area in Syria. The tight grip by ISIS has not allowed any food or supplies into Deir Ezzor for nine months. ISIS besieged the city of Deir Ezzor in order to pressure the Syrian Regime and conquer the rich and strategic area, but the Syrian regime seems to be unaffected. The regime continues to freely use the Deir Ezzor airport, pays the engineers working in ISIS-controlled oilfields, and the regime checkpoints are still receiving equipment and supplies, including buckets of cigarettes. Even when ISIS first laid siege to Deir Ezzor, the regime confiscated much of the supplies within the city and raised the food prices by tenfold, while regime-allied businessmen used it as an opportunity for profit.
 My father remains under the siege of ISIS and the regime, surviving on sour bread. In nine months, he has lost almost half his weight dropping from 192 to 121 pounds, and he's quickly running out of medicine for his diabetic needs. The laughter of children in the streets has been replaced with bombs and gunfire, the marketplace has grown empty, the buildings have continued to fall, turning into piles of rubble, and the people have kept disappearing.
 With no end in sight, with no intervention and with no help, Deir Ezzor is dying and it is dying slowly and painfully.
 "The birds in our garden -- I am afraid one day I will not be able to share my dry bread with them," my father continued. " I am afraid they will die." '

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