Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Through Their Voices 1.10: The Dreamer’s Voice (part2)


 'This is part 2 of the Interview “The Dreamer’s Voice” with Ammar Ahmad.

 The siege was getting worse and worse in Moaddamiyeh, and 12 civilians starved to death. People in Moaddamiyeh thought things could not become any worse until the day of the chemical attack during which the regime’s forces hit the city with chemical missiles. Ammar was awake with his friends at the morning of 21 August 2013 when they heard a strange whistling to then hear people screaming for help. They rushed to the scene and found an unknown white powder covering the street. The regime hit the basements where civilians were forced to do their prayers after they could no longer visit the mosques. It was the time of Fajer, the early Morning Prayer, and the place was crowded.
 “I went downstairs and saw the people in a horrific situation, they had spasms, their irises were expanded and the way their bodies were shaking looked terrifying. Their eyes were wide open, but they seemed to be in another world. I tried to carry the person closest to me, and when I started to climb the stairs I felt I’m losing my strength. I was holding the man on my shoulder but we fell down several times. I tried to climb the stairs again, but that’s the last thing I remember. I was in a coma for almost 10 days, and after I awoke I had not been able to be fully awake for another month. That is when I learned that we were attacked with chemicals!”
 Ammar was one of the casualties most serious affected by the chemical attack  that day, Moaddamiyeh losing 82 civilians overall in the so-called the chemical massacre.

 After a period of time, Ammar had fully recovered and immediately went back       to support the besieged city and advocate for it. But the situation was getting  worse, especially for dozens of children who suffered from malnutrition during       to the food blockade and the long strict siege. The regime was working on a    shaky truce   which stated that the regime had to release all the detainees        from Moadamaiyeh, uphold a ceasefire, allow all the employees and students   from Moadamiyeh to go back to their work and study, remove all of the        regime’s forces who had   surrounded the city almost since mid-2011, and        open all the crossings to the city.
 The regime ended up only opening the crossings to the town for a few months; arresting more than 250 civilians who tried to get in and out of the town during    that period. Meanwhile, people were allowed to bring in food, but only in       specific amounts that were only enough for one or two days.
 This tactic ensured that the residents would stay hungry as they still were not     able to store food, reminding them that the town’s fate and their survival     remained in the hands of the regime. One of the regime’s conditions for the       truce was raising the regime’s flag on the highest place inside Moaddamiyeh considered a symbol of victory.
“That day I cried like a little baby! That wasn’t what we aimed for! We lost more than
 2,500 martyrs and more than 1,500 are still detained. I felt so shattered, but we didn’t
 have any other choice after we were so utterly disappointed of the international efforts.”

 Ammar and his fellows are currently working to help the residents who are       living under the regime’s siege. The city has almost 45,000 inhabitants—a   massive amount of people for these activists to help. Ammar needs to be multitasking; the people can see him everywhere as he tries to help in many     areas and always lending a hand when one is needed.
Ammar Ahmad with his daughter Mela. Moaddamiyeh 2016. Photo: Private
 And yet, Moaddamiyeh, along with thirteen other areas, is currently under        siege again. After all, people in Moaddamiyeh are planting to defeat the          siege. Ammar is now married and he has a beautiful baby girl named Mela. Despite everything he went through life went on. But he is as determined              as he had been in 2011, when he told me:
  “I dream of a Syria without weapons and without oppression. We are a  peaceful people, but we were forced to hold weapons to defend our            lives and our families. Weapons were the last choice after almost five     decades of Assad reign. It’s not like any other place in the world. Dozens     were killed in Syria while holding roses and banners in the          demonstrations. Weapons were held in Syria to defend the peaceful life         we were seeking when we demonstrated against Assad. After all that   happened I still believe I might be close to my dreams, maybe closer           than I’ve ever thought.”
 Ammar finished our conversation adding: “What we need in Syria is to get            rid of Assad and when that happens I can assure that nobody is going to            see any more weapons. The Syrians hate weapons and once we are done        with Assad, they are going back to their colleges, their careers and their        normal life, the normal life that they were never able to live under a regime         that suspected every three people talking in street to be part of an opposition talking politics. We asked for human rights and they now forced us to ask for humanitarian aids. That was never part of our plans! Syrians need to get           what they first asked for.” '

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