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Eastern Ghouta: 'Maybe this is the last time that I will be able to text you. Please pray for us'

I pray that those with the power to do so will finally put a stop this Syrian river of blood, writes Ayham Al Akkad.

Ayham Al Akkad Syrian

LIKE ALL SYRIANS, I still find it hard to believe what has been allowed happen to my country over the past seven years.

Despite the killing, the blood and the ongoing horror, the barbarity inflicted on the people of Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks has troubled me deeply.

I was born and raised in Damascus and the violence that is taking place in that suburb now is occurring less than three kilometres from where I used to live.

The shelling still continues

At least 850 people have been killed since the latest intensive aerial campaign began on February 18. That equates to the murder of 47 people every day for the past 18 days. And still the shelling continues. It is unbearable.

On Saturday, February 24, the UN’s Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. But despite the inexcusable delay by the international community in getting to even that stage, the ceasefire has yet to be implemented. The five-hour daily delay in hostilities ordered by the Russians has not come into force and is nowhere near adequate anyway.

In the meantime, the bombardment continues and dozens of my people – my fellow Damascenes –are being slaughtered in their homes and in their beds every day.

I hear the people there saying that they would prefer to be killed in their homes with their families, rather than being forced to move to another area. These people are so strong; they would rather remain at home with rockets flying over their heads than give up their homes and neighbourhood.

A text from Eastern Ghouta

Last week, I received a text from a relative of mine who lives in Eastern Ghouta. He said:

Maybe this is the last time that I will be able to text you. Please pray for us. The situation here is crazy. In just one minute this morning, five rockets were fired over our home. Please tell everyone that we stayed until the end.

I have not been able to reach him since.

I also know that international rescue teams are being denied access to Eastern Ghouta to provide humanitarian support, take the bodies from the streets or even just to provide medical aid, food or water.

The ordinary people of Syria have been suffering now for more than seven years, but it is especially difficult for Damascenes right now. For young people like myself – I am 32 – I have known nothing but war since I was forced to leave university and ultimately, escape from Damascus in 2012.

Our lives were drastically affected

When the war began in 2011, we tried to stay in the capital, but it was extremely dangerous, even back then. We had a house in the suburbs, but we had to move closer to the city centre to escape the bombing.

Our area was a focal point for the protests and the regime targeted that area as a result. At first, they tried not to bomb areas where they knew there were citizens living, but after a while they no longer cared about that detail.

Our lives were drastically affected. It was difficult to find food, water and medicine. Lack of electricity and communications made it hard to find out what was happening around us. We couldn’t attend prayers because the regime was planting car bombs near wherever people were gathering, including the mosques.

We discovered quite early on that what the Syrian media were telling the world was completely different to what was happening in reality. I tried to do what I could to let people know the true story by working with friends to post images and videos online that revealed what was being inflicted upon the ordinary people.

It was a very dangerous thing to do. If the regime found out where we were posting from, they would come to the neighbourhood overnight. In the morning, they would arrest everyone, kill most of the men and put the women in jail, if they were lucky.

I have seen this happening and those images will never be deleted from my mind.

I eventually left Syria 

I eventually left Damascus with my mother in March 2013. After passing through Lebanon and Istanbul, we arrived in Antakya in Turkey’s Hatay province. We were very worried about my father but thankfully, he managed to join us two months later. We have been living in Antakya ever since.

I joined GOAL as an IT officer in October 2013 and I have been working with them for the past four and a half years.

My hopes now are simple. They are the hopes of most Syrians. I want the killing to stop. I don’t want to see any more blood; I don’t want to hear the sounds of rockets or bombs; I don’t want to read about chemical weapons. I want my people to live in peace. And once the war has ended, I want to help rebuild my country.

In the meantime, all I can think about is the poor people of Eastern Ghouta. I pray that those with the power to do so will finally put a stop this Syrian river of blood.

Ayham Al Akkad is IT Manager for GOAL in Syria. GOAL is supporting 750,000 people in Northern Syria with daily food, water and emergency provisions. Visit goalglobal.org for more information on GOAL’s work.

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About the author:

Ayham Al Akkad  / Syrian

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