After yet another joyless Christmas, life didn’t change much. I went to the bakery on December 26th morning and stood in the huge line for hours, and around 8:30 AM a young activist (16-17 years old is my guess) with his friends came and filmed the people waiting for bread for a couple of seconds, and I believe I show up clearly in his footage. One day I will look for it in YouTube, and I hope I’ll find it.
The next day I did the same thing and I stood from 8:30 till 10:30 only to get the ticket for bread. During those two hours I had breakfast (Manaeesh from a nearby stand and tea) and there was a women standing next to me. She was dressed in black and she looked miserable -like we all do these days- and she was talking about a dream she saw that night. Said she saw her 15 years old son playing football with his friends in front of their house. Then I found out that her son was killed at a security checkpoint months ago, and that they left their house afterwards. She was smiling while her eyes were filled with sadness, and said she’s glad he’s a martyr, and he’ll be waiting for her in heaven.
I didn’t say a word, but I thought to myself, what a strong woman and what a sad life she’s living. I didn’t ask about her or her son, simply because there are thousands of similar sad stories in my city and all over Syria.
I didn’t wait to actually get the bread cause that will take about 7 hours, so I went shopping and around 11 AM I saw the well known professor Tayyeb Al Tizini. We talked for a few minutes, and this wasn’t the first time I meet him. I met him once before back in March 2011. Only few days after I was attacked and beaten by security force. Back then he saw the marks on my face and told me he knew what happened without asking me. Such a decent and respected man.
I went home, then back to the bakery hours later, only to get my precious bread at 7 PM after another 4 hours in line. So in total, I stood six hours to get bread. Still better than seven.
December 29th. I was out and in line at 8:45 AM, but this time it wasn’t the familiar bread line, as it’s Saturday and the bakery is closed. This time I was waiting for gas. I was able to hand them the empty container at 2:15 PM. I paid for the new one and went home, since those won’t be ready until next week.
News about the massacre in Deir Balbaa arrived while I was in line, and the stories I heard were so horrible I didn’t want to believe any of them just to stay sane.
December 30th, I decided to go to the bakery earlier than ever, and I was there at 4:45 AM, found 37 people in line in front of me. At 6 I got one pack and went home sick with a bad cough because of the freezing cold weather.
8:50 AM fighter jets started flying over the city and four minutes later they did multiple attacks.
Jets came back again in the afternoon, and I found many security forces members fully armed in every street I’ve been to that day, and many areas in Homs lost electricity.
December 31st. The last day in this horrible year. I was so sick, we had no electricity, and heavy shelling didn’t stop all day.
At exactly midnight Assad’s forces celebrated New Year’s by shooting randomly for several minutes, and some kept shooting till 1 AM.
I could hear the shooting sounds coming from at least four different checkpoints.
Happy New Year. Indeed.
2012 was the worst year of my life. And I believe it’s been the worst year in Syria’s entire history. The country is torn apart. Cities are destroyed. Tens of thousands were killed and many more were detained.
January 1st 2013: Worst first day ever. No electricity at all, very cold weather, and we’re out of bread since I was too sick to go buy bread for days. We bought some expensive not so delicious bread from nearby.
January 2nd: No electricity.
January 3rd: No electricity.
January 4th: No electricity.
January 5th: We finally got electricity back, but not entirely as it was ON/OFF all day.
January 6th: After Assad’s speech security forces opened fire at 12:55 PM. Heavy shelling between 4 and 7 PM. Electricity was ON/OFF. No internet connection since early morning anywhere in the city.
January 7th: No electricity. Very cold weather. Heavy shelling.
January 8th: No electricity. Very cold weather. Heavy shelling.
January 9th: No electricity. Very cold weather. Heavy shelling. With an extra: Snow.
January 10th: No electricity. Very cold weather. Heavy shelling. Snow. But later that night we got electricity back, well, sort of. It was so weak we couldn’t turn on a single lamp.
January 11th: No electricity. Very cold weather. Heavy shelling. More snow. We emptied the freezer and put food in snow on the balcony. March 2012 déjà vu.
After 5 P, shelling got worse and my house was shaking.
January 12th: I was finally able to take a shower after 11 days without hot water because we had no electricity.
January 13th: I really hate to repeat myself a hundred times, but: No electricity. And most people are now out of heating fuel. (Diesel? We call it Mazoot but I’ll stick to “fuel”)
January 14th: You guessed it! No electricity.
January 15th: No electricity, obviously.
Went o the bakery at 7:30, went back home at 9 empty handed since they didn’t give tickets to anyone because they said the bakery was out of fuel. While heading home I saw them giving lots of bread to security forces from a different door with my own eyes, while hundreds of men, women, and children are still waiting in this freezing weather waiting for the fuel to arrive so they can eat.
9:24 AM, a bullet came through a window, shattered the glass all over the carpet and sofas, then hit the wall, then jumped into the heater and smashed the fuel container’s cap into pieces. Gladly it didn’t hit the container itself which was full.
While cleaning the mess caused by that bullet, news came about a two massacres, one in Aleppo University which saw some huge peaceful demos against Assad months ago, and the second in Houla which saw one of the worst massacres we’ve ever witnessed.
We couldn’t follow the news since we had neither electricity nor internet connection.
January 16th: I don’t need to type those two words anymore because we always have NO ELECTRICITY.
January 17th: Waited since 4 PM till 1 AM for fuel and went home without a drop. We got electricity for a few hours at night.
January 18th: Back to No electricity. Heavy shelling at 12:45 PM.
January 19th: I saw troops in many vehicles, all armed and chanting for Assad. “We choose only three, God, Syria, and Bashar”, “Shabiha forever, for your eyes Assad” and so on.
They kept driving, chanting loud, and waving their guns for a while.
Of course we have no electricity and no cellphone coverage as it comes and goes with electricity.
10:15 AM rapid shooting, not from regular guns, but from much heavier artillery my father told me, and some shelling as well.
Some of my far relatives left their houses in Bayada after Assad’s troops started shelling that area to the ground and moved to a village called Haswieh. That entire family was killed in the air strike few days ago and were all buried under ruins, and no one was able to pull them out.
I’ve never met those people, but even if they weren’t my relatives at all, their story is still as depressing to me.
January 20th: We lost electricity when we woke up and cellphone coverage as well.
Shelling started early.
Someone I know told me a story about a soldier he knows who wanted to defect and was delivered a dead body to his family before he even tried to. My mother knows the soldier’s mother, but she decided not to call her and ask about the story due to the horrific times she’s in.
Shelling kept going into the night.
January 21st: We got electricity and cellphone signal. Hallelujah!
Around 11:40 AM, shooting was very close to my house. Meters away to be exact.
January 23rd: Electricity company vehicle was going through Hamra cutting illegal cables which most people rely on to overcome the lack of legal electricity.
January 24th: It’s war here this morning. Excessive shelling and heavy gunfire. My house’s doors and windows got opened because of nearby shelling. I could hear the rockets being launched, then flying in the air making a funny whistling sound, then hitting their targets. I’m so sick of living like this. Of waking up like this.
Electricity is still an issue, bread, fuel and gas as well, but we’ve seen a couple of warm days and that made everything better.
Shelling didn’t stop all day and it was targeting many areas, mainly Qusoor, Jobar, Sultanieh, and Khaldieh.
Inshaat, Hamra, Ghouta, and Dablan were shaking because of the shelling even though they weren’t targeted.
Waar has been seeing more and more fighting in the past few weeks.
But it wasn’t all bad as my neighbors brought us some delicious chocolate cake that kept me happy for a few minutes. Try eating a chocolate cake in the dark. It’s a lot of fun.
Shelling was back in the evening, then again at night. I went to bed heating awfully loud explosion sounds. The same sounds I woke up to.
I can’t help but to confess that the regime was able to change the focus of the world from our demands (Freedom, equality, and democracy) to restoring peace and stopping the bloodshed. Their viciousness paid off in the short term, but it will eat them up in the end.
January 25th: War continues since 4 AM, but from one side as it always is. FSA never strike back heavy. Either because they don’t have the weapons for it, or because Assad’s forces usually attack from inside civilian areas. I believe it’s the first reason.
Friday prayer came and with it came massive gunfire in many directions, and again, no firing back.
In the afternoon, security forces were walking the streets and opening fire randomly while shelling continued.
Around 4 PM, cement barriers were installed back in different main streets and smoke was seen over Qusoor, Bughtasieh, and Jorat Al Shayyah. It’s April 2012 all over again.
At night, all that’s left was sniper shots. Lots of them.
January 26th: Unlike the previous two days, shelling and shooting didn’t start at 4 AM, and when they did start around 10 they weren’t as heavy. Sniper shots were heard every few seconds.
I walked around a couple of neighborhoods and talked to people. Saw some cement barriers with the Syrian flag painted on. Heard stories about security forces raiding houses and moving into a couple of empty ones. They pit a lot of guns in empty houses and moved in, a man told me. He said he saw that happening, but I couldn’t confirm that story.
I also saw many new security forces vehicles. Most of them are regular cares with shaded windows or plates that say “Assad’s Syria” being driven by the most obvious pro Assad thugs, with loud music coming out from them.
I heard about an all female security checkpoint close by, but I didn’t go check it out.
People kept calling and telling us to leave before it’s too late, and saying that some families were kicked out from their homes by Assad’s troops. That all happened before, but this time we didn’t even consider leaving. We emptied out emergency bags long time ago. We made our choice. We’d rather die than become refugees.
No electricity in the past 24 hours. No fresh water in 20. We’re getting a very weak cellphone signal in particular corners in our house. Land line are working fine.
My tablet arrived to Damascus, finally! After travelling though three countries (UAE, KSA, and Lebanon). I was planning on going to Damascus to get it, and other things we don’t have in Homs (Mainly medicine), but the bus I usually go on board didn’t have fuel in days and wasn’t going to travel anywhere. I looked for other busses, but then I was afraid something might happen while I’m away, so I decided to stay home.
January 27th: Morning shelling and gunfire. Still no electricity at all. No water after 11 AM.
Students from a couple of schools couldn’t go to class since Assad’s troops reoccupied their schools. Other schools took some of them in.
We got electricity at 2 PM, and it lasted less than an hour. Then it was on and off all night.
My mother said something that really got to me. She said she’s glad that grandma (her mother) passed away and didn’t see these days since she hated darkness so much and kept the lights on all the time. She would’ve really hated this month on a whole different level than us. May she rest in peace.
January 28th: We received a present from someone we know and it was a pack of bread he brought from a pro Assad area. He said it took him a minute to get his car filled with bread in that area. He also said that he found fuel and gas widely available there and in such cheap prices.
Electricity was ON/OFF all day. I’m glad I bought safety gadgets to protect our electric devices.
I walked around a couple of neighborhoods, saw some new checkpoints, and some old ones, and many security forces in new areas, but I believe that the stories people are telling were exaggerated. Talking about clashes in many streets is completely false. Assad’s troops however did in fact occupy some buildings and schools, as I saw myself, but not as many as most people think. I personally only believe what I see, and that’s why I don’t talk about other areas unless I go there.
The situation in my areas is worse than ever, but I believe we haven’t seen the worst yet. Plus, we got used to a certain amount of daily gunfire and shelling. The presence of security forces is what bothers me the most.
I did a couple of things that I can’t tell now. I’ll write them down to publish when possible.
I woke up early since I went to bed early because we had no power, like always. I got dressed and went out.
Once again, I walked around many areas, Hamra, Ghouta, Inshaat, Tawzea Ijbari, Dablan, and Abdulhamid Droubi Street.
In Hamra, they had no electricity. Security forces were at the birds square and there was heavy traffic in Malaab street towards Safir hotel. A couple of security forces vehicles and armed members were checking cars on both ways.
In Ghouta, they had no electricity. Security forces were at the Fares square and the traffic light near Shater Hasan, and more near Sahha (Health Department). I walked towards Nizar Quabbani Street, and didn't go all the way because I saw army vehicles and heard shelling sounds coming from there. I talked to people and they confirmed that some houses were occupied by the troops. They said that only two families didn't leave the houses they asked to be emptied because they had people with special needs.
In Dablan, I could rarely see someone walking. The street was a ghost street, after being the most popular one in the city. I saw troops heading to Abdulhamid Droubi street and heard heavy sounds coming from there, so I didn't even try to go in.
After that I tried to get near Jorat Al Shayyah and I saw security forces in a checkpoint, those decorated the ruins of a nearby destroyed building with flags and photos of Assads'. Seeing that made me realize how proud they are of what they're doing. Of the destruction and the killing.
In Inshaat, they had no electricity, security checkpoints in front of Safir hotel and on Tripoli Street. Many vehicles and cement barriers there. I could go online there, and I did a tagged tweet with my location for reasons I'll tell later.
In Tawzea Ijbari (Inshaat near Baba Amr), they had no electricity. Security checkpoints and armed troops in Brazil street. They occupied a restaurant nearby and secured it with sand barrels, and decorated the area with photos of Hafez Assad, Bashar Assad, and their chants.
I went home, and we had no electricity when I arrived. I wasn't stopped by any checkpoint, but that didn't help my deep depression because of what I saw.
Later at night, I got so depressed and nothing could help. Not chocolate, not the dark humor, and not the nice replies I got on twitter. I had MLK on my mind. Free at last. I hope we'll celebrate being free soon.
January 30th: Had breakfast without electricity. Jets were all over the sky at noon. Heard about a young man of my relatives who was killed by a sniper’s bullet while walking in one of the “safe” neighborhoods.
We got enough electricity for me to finally turn the long notes I take daily to this post. Perhaps I will add what will happen tomorrow and end January. The darkest month in my life.
Electricity was on all night for the first time in 2013, and that’s why I was able to look at some old photos of Homs, and that’s when I got an idea about doing a photo blog post showing the old photos and new photos for the same places to show the destruction we’re seeing and how the city never saw such cruelty in its history. I started organizing photos using some of the ones I took myself over the two past years while my eyes were filled with tears. I saw my city get destroyed. Every Syrian has.
2 AM: explosions and shooting started and lasted until 5 when I finally could fall asleep, only to be awakened by the beautiful sound of a fuel container truck at 7.
I chased it and was successful to buy 20 whole litters. That’ll keep up warm for about three nights. I paid 40 pounds a litter while it was 26 pounds few weeks ago. The official price is 37. The unofficial price could go up to 85 and into pro Assad’s deep dark pockets. All the money and the blood in the world won’t fill those pockets.
After 10, the power streak ended and we were back to a playful ON/OFF electricity which is much better than no electricity at all. New things get added to our suffering list.
1.5 billion were promised to help the UN aid the Syrian refugees. I wonder how much will be actually delivered, and how much will be stolen on the way, and finally, what percentage will pro Assad areas who aren’t in need get.
Another month went by like a nightmare, taking with it a lot of Syrian blood, and leaving plenty of hate and destruction. I’m not looking forward to February, March or April since they were the worst months in 2012.
Note: You can find Chapter 14 here: http://www.neareastquarterly.com/index.php/2012/12/31/a-homs-diary/
Note: You can find Chapter 14 here: http://www.neareastquarterly.com/index.php/2012/12/31/a-homs-diary/