Idlib Calling: Sealed Shut

March 2, 2020

Friday, February 28

In the news: rebels have recaptured Saraqeb from the government army and Turkey has opened its border with Greece, allowing refugees to leave Turkey. Time to give Ahmed another call.

“Hi Ahmed — how are you doing now?”

“Good, good — and you?”

“I’m fine. I just heard the news about Saraqeb. What do you think?”

“It’s true that the regime has withdrawn from Saraqeb. That’s good news, you would think. Everyone’s talking about it. But it’s not like we can go back. It’s still a military zone, closed to everyone. They say that drones are flying around and that anyone who does sneak back gets shot at.”

“People say the damage is immense. Indescribable. I’ve heard that most houses have been robbed, and that many blocks of houses have been destroyed. Especially houses of people known to be part of the opposition, like me. So my house has been vandalised for sure. I made it rather easy for them to figure out who lived there — the walls of my house are painted with the revolutionary flag and slogans.”

“I thought about painting over those things before we fled, but there wasn’t time. A boy from our theatre group said he would see what he could do, but everything went so fast, he didn’t get to it either. All he could do was grab my lute.”

“All our costumes, everything we collected for the theatre group over the years, it’s all gone. But I’ve got the lute — I still play it, just for myself or for my children. Have you seen the videos I posted on Facebook?”

“About Turkey opening the borders: if only it were true. They certainly haven’t opened any borders here. The military is everywhere, and the border is still closed — sealed shut. Talk to you later.”

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