Tuesday 23 July 2019
Before I go on vacation, I give Ahmed a call. It feels a bit strange to say goodbye for the next few weeks because bad news is just pouring into my timeline. An endless stream of reports about bombing and lots of dead and wounded. Including in Saraqeb….
“Hi Ahmed. I just called to tell you I’m going on vacation.”
“Have you heard that they bombed Ma’aret al Nu’man this morning? I saw on Facebook that fifty people were killed. Once again, many were children. Yesterday, Khan Shaykhun was bombed, and our beloved village of Kafranbel has been destroyed. Entire neighbourhoods were leveled and everyone’s gone. And yesterday, here in Saraqeb there was bombing: nine wounded, including two children.”
“My daughter yelled out the window at the planes, like a little superman; ‘Don’t hit our house!’ It must have helped … ”
“Sorry, did you say you were going on vacation? I hope you have a good time with your family.”
“Um, this might sound like a weird question, but Ahmed: are you still on vacation?”
“Haha…. for months! Every day another vacation! There absolutely nothing to do here, you know? Seriously: yesterday we went for a picnic in the countryside just outside of Saraqeb. I took my wife and children on the motorcycle and we went for a picknick under the trees.
“Our last real vacation was last year. We went to Darqoush, on the Asi (Orontes) river. We rented a house with a swimming pool. But now we have no money. Before the uprising, we could go anywhere: Damascus, Deir ez-Zor, Der’a, the sea to Tartous and Latakkia. Homs was the best: beautiful people with a great sense of humor. Going there is like coming home. But then, after 2011 … for us in “free Syria” only Darqoush remained. A beautiful place, of course.”
“I don’t know anymore, I think what happens is God’s will, it’s His plan. It must have meaning somehow. We certainly can’t expect anything from people of flesh and blood: not the Americans, the Russians, the Turks: for them we are no better than animals, or, at the most, numbers. The only thing we have is God … our only hope is our faith.”
“Sorry for all the bad news. Have a good vacation and I really hope we will meet one day, maybe on vacation? Let’s go fishing!”
Postscript: a few hours after our conversation the news came that Saraqeb had been bombed again. Six people were killed, including two children.