Households visiting their destroyed streets in Homs
Sure, there’s rubble, the truth is, complete destruction, in a few of the neighborhoods of Homs, Aleppo, in the outskirts of Damascus, and elsewhere.
Sure, there are terrorists and ‘foreign forces’ in Idlib and in a number of smaller pockets in some elements of the nation.
Sure, tons of of hundreds of individuals misplaced their lives and hundreds of thousands are both in exile, or internally displaced.
However the nation of Syria is standing tall. It didn’t crumble like Libya or Iraq did. It by no means surrendered. It by no means even thought-about give up as an choice. It went via complete agony, by means of hearth and unimaginable ache, however in the finish, it gained. It virtually gained. And the victory will, more than likely, be remaining in 2019.
Regardless of its comparatively small measurement, it didn’t win like a ‘small nation’, preventing guerilla warfare. It’s profitable like an enormous, robust state: it fought proudly, frontally, brazenly, towards all odds. It confronted the invaders with super braveness and power, in the identify of justice and freedom.
Syria is profitable, as a result of the solely various can be slavery and subservience, and that isn’t in the lexicon of the individuals right here. The Syrian individuals gained as a result of they needed to win, or face the inevitable demise of their nation and collapse of their dream of a Pan-Arab homeland.
Syria is profitable, and hopefully, nothing right here in the Center East, can be the similar once more. The lengthy many years of humiliation of the Arabs are over. Now everybody ‘in the neighborhood’ is watching. Now everyone is aware of: The West and its allies could be fought and stopped; they don’t seem to be invincible. Tremendously brutal and ruthless they’re, sure, however not invincible. Probably the most vicious, fundamentalist spiritual implants might be smashed, too. I stated it earlier than, and I repeat it right here once more: Aleppo has been the Stalingrad of the Center East. Aleppo and Homs, and different nice brave Syrian cities. Right here, fascism was confronted, fought with all may and with nice sacrifice, and lastly deterred.
I sit in the workplace of a Syrian Basic, Akhtan Ahmad. We converse Russian. I ask him about the safety state of affairs in Damascus, though I already know. For a number of evenings and nights, I’ve been strolling via the slender winding roads of the previous metropolis; certainly one of the cradles of human race. Ladies, even younger women, have been strolling as properly. The town is protected.
Common Akhtan Ahmad and Andre Vltchek
“It is safe,” smiles Basic Akhtan Ahmad, proudly. “You know it is safe, don’t you?”
I nod. He’s a prime Syrian intelligence commander. I ought to have requested extra, rather more. Particulars, particulars. However I don’t need to know particulars; not proper now. I need to hear once more and once more that Damascus is protected, from him, from my associates, from the passers-by.
State of affairs is now excellent. Exit at night time…
I inform him that I’ve. That I’ve been doing it since I arrived.
Nobody is afraid, anymore”, he continues. “Even in the locations the place terrorist teams used to function, life is returning to regular… The Syrian authorities is now offering water, electrical energy. Individuals are returning to the liberated areas. East Ghouta was liberated solely 5 months in the past, and now you’ll be able to see outlets opening there, one after one other.
Night time in the previous metropolis of Domascus
I get a number of permits signed. I take the Common’s photograph. I get photographed with him. He has nothing to cover. He isn’t afraid.
I inform him that at the finish of January of 2019, or in February at the newest, I need to journey to Idlib, or no less than to the suburbs of that metropolis. That’s high quality; I simply should allow them to know a couple of days prematurely. Palmyra, nice. Aleppo, no drawback.
We shake palms. They belief me. I belief them. That’s the solely approach ahead – that is nonetheless a warfare. A horrible, brutal warfare. Regardless of the incontrovertible fact that Damascus is now free and protected.
After I depart Common’s workplace, we drive to Jobar, on the outskirts of Damascus. Then to Ein-Tarma.
There, it’s complete insanity.
Jobar was a predominantly industrial space, Ein-Tarma a residential neighborhood. Each locations had been lowered virtually totally to rubble. In Jobar I’m allowed to movie inside the tunnels, which was utilized by the terrorists; by the Rahman Brigades and by the different teams with direct connection to Al-Nusrah Entrance.
The scene is eerie. Previously these factories provided tens of hundreds of jobs to the individuals of the capital metropolis. Now, nothing strikes right here. Lifeless silence, simply mud and wreckage.
Lieutenant Ali accompanies me, as I climb over particles. I requested him what passed off right here. He replies, by means of my interpreter:
This place was solely liberated in April 2018. It was certainly one of the final locations that was taken from the terrorists. For six years, one half was managed by the ‘rebels’, whereas one other by the military. The enemies dug tunnels, and it was very troublesome to defeat them. They used each construction they might get their palms on, together with faculties. From right here, most of the civilians managed to flee.
I requested him about the destruction, though I knew the reply, as my Syrian pals used to stay on this space, and advised me their detailed tales. Lieutenant Ali confirmed:
The West was feeding the world with propaganda, saying that this was destruction brought on by the military. In reality, the Syrian military was partaking the rebels solely once they have been attacking Damascus. Ultimately, the rebels retreated from right here, after the Russian-sponsored talks with the authorities.
A Few kilometers additional east, in Ein-Tarma, issues are very totally different. Earlier than the conflict, this was a residential neighborhood. Individuals used to reside right here, principally in the multi-story buildings. Right here, the terrorists hit exhausting at the civilians. For months and even years, households needed to reside in horrible worry and deprivation.
We stopped at the humble store promoting greens. Right here, I approached an aged woman, and after she agreed to it, I started filming.
She spoke, and then she shouted, straight into the digital camera, waving her arms:
We lived right here like cattle. The terrorists handled us like animals. We have been scared, hungry, humiliated. Ladies: terrorists would take Four-5 wives, forcing younger women and mature ladies into so-called marriages. We had nothing; nothing left!
“And now?” I requested.
Now? Look! We reside once more. We’ve got a future. Thanks; thanks, Bashar!
She calls her president by his first identify. She factors palms at her coronary heart, and after kissing them, she waves her arms once more.
There’s nothing to ask, actually. I simply movie. She says all of it, in two minutes.
As we’re leaving, I understand that she is most probably not previous; not previous in any respect. However what has occurred right here broke her in half. Now she resides; she resides and hoping once more.
I ask my driver to maneuver slowly, and I start filming the street, damaged and dusty, however filled with visitors: individuals strolling, bicycles and automobiles passing by, negotiating potholes. In the aspect streets, individuals are arduous at work, rebuilding, cleansing rubble, slicing fallen beams. Electrical energy is getting restored. Glass panels fitted into the scratched picket frames. Life. Victory; all that is bittersweet, as a result of so many individuals died; as a result of a lot has been destroyed. However life it’s, regardless of every part; life once more. And hope; a lot hope.
I sit with my buddies, Yamen and Fida, in a basic, previous Damascus café, referred to as Havana. It’s a actual establishment; a spot the place Ba’ath Social gathering members used to satisfy, throughout the previous and turbulent days. Pictures of President Bashar al-Assad are displayed, prominently.
Buddies Yamen and Fida in Cafe Havana, Damascus
Yamen, an educator, recollects how he needed to transfer from one house to a different, on a number of events throughout the current years:
My household used to reside proper subsequent to Jobar. All the things round there was getting destroyed. We needed to transfer. Then, at a brand new location, I used to be strolling with my little son, and a mortar had landed close to us. As soon as I noticed constructing in flames. My son was crying in horror. A lady subsequent to us was howling, making an attempt to throw herself into flames: ‘My son is inside, I need my son, give me my son!’ In the previous, we couldn’t predict from the place the hazard would arrive, and when. I misplaced a number of kinfolk; relations. All of us did.
Fida, Yamen’s colleague, is taking good care of her ageing mom every single day when she will get again from work. Life continues to be robust, however my pals are true patriots, and this helps them to deal with the every day challenges.
Over a cup of robust Arabic espresso, Fida explains:
You see us laughing and joking, however deep inside, virtually all of us are affected by deep psychological trauma. What happened right here was robust; all of us noticed horrible issues, and we misplaced our family members. All this can stick with us, for a few years to return. Syria doesn’t have sufficient skilled psychologists and psychiatrists to deal with the state of affairs. So many lives have been broken. I’m nonetheless scared. Daily. Many individuals have been terribly shaken.
I really feel sorry for my brother’s youngsters. They have been born into this disaster. My tiny nephew… As soon as we have been beneath a mortar assault. He was so scared. Youngsters are actually badly affected! Personally, I’m not afraid of getting killed. I’m afraid of dropping my arm, or leg, or not with the ability to take my mother to the hospital, if she was to be feeling sick. A minimum of my ancestral metropolis, Safita, has all the time been protected, even throughout the worst days of the battle.
“Not my Salamiyah,” laments Yamen:
Salamiyah was simply horrible. Many villages needed to be evacuated… Many individuals died there. To the East of the metropolis have been the positions of Al-Nusrah, whereas the west was held by the ISIS.
Sure, a whole lot of hundreds of the Syrian individuals have been killed. Tens of millions pressured to go away the nation, escaping each the terrorists and the battle in addition to poverty that rode on the tail of the preventing. Hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced; the complete nation in movement.
The day before today, after leaving Ein-Tarma, we drove close to Zamalka and Harasta. Entire big neighborhoods have been both flattened, or at the very least terribly broken.
If you see the Japanese suburbs of Damascus, once you see the ghost buildings with out partitions and home windows, with bullet holes dotting the pillars, you assume that you’ve seen all of it. The destruction is so large; it appears like a whole huge metropolis was simply blown as much as items. They are saying this eerie panorama doesn’t change for at the very least 15 kilometers. The nightmare goes on and on, with none interruption.
So sure, you are likely to assume that you’ve seen all of it, however truly you haven’t. It’s as a result of you haven’t visited Aleppo, nor visited Homs, but.
For a number of years, I’ve been preventing for Syria. I used to be doing it from the peripheries.
I managed to enter the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and to file stories about the brutality and cynicism of the occupation.
For years, I coated life in the refugee camps, and ‘around them’. Some camps have been actual, however others have been truly used as coaching fortresses for the terrorist, who have been later injected into Syrian territory, by NATO. As soon as I virtually disappeared whereas filming Apayadin, certainly one of such ‘institutions’, erected not removed from the Turkish metropolis of Hattay (Atakya).
I ‘almost’ disappeared, however others truly did die. Overlaying what the West and its allies have been doing to Syria is as harmful as masking the warfare inside Syria itself.
I labored in Jordan, writing about the refugees, but in addition about the cynicism of the Jordanian collaboration with the West. I labored in Iraq the place, in a camp close to Erbil, the Syrian individuals have been pressured by each the NGO and the UN employees, to denounce President Assad, in the event that they needed to obtain a minimum of some primary providers. And, in fact, I labored in Lebanon, the place multiple million Syrian individuals have been staying; typically dealing with unimaginably horrible circumstances in addition to discrimination (many at the moment are going again).
And now that I used to be lastly inside, all of it felt someway surreal, however it felt proper.
Syria seemed to be as I anticipated it to be: heroic, courageous, decided, and unmistakably socialist.
Homs: complete destruction
Homs. Earlier than I went there, I assumed that nothing might shock me, anymore. I’ve labored throughout Afghanistan, in Iraq, Sri Lanka, East Timor. However quickly I noticed that I had seen nothing, earlier than I visited Homs.
The destruction of a number of elements of the metropolis is so extreme that it resembles the floor of one other planet, or a fraction from some apocalyptic horror movie.
Individuals climbing by means of the ruins, an aged couple visiting what as soon as was their condo, a woman’s shoe that I discover in the center of the street, coated by mud. A chair standing in the center of an intersection, from which all 4 roads lead in the direction of the horrid ruins.
Homs is the place the battle started.
My pal Yamen defined to me, as we have been driving in the direction of the middle:
Right here, the media ignited hatred; principally the Western mass media. But in addition, there have been the channels from the Gulf: Al-Jazeera, in addition to tv and radio stations from Saudi Arabia. Sheik Adnan Mohammed al-Aroor was showing, twice every week, on a tv program which was telling individuals to hit the streets, banging on pots and pans; to struggle towards the authorities.
Homs is the place the anti-government revolt started, in 2011. The anti-Assad propaganda from overseas quickly reached a crescendo. The opposition was ideologically supported by the West and by its allies. Quickly, the help turned tangible, and included weapons, ammunition, in addition to hundreds of jihadi fighters.
A as soon as tolerant and trendy metropolis (in a secular nation), Homs started altering, getting divided between the spiritual teams. Division was adopted by radicalization.
My good pal, a Syrian who now lives in each Syria and Lebanon, informed me his story:
I used to be very younger when the rebellion started. A few of us had sure official grievances, and we started protesting, hoping that issues might change for higher. However many people quickly realized that our protests have been actually kidnapped from overseas. We needed a set of constructive modifications, whereas some leaders outdoors Syria needed to overthrow our authorities. Consequently, I left the motion.
He then shared with me his most painful secret:
In the previous, Homs was a particularly tolerant metropolis. I’m a average Muslim, and my fiancé was a average Christian. We have been very shut. However the state of affairs in the metropolis was altering quickly, after 2011. Radicalism was on the increase. I repeatedly requested her to cowl her hair when she was passing by way of the Muslim neighborhoods. It was out of concern, as a result of I used to be starting to obviously see what was occurring round us. She refused. Someday, she was shot, in the center of the road. They killed her. Life was by no means the similar once more.
In the West, they typically say that the Syrian authorities was no less than partially chargeable for destruction of the metropolis. However the logic of such accusations is completely perverse. Think about Stalingrad. Think about overseas invasion; an invasion supported by a number of hostile fascist powers. The town fights again, the authorities tries to cease the development of the troops of the enemy. The struggle, horrible, an epic struggle for the survival of the nation goes on. Who’s in charge? The invaders or the authorities forces who’re defending their very own fatherland? Can anybody accuse the Soviet troops for preventing in the streets of their very own cities that have been attacked by the German Nazi isis?
Maybe the Western propaganda is able to such ‘analyses’, however undoubtedly no rational human being.
The identical logic as to Stalingrad, also needs to apply to Homs, to Aleppo, and to a number of different Syrian cities. Overlaying actually dozens of conflicts ignited by the West throughout the world (and described intimately in my 840-page lengthy guide Exposing Lies Of The Empire, I’ve no doubts: the full duty for the destruction lies on the shoulders of the invaders.
I face Mrs. Hayat Awad in an historic restaurant referred to as Julia Palace. This was the stronghold of the terrorists. They occupied this lovely place, situated in the coronary heart of the previous metropolis of Homs. Now, issues are slowly coming again to life right here, at the least in a number of areas of the metropolis. The previous market is functioning, the college is open, and so are a number of authorities buildings and lodges. However Mrs. Hayat lives in each previous and the future.
Mrs. Hayat Awad
Mrs. Hayat misplaced her son, Mahmood, throughout the conflict. His portrait is all the time together with her, engraved right into a pentel she is sporting on her chest.
He was solely 21 years previous, nonetheless a scholar, when he determined to hitch the Syrian military. He advised me that Syria is like his mom. He loves her, as he loves me. He was preventing towards the Al-Nusrah Entrance, and the battle was very robust. At the finish of the day he referred to as me, simply to say that the state of affairs was not good. In his final name he simply requested me to forgive him. He stated: ‘Maybe I am not going to come back. Please forgive me. I love you!’
Are there many moms like her, right here in Homs, those that misplaced their sons?
Sure, I do know many ladies who misplaced their sons; and not only one, typically two or three. I do know a woman who misplaced her two solely sons. This struggle took every little thing from us. Not solely our youngsters. I blame the nations which supported the excessive ideologies injected into Syria; nations like the United States and these in Europe.
After I’m accomplished filming, she thanks Russia for his or her help. She thanks all the nations which have stood by Syria throughout these troublesome years.
Celebrating birthday of prophet Mohammed in Homs
Not removed from Julia Palace, reconstruction work is in full swing. And just some steps away, a renovated mosque is re-opening. Individuals are dancing, celebrating. It’s Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. The Governor of Homs marches in the direction of the festivities, with the members of his authorities. There’s virtually no safety round them.
If the West doesn’t unleash yet one more wave of terror towards its individuals, Homs ought to be simply nice. Not instantly, maybe not quickly, however it is going to be, with the resolute assist of the Russians, Chinese language, Iranian and different comrades. Syria itself is robust and decided. Its allies are mighty.
I need to consider that the most horrible years are over. I need to consider that Syria has already gained.
However I do know that there’s nonetheless Idlib, there are additionally pockets occupied by Turkish and Western forces. It isn’t over, but. The terrorists haven’t been absolutely defeated. The West will probably be capturing its missiles. Israel will probably be sending its air pressure to brutalize the nation. And the mass media retailers from the West and the Gulf, will proceed preventing the media struggle, agitating and complicated sure segments of the Syrian individuals.
Nonetheless, as I depart Homs, I see outlets and even boutiques opening in the midst of the rubble. Some individuals are dressing up, elegantly once more, in an effort to present their power; their willpower to place the previous behind them and to stay, as soon as once more, their regular lives.
Returning to Damascus, the motorway is in good situation and the industrial space in Hassia is getting rebuilt and amplified, too. There’s a big energy plant, supported by the Iranians, I’m advised. Regardless of the struggle, Syria continues to be supplying neighboring Lebanon with electrical energy.
Yamen drives at 120 km/h and we joke that when we get afraid of attainable velocity traps, as an alternative of snipers, we all know that the state of affairs in the nation is dramatically enhancing.
A Russian army convoy is parked at a relaxation space. Troopers are consuming espresso. There isn’t a worry. Syrians deal with them as in the event that they have been their very own individuals.
I see the most spectacular sundown, over the desert.
Then, as soon as once more, we move by means of Harasta. This time at night time.
I need to curse. I don’t; cursing is just too straightforward. I have to get to my pc, quickly. I’ve to write down; to work. Quite a bit, the greatest I can.
It’s straightforward to really feel at residence in Syria. Perhaps as a result of Russian is my mother-tongue or maybe as a result of individuals right here know that I’ve all the time stood by their nation.
Some bureaucratic hindrances acquired resolved, shortly.
Working with Syrian Minister of Schooling, Dr. Hazwan Al-Waz
I met the outgoing Minister of Schooling, Dr. Hazwan Al-Waz, who’s a fellow novelist. We spoke about his writing, about his newest guide “Love and War.” He confirmed what I all the time knew, as a revolutionary novelist:
Throughout the struggle, the whole lot is political, even love.
After which one thing that I’ll always remember:
My Ministry of Schooling has been, actually, the Ministry of Protection.
Final night time in Damascus I walked throughout the previous metropolis, until early morning. At one level, I arrived close to the spectacular Umayyad Mosque, discovering, proper behind it, the mausoleum of Sultan Saladin.
I couldn’t enter. At this late-night hour it was locked. However I might simply see it by means of the metallic bars of the gate.
This courageous commander and chief fought towards the large armies of the Western invaders – the Crusaders – profitable virtually each single battle, discovering his peace and remaining resting place right here in Damascus.
I paid tribute to this historic fellow internationalist, and I questioned, over a robust espresso in a close-by stall, in the center of the night time: “Did Saladin participate in this latest epic battle fought by the Syrian nation against the hordes of the foreign barbarians?”
Maybe his spirit did. Or, extra possible, some battles have been fought and gained together with his identify on lips.
‘I will be back,’ I uttered, strolling again in the direction of my lodge, jiffy after midnight. Two large furry cats accompanide me, following my steps till the first nook. ‘I will be back very soon’.
Syria is standing. That’s what actually issues. It by no means fell on its knees. And it by no means will. We won’t permit it to fall.
And damned be imperialism!
• All pictures by Andre Vltchek
• First revealed by NEO – New Japanese Outlook