Voices from Syria: 'The Safest Place Is the Frontline'
December 21, 2015
Olivia Alabaster / Al Jazeera America
The UN Security Council this weekend agreed on a draft resolution for peace talks in Syria after five years of war in the country, large parts of which have been seized by fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. Meanwhile, Syrian residents continue to grapple with daily air strikes launched by the Syrian regime, Russia and a US-led coalition, each with different targets and aims for the country's future.
Voices from Syria: 'The Safest Place Is the Frontline'
Syrian residents tell Al Jazeera about the daily challenges of life in a country under attack from all sides
Olivia Alabaster / Al Jazeera America
(December 30, 2015) -- The UN Security Council this weekend agreed on a draft resolution for peace talks in Syria after five years of war in the country, large parts of which have been seized by fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Meanwhile, Syrian residents continue to grapple with daily air strikes launched by the Syrian regime, Russia and a US-led coalition, each with different targets and aims for the country's future.
Al Jazeera spoke with Syrian residents about how they have coped under the daily onslaught, and about their hopes for their country in the days and months ahead.
Mohammad Ali Basha, 22,
Civil Defence Member, Idlib
We are being bombed by Russian and Syrian planes, as well as the Western alliance who are bombing what they see as terrorists.
Life has of course become terrifying, but God is superior, and I don't fear death. My brother died in a battle with the Syrian army, and all my family have been under bombardment, but thanks to God my closest family are all still alive.
In my job at the civil defence, my speciality is rescuing people from under the rubble caused by bombing, and putting out fires. Now it's very bad; every day there is bombing, and every day there is a fire. Last week, the Russians bombed family homes, and eight people were killed. My colleagues and I dug their bodies out from under the rubble.
The bombs affect everything -- the roads have been destroyed, so travelling is hard. The water network is often down, and often we don't eat for days on end. When we do, it's sometimes just bread.
The UK has now entered into the Syrian battle under the pretext of stopping ISIL, but ISIL is the West's creation. Russian bombers also came allegedly to fight ISIL, but they've not bombed them; in fact, they've bombed unarmed Syrian people.
The West plans to partition Syria, but by the grace of God, Syria will not be divided, and Syria will be victorious.
General Surgeon, Eastern Aleppo
There are only five of us general surgeons left in Aleppo.
I'll spend a week or 10 days in Aleppo, and then I travel to Turkey to see my family. The journey is risky and more dangerous day by day, because of the air strikes, which happen mainly after sunset. They are mostly Russian at the moment. You can see three, four, five planes in the sky at one time. Before, you used to see one regime helicopter.
We have to switch off all the lights on the car, even the brake lights; otherwise, you would be seen and exposed and attacked by the planes.
So we drive on the back roads. Now when there are air strikes, we just can't travel. When we hear the air strikes, we hide for a couple of minutes until it finishes.
The sound of an air strike is so loud, and you can see people running. Usually there is some sort of alarm as well. People use homemade devices to warn people of incoming air strikes, and they stand on the corner of a street sounding the alarm. This has helped decrease the number of casualties.
Recently, there was a Russian attack on a home. Of an entire family, only a two-year-old boy survived. It was a complete disaster -- this was a Russian attack on a civilian area. But this is normal: They don't attack military targets. They attack the heart of the city, not the frontline. I always say the safest place is the frontline. There are no air strikes there.
Most of the attacks have been in the heart of the city. It's normal for them to attack hospitals.
Almost all of our hospitals are underground now. We have sandbags on the windows and around all the machines, to protect them from shrapnel. And we have changed the colour of ambulances, so now they are a mud colour -- otherwise they deliberately attack it. We don't even let them park in front of the hospitals.
It's getting worse, day by day, in terms of staff and the number of doctors. We are under such a burden: 50 percent of our work is trauma injuries, which means more complications, more problems for the patients.
We have to do it. This is our duty. I have to help those people.
Maimouna Alammar, 29,
Office Manager, Syrian Child Protection Network, Douma
It's a nice day; it's sunny with some cold breezes. It's calm today.
There was bombing yesterday -- some rockets and cluster bombs, which make several explosions when they land. We know that the rebels don't have these kinds of weapons. We think it comes from the mountains around eastern Ghouta, which are in regime control.
But I am not interested in talking about the bombing. You don't see a lot of stories about ordinary life.
After every bombing, people start to rehabilitate their houses. People try to get their lives back, and their work and their studies. They wait for the bombing to stop, and then they go straight back to school.
People here are tired from this war and they just want peace. People try to catch even the smallest chances to continue with their normal way of life in between bombings. They fix their stores, their places of work, their markets.
The markets are sometimes targeted, but they are reopened again and again. People do not have another option; they need to get their daily bread. They can't stop working after every bombing. This is not just regular citizens, but this is also the case for local committees here, like the local councils. Douma's local council works on local rehabilitation for schools and streets.
People try to feel normal by spending time with family and friends, throwing weddings, having meetings, and holding community events. For example, the women's office in the local council here holds workshops for mothers and for general workers and activists. They can speak about a lot of things, political or related to their daily life.
I hold workshops for mothers of the children whose cases we are responsible for. We work on psychological support and education as a kind of a response to help children who are defined as being exposed to danger.
Works with Local Councils, Kafr Batna
Life is horrible these days. The bombing is worse than ever before, as the regime is advancing to take control of more parts of the Ghouta area.
The Russians are attacking us also. We are being hit with all kinds of weapons: jet fighters, mortars, shelling.
It is dangerous to leave the house each day, but what can I do? I have to go to work, and I believe in teaching the principles of governance to local councils here.
Our days are filled with fear and with death, and with missing our loved ones. But we have to do our daily work, regardless of the shelling.
I get to work by motorcycle, which is a little bit safer than walking. The market is next to my house, so it's not difficult to go and buy food. But regardless, the regime keeps shelling markets and civilian areas.
The international coalition against ISIL is a very big joke. They have lied to the Syrian people, and invented this monster, ISIL, to destroy the rest of Syria.
The only way to save Syria now is by getting rid of Bashar al-Assad. And if they want to do that, they can. But the problem is that the whole world lacks the will to do that. So in one way or another, the world is supporting him and giving him a chance to stay.
The Syrian people will get freedom eventually, if we don't die first due to this horrible war.
Jawad Kurabi, 23,
Photographer and Journalist, Aleppo
In a normal day, I wake up early and have a cup of coffee and some cigarettes, and then I wait for something to happen, because they -- the regime and Russia -- usually bomb us early in the morning.
After that, around 10am, I hear on my walkie-talkie where shelling has taken place, and I rush to shoot and document what has happened.
I cannot hear the sounds of the people there, so I listen to music on headphones. Lately I've been listening to Mad About You by Hooverphonic. Maybe it helps me focus on the situation I see; maybe it helps me document it without feeling so guilty.
It is hard to know how I feel in those moments, with everything that happens in this crazy world.
Photography has always been a hobby of mine, but after I was detained by the security branch of the regime in 2012 for taking part in demonstrations, I began taking photos as a profession, to help spread the message of the revolution.
Everyone has a dream in life that they want to achieve. Perhaps our revolution is what is needed to bring down dictators.
There are a lot of crimes committed against the Syrian people, and no one seems to be able to stop the bloodshed because of the lack of a global policy.
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