Destruction and panic is all around. In every direction I see a scene of sheer terror and devastation before me. I walk down the street which once led to my home, the hard, cold, stone paving rough against my feet. Every pebble I step on imbeds itself in my skin; I feel each curve and jagged edge. I don’t stop to remove them; the stones between my toes are the least of my worries. I walk on, the sun burning my back but again I ignore it. Typical Syrian weather.
I look towards the houses which once belonged to my neighbours and friends. Now, they are only a pile of rubble. I watch as people attempt to rescue their trapped loved ones from what used to be their home. Is it not strange to think that the same bricks and mortar, used to be a source of comfort and protection to the people they now bury? However, this was not the intended result. I listen to the sound of shots being fired in the distance and remember where I am – in the midst of a war.
As I approach my house, the first thing I notice is the fallen fence. The same fence I used to crawl under when I was younger, and jump over as I grew older. Now I walk over it as it lies flat and broken upon the ground. There is nothing much to see. My house no longer exists. The bomb that hit it blew with a force so strong that there is no resemblance between my warm, familiar home and the lumps of rock lying before me. I feel numb as I look at the place that had been ‘home’ to me my entire life, now just a pile of rubble. The evidence of my past destroyed in a moment, and my future thrown to the wind. I look helplessly for any sign of life, but instead see a flutter of pink stuck in the rubble, like a flower moving with the breeze. As I move closer, I recognise a scrap of my sister’s pink wallpaper. My eyes sting – where is she?
“Asma!” I shout. “Mum! Dad!” No response. They’d been at home when the government raid started. I’d been at school. The teachers had gathered all students in the assembly hall. When attacked from above, there’s nowhere to hide. Luckily we weren’t hit, but the entire east wing of the school collapsed from the force of a mine a few yards away. I’d come home as soon as I could, looking for family, but dreading what I would find.
I move on and turn right at the end of the road onto the high street. Here the devastation is worse. Although some shops are still standing, signs have fallen down and the glass of every window is shattered. Millions of fallen diamonds litter the ground, fatal to any who touch them. Cars are overturned and I look on as men desperately try to put out a fire in one vehicle. Everywhere I hear men, women and children screaming; frantically trying, like me, to find their families. I close my eyes, attempting to clear my head, only succeeding in making the smell of gasoline more apparent. Why? What was worth this destruction? The people of this country, my friends and family only want peace, only want a just leadership. A ruler that will lead Syria out of the darkness and into the light. When did peaceful protest become such a heinous crime? Chaos reigns everywhere.
I breathe deeply, trying to calm myself. As I survey the destruction surrounding me, I see a man crouching against a wall, his hands raised to the sky, avidly praying to God. I remember my father once teaching my sister and I about calling on God when in need. It had been the day before I started my new school, and I was feeling nervous the night before. As a got into bed that night, my dad took my hand firmly and said:
“Never forget Aisha, Allah tells us in the Quran, ‘After hardship comes ease.’ Allah is always there to help us when in need”. Remembering him now makes me miss him more than ever, but he’s right. God will help me.
As I travel further into town, I observe the crater another bomb has left. Its cavernous mouth seems to stretch on and on, leading into an everlasting blackness. All around bodies are removed on stretchers, some people barely alive, breathing their last precious words to crying family members. I avert my eyes to the pale blue sky, with not a cloud in sight. I see a plane far above, descending every passing minute. I jump as the sound of a klaxon rings throughout the street: bomb alert. I run for cover, winding my way between hundreds of frightened people. Men and women, young and old, all are desperate, all are vulnerable. Together, we make our way to the underground shelter one of the few in the city, which is already packed full. I squeeze past a woman carrying her baby and shuffle into a corner of the wall.
The atmosphere is heavy with fear and exhaustion. The smell of sweat and dirt fills the air. It is unbearably hot. Some people are injured, blood staining their clothes and trickling onto the floor. As I hold my knees close to my chest, I brace myself to hear the deafening roar from above I’ve heard countless times before. I shut my eyes tightly. BANG! The ceiling above us shakes from the impact. BANG! Children and babies whimper in fear, looking nervously at the ceiling. BANG! I wince as I hear screaming from above and the deafening sirens of the emergency services. People gradually begin to move, despite not having heard the all clear. A man pushes me vehemently against the wall as he desperately tries to make their way out of the shelter. I follow him; I have to find my family.
As my head rises to street level, I look around the destroyed wasteland which five minutes ago had been the high street. Blood coats the streets and bodies lie everywhere. I stagger forward blindly, shaking from shock.
I look at the mass of bodies, looking for any sign of my family. I see a mother crying silently over the body of her son, a boy of only about six years old. I look to the right and see the face of my father covered in blood and mud. I run towards him and kneel at his side. Unintentionally, my mouth opens and my scream joins the hundreds of other around the city.
I scream so loud I don’t hear the warning shouts of people, nor the rush of air as a fourth bomb explodes in the street. I am flung backwards. I feel nothing. I hear nothing. Time has stopped. I open my eyes and realise where I am – in the midst of a war. A war in which I could see no true cause. A war in which I could see no purpose. A war in which I could see no end. I close my eyes and descend into peace as I leave the war in Syria.
This article was originally published by Muslim Youth Net, here.
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