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The Longing for Home

For 15 days we moved from one town to another in Eastern Ghouta. When things calmed down we went back home
The Longing for Home

During the early days of the Syrian revolution, my father refused to allow any of his children to participate in protests or funeral ceremonies.

My siblings and I were all very frustrated by this. Our city Douma had joined the uprising, and all of our relatives and friends had taken to the streets.

Despite having had no part in calling for the downfall of the regime, we still suffered the effects of its ruthlessness. As the conflict continued, we were displaced over and over again.

The first time we fled was in June 2011. My eldest sister had just gotten married, and the government had launched its first offensive on Douma.

For 15 days we moved from one town to another in Eastern Ghouta. When things calmed down we went back home.

Then, in July 2012, we received terrible news. My brother-in-law had been detained at a government checkpoint for possessing a cylinder of gas [typically used to fuel ovens and heaters].

My sister was distraught, so we went to stay with her for a few days. While we were there she found out she was pregnant. She could not stop crying; she had lost all hope of seeing her husband again.

The second time we fled was a few weeks later. The government had launched a fresh round of attacks on Douma, this time using missiles and barrel bombs.

We went to Damascus this time and once again found ourselves moving from one place to another. The conditions we endured during that period were terrible. We lived in a basement that had a terrible stench and was infested with mice, in a room on the rooftop of a building with no windows and in a two-bedroom flat we shared with four other families.

My father’s health began to deteriorate. He developed a mouth infection, but we were unable to take him to a clinic for treatment and he was forced to settle for taking painkillers.

On February 5, 2013, God blessed our family with its first grandchild. It was the first happy thing to happen to us since the beginning of the revolution. My little nephew brought joy back into our lives.

My sister wanted to introduce her baby boy to her husband’s family, so a few months later she headed back to Douma to visit them. The city was under government siege by then, and although she managed to make her way in she was unable to leave and come back to Damascus.

Our third and final displacement happened two years ago. This time, we left the country altogether and came to Lebanon.

My father’s friend hosted us for a month in a tiny room in his house, then we moved into a rented studio flat.

The first winter we spent there was bitterly cold. We had no heating and owned nothing besides our clothes and four blankets. I was forced to abandon my schooling, as the cost of education in Lebanon was too high.

My brother found a job at a building site. He would leave home before sunrise and return after sunset. My mother and sister also found temporary jobs to help put food on the table and buy medicine for my ailing father.

When he got even sicker, my father decided to go to hospital. He was diagnosed with mouth cancer and was told he needed surgery. Luckily a friend of ours donated the money to cover his operation, and he is now undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

When I watch TV and see Douma on the news, I see nothing but demolished buildings and dying children. The streets I grew up in and once knew so well have all been turned into rubble.

Still, I dream of returning to Douma, of going back to school to finish my studies and of being reunited with my sister.

Life in Lebanon is harsh. The country does not feel our pain and Syrians receive no support here. I would prefer to die in Douma than live here as a stranger.

I can only pray that this crisis will end soon so I can go back to my beloved country, Syria.

Reem al-Hassan is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Idleb. The 19-year-old was forced to abandon her studies when the revolution started. She now works as a newsreader at the Radio Fresh station in Kfar Nabel.

This article was republished at The Syrian Observer with a special agreement with the Damascus Bureau

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