Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bread and Blood - Life in a Syrian Conflict Zone

"My father was lying there in a pool of blood. Only a metre or two separated us, but I didn’t dare go to him."
By Marah Abdel Hadi

My father’s last night with us was shrouded in cold and darkness. The electricity had been cut off, so we sat huddled together, our only source of comfort the light of a candle.

Outside, a government army sniper was busy at work. The sound of gunshots haunted us. We knew that no human being, tree or stone would be spared by them.

I managed to drift off to sleep, and woke the following morning to my father’s voice calling me – “Breakfast is ready.”

He was on the phone talking to one of my brothers, whose neighbourhood was under siege.

“Don’t worry son, I’ll have some bread delivered to your door,” my father said. “Rest assured, we will provide as much bread as we can to everyone. We don’t know how long this siege will last. It could go on for days just like it did when the last massacre happened.”

At around two in the afternoon, I heard my father leaving our house. I called out to him, “Please don’t go outside. No one can survive that sniper. We don’t need anything. Stay here and finish your meal.”

“A person can’t escape his destiny, my daughter,” he replied. “Besides, memories of the last massacre and siege are still fresh in my mind.”

Fifteen minutes later, a single shot rang out in the street.

A car screeched to a halt outside our house and someone started knocking on our door. We feared it might be an armed gang, so we ignored it.

The knocking grew more insistent, and a voice shouted, “The sniper shot your father.”

The bullet we had just heard being fired had found its way to my father’s body.

We ran out into the street, screaming. My father was lying there in a pool of his own blood. The bullet had hit him in the head. He appeared to be drawing his final breaths.

Only a metre or two separated us, but I didn’t dare go to him. The sniper was preying on us, and I might be his next victim.

Our hysterical crying pierced the silence around us. We screamed for help – from whom, I do not know. My brothers were not there. Some of them were abroad, others were under siege.

How could I stop the bleeding? What first aid, what medicines would I need?

The only thing I could do was pray for God’s mercy.

A woman, far braver than me, came out of her house and crawled towards my father. She opened the door of a car to shield them both, and with the help of a young man, carried my father to another car.

They drove him to a hospital where he was immediately admitted for surgery.

There were entry and exit wounds in his head. That bullet, so filled with hatred, had done severe damage.

He survived the surgery, and the doctors told us he needed to be moved to another hospital and placed under intensive care.

Time flew by while we desperately tried to find another hospital. The ticking of my fathers watch slowed down. Its mechanism was running in time with his heartbeats.

At four that afternoon, my father passed away. His heart stopped beating and his watch stopped ticking.

The police report stated the cause of death as “an act of terrorism carried out by an armed gang”. That was a lie.

My father never came back. I never got to see him again. I never got to kiss his forehead goodbye.

He is now in a better place, far from misery.

All that is left of him is a slice of bread, and a pool of blood.

Father, you never finished your meal. Your teacup still sits on our table. Please come back to us. Your children are lost without you. We don’t want any bread, we have plenty.

Marah Abdel Hadi is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Daraya, Syria.

This story was produced by the Damascus Bureau, IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists. 

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