Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
A Futile War
A displaced woman uses firewood to cook in Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsud neighbourhood. (Photo: Baraa al-Halabi)
My family and I had just finished lunch, and my husband and I were enjoying a pleasant evening together, sipping coffee and discussing the preparations for our daughter’s engagement party.
We were both so happy. Our daughter was about to become a bride and we wanted to mark it by throwing her a memorable celebration.
That evening my two eldest sons were at the market working, their younger brothers Muath and Bara had gone to their aunt’s to play with their cousins, my daughter was busy in the kitchen and my two youngest children were in another room playing.
As we sat there planning, we heard a knock on our front door. It was a neighbour who needed my husband’s help fixing an electricity cable. My husband told him he would be with him in half-an-hour and sat down to finish his coffee and chat with me.
He left the house a short while later, and a bad feeling came over me. I ran after him and asked him to come back, but he refused.
Minutes after he had left, I heard the deafening sound of an explosion. A missile had hit our neighbourhood.
The windows of my house shattered around me. I stood there in shock then began screaming out the names of my children.
My daughter ran out of the kitchen covered in dust. We searched for my youngest children Abdel Rahman and Ghazal and found them trapped underneath a door that had fallen on them.
We pulled them out. Thankfully they were both unharmed. I cursed Bashar al-Assad and his followers for doing this to us as I wept and hugged them.
Once I had made sure my children were safe, I put on my coat and hijab and rushed out to the street to look for my husband.
I ran around calling out his name. All of my neighbours were doing the same thing, screaming and crying while searching for their loved ones.
An ambulance had arrived at the scene and was tending to the wounded. I asked them about my husband and was shocked when they told me he had been injured and had already been taken to hospital.
I rushed back home and told my daughter what had happened. I asked her to take Abdel Rahman and Ghazal to her aunt’s house and make sure the rest of her siblings were safe. Then I left for the hospital.
When I arrived there, a guard told me my husband was in the operating theatre.
As I stood there waiting for news, I looked around me and saw many of my neighbours’ faces. Umm Muhanad approached me and told me her son had been martyred, nothing was left of him but body parts. I avoided speaking to anyone else after that.
Eventually a nurse came out of the operating theatre. She told me that one of my husband’s feet had been severely injured by shrapnel and they had been forced to amputate it.
I burst into tears, unable to imagine how my husband would react when he woke up.
Around half-an-hour later, my eldest son joined me. He asked after his father but I was so emotional I could not speak. He sought out a nurse who told him the terrible news.
When my husband was brought out of the operating theatre he was still unconscious. The nurses took him to the intensive care unit and I sat next to him silently praying.
As I looked at the bandaged stub of his leg, I wondered how I could comfort him. What could I possibly say to ease his pain?
My husband was still in his forties, he had the huge responsibility of his large family. He was a proud man and I knew he would never agree to approach aid agencies for charity. What would we do?
We had been caught up in a relentless war. The siege imposed by the government on Douma meant we couldn’t leave. I had seven children and an injured husband. How would we survive?
Hours went by and news of my husband’s injury spread amongst my family members. My husband’s sisters were the first to make it to the hospital, they tried their best to comfort me, but I was inconsolable.
When my husband finally opened his eyes, we gathered around him greeting him with smiles, and telling him how happy we were he was ok.
He asked us what had happened and started feeling his body for injuries. When he reached down to his leg he cried out.
“Where is my foot? What happened to me? Tell me!”
I froze, unable to speak, so his sister stepped in and told him what had happened.
His eyes filled with tears and he asked us all to leave the room. I stayed behind but he wouldn’t speak to me.
The following morning, I went home to bring my husband some fresh clothes. A catastrophic sight met my eyes.
Most of the houses in our neighbourhood had been destroyed or partially damaged by the shelling. Men were busy at work trying to clear up the debris.
My house had been hit and a wall had collapsed exposing the inside of it.
On July 27, 2015, my neighbourhood lost 27 people. More than 50 others were injured. As I walked down its streets I could smell the blood of the victims in the air.
All this loss, because of a futile war.
Ghadah al-Khalid, is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor who lives in besieged Douma. The 39 year-old has seven children, one of whom was killed while fighting the so-called Islamic State. He was a teenager at the time. The successive losses she has suffered have caused her to lose faith in the revolution and her own country. She used to work as a seamstress from home to make a living but is currently jobless.
This story was produced by Syria Stories (previously Damascus Bureau), IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists.
As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.
- Europe & Eurasia
- Latin America
- Middle East & North Africa
- Focus Pages
- Training & Resources
- Print Publications
- IWPR Spotlight