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  • Sixth and last chapter of the “Syrian Chronicles”, written this Christmas in the besieged city of Homs, in Syria.
  • It is easy to see why Nur generates an aura of respect around her.
  • She is the one behind the protests, its slogans and signs, the distribution of videos and the social organization in Homs that prevents the city, 1.5 million people besieged and attacked by their own Army since months ago, crumbles down due to the lack of supplies.

Nur with her face covered by a Syrian flag. Homs, December 2011 (Mónica G. Prieto /Periodismo Humano)

The most respected woman in Homs goes completely unnoticed. Petite, her shyness becomes evident due to a voice that only emerges as a whisper and is confirmed by a flushed smile each time anyone brings up the role she is having in this revolution. “She is our heroine”, they say, and she looks down blushing. But earning the general and unconditional admiration of Arab men is something very few women can achieve, and Nur al Homsi is one of them. Leer más

By Mónica G. Prieto (Homs, Syria)

Translation: Blanca G. Bertolaza

  • Fifth chapter of the “Syrian Chronicles”, written this Christmas in the besieged city of Homs, in Syria.
  • Standing on top of a platform, Mohamed al Dalaub, 23 year old construction worker, begins to sing a song. Men, women and children are his choir and start dancing as if it were a party. Except that this party, like in all of Syria, can end drenched in blood.
  • “When freedom knocks on your door, fear disappears”. That is Al Dalaub’s explanation for the continuation of the protests.

The Baba Amr singers during a protest in Homs. (Mónica G. Prieto/Periodismo Humano)

Standing on top of a platform, Mohamed al Dalaub, 23 year old construction worker, starts a songs that the hundreds who almost daily attend the demonstrations in the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs have already learnt by heart. “Come on, Bashar, what you are doing is wrong. Leave and leave Syria alone”. Men, women and children are his choir, dancing to the rhythm of the drum played by Mohamed Darmush, 23 year old painter, and start dancing as if they were attending a party. Except that this party, like in all the rest of Syria, can end up drenched in blood because the Security Forces, for the last nine months, have been trying to silence the cries that demand freedom with their weapons.

Young women at a protest in Baba Amr, Homs. December 2011. (Mónica G. Prieto/Periodismo Humano)

Protests in Homs begin with songs and usually end with shots. Each neighborhood in this city, which has been under siege for five months, holds rallies against the regime every night. They are not as marked by improvisation as in the beginning, and the main example is that each one has its own revolutionary singer-songwriter, such as Al Dalaub or Zakiah Ahmad, a 22 year old construction worker who spend their days writing and rehearsing in a humble home with Darmoush the songs they will sing by night. Leer más

By Mónica G. Prieto (Homs, Syria)

Translation: Blanca G. Bertolaza

  • Fourth chapter of the “Syrian Chronicles”, written this Christmas in the besieged city of Homs, in Syria.
  • The only source of images from Syria are the recordings made by citizens who use the Internet to broadcast them to the rest of the world.
  • Neighbors such as Bilal, Hussein, Eyyed, Abu Saleh and many others learned that no one would believe them without witness evidence. This is their story.

A citizen cameraman films the bombing of civilian homes in Homs (YouTube video image)

The images that opened the Al Jazeera Arabic news last Monday night were extremely harsh. Several civilians lay in a narrow street in Baba Amr that had just been attacked by a tank, all of them dead. One of them had his head split open, another one had died curled up against a wall, yet another lay on a huge pool of blood. Later, the scenes of tanks shooting through the city gave a clear idea of the range of the repression and, a few seconds afterwards, the images of this neighborhood’s field hospital disheartened Arab spectators.

The author of this article, journalist Mónica G. Prieto, and a citizen of Homs dodge shots fired by Assad’s army while trying to cross a street battered by snipers and soldiers. This video was filmed this Christmas 2011 by one of the civilian cameras in the Baba Amr neighborhood.
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By Mónica G. Prieto (Homs, Siria)

Translation: Blanca G. Bertolaza

Blood of some persons hit by a bombing by Bashar Asad’s Army (M. G. P.)

With a kefiyeh (checkered headscarf) wrapped around his forehead to prevent sweat from getting in the way of his work, Abu Berri treats a clean bullet wound. He introduces a catheter with serum to clean up the injury as a woman’s shrieks echo in the humble room that serves as operating room, stabilization unit and even morgue of the Baba Amr field hospital. This neighborhood, and the entire city of Homs, has been under military siege for months, and under the snipers’ indiscriminate shots, like the ones that tear ripped cries from the patient.
“Don’t take pictures of me, they will kill me!”, she repeats when she sees a camera man as she receives emergency medical treatment, clinging to the hand of a relative who looks at her helplessly. Next to the stretcher, which is laid out on the floor, Leila translates whispering while she prepares a shot of local anesthesia that she quickly administers to her leg. “She had not left her house in three days, but she needed to go buy diapers. A sniper shot her on her doorstep”, she explains.

Meanwhile, Sleiman brings a new victim out of a van that is covered in blood on the inside. He puts tourniquets on the injured and digs in the drawers looking for the right medicine. He is not a nurse: he is Abu Berri’s cousin and Abu Sleiman’s son, a stout man in charge of cleaning and embalming the corpses. Leer más

By Mónica G. Prieto, Homs (Siria)
Translation: Blanca G. Bertolaza

Demonstration in Homs, Syria. December 2011 (Mónica G. Prieto / Periodismo Humano)

A drum’s rhythmic beat sets the pace of the protesters. A young man, 23 year old construction worker until the revolution, chants songs echoed by the others. “What a shame Bashar, that you remain president being a criminal”. “Go away, Bashar”, the crowd shouts back. Among cries and chants, a male voice comes through a speaker. “Stay away from the checkpoints specially. They shoot to kill, so we repeat over and over again: do not go close to them”. Futile advice: the population of Homs has learnt to avoid, as much as possible, these checkpoints, as well as the avenues, where snipers fire indiscriminately at anyone who moves.

Until the bombings became constant, protests were still being held all over Homs. On Fridays, thousands of people went out on the street; the rest of the week, hundreds gathered in the neighborhoods, isolated from one another by military posts, to chant slogans against Bashar al Assad’s regime and show signs urging the international community to act.

Demonstration in Homs, December 2011 (M. G. P. / Periodismo Humano)

“Freedom for our brothers and sons in prison”. “Stop the massacre”. “Where is the Arab League?”. “We are not Shiite, Alaouite or Sunni: we are all Syrian”. Muted cried in a revolution whose legitimacy is questioned by many, driven by the propaganda that labels as terrorists a civil population united in its call for freedom regardless of their social class, age and religion. A population determined to carry on until the end, because each new crime the regime commits renews their strength.

There are no weapons in sight at the protests, unless someone might try to consider as such the loudspeakers carried by the ones who direct them. None of the supposed terrorists Bashar al Assad claims to be fighting either, just men, women, teenagers and small children, ubiquitous in the marches and with the firm will to expose what is going on in Syria.

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Mónica G. Prieto (Homs, Syria)

Translation: Blanca G. Bertolaza

  • We start publishing a series of reports written during these Christmas holidays by our correspondent Mónica G. Prieto in the Syrian city of Homs, besieged and bombed by the army under Bashar al Assad’s regime.

It was impossible to recognize young Ali Ahmed al Zeib in the remains that lay in the humble kitchen. The inquiring look the 15 year old gave his mother hours before when she remembered the sudden loss of his brother Mahmud, 12, victim of a nail bomb dropped by a Syrian tank a month ago on his street, was now frozen; his limbs were gone. It hurt to remember little Ali while he helped, just a few hours before, Umm Yihad to look for pictures of his brother, when he held his breath while she referred with pride to the loss that, she said, “was breaking her heart”. “But he has died as a martyr of the revolution, thank god, and I’m willing to give out my sons one by one to end this regime. Since I was little I learnt from my parents that Hafez Assad [father of the current president] was a criminal. I thought his son would not be so bad, now I’ve seen that he is even worse than his father”.

What Umm Yihad could not suspect is that barely a few hours after welcoming Periodismo Humano in her home in Baba Amr, one of the most significant neighborhoods in Homs, the military aggression launched by the Syrian regime against its citizens would snatch away two more of his children. At six in the evening of Tuesday December 20th, a missile landed right in her home, unleashing what Baba Amr considers the worst massacre since it rebelled against Bashar Assad. Ali Ahmed lay in the kitchen torn into pieces, his big eyes lost in the emptiness. One of his arms stuck out among the rubble, which just an hour before was a spacious and simple home where Umm Yihad handed out fruit, a luxury given the siege of Homs, to her guests. The remains of Ali and Yihad, his older brother, 24, had been scattered around the room making up a grotesque collection of scraps. On one side of the room, a huge tray with rice makes us think that they were in the middle of dinner when the explosion that has broken once more Umm Yihad’s heart took place.

Ali Ahmed al Zeib’s wrecked corpse, 15 years old, lies on a rug in his home after being hit by a bombing by Bashar Asad’s Army. WARNING: we only publish the top half of the photograph. The bottom half shows the torn remains of his abdomen and his legs ripped off by the explosion (Mónica G. Prieto/Periodismo Humano)

Al Zeib’s family, well known in Homs, was not the only victim of the tragedy caused by Bashar Assad’s forces. Part of the house next door, which belonged to the Al Aads, collapsed because of the strength of the explosion. The dust and the smell of death and explosives make it impossible to breathe. The neighbors’ howls, completely shaken, made the ambiance even more surreal. “This way, this way!” The stairs, full of debris, led to a second floor where several men worked frantically. One of them held a flashlight, shedding some light onto the impenetrable darkness of the night in Homs, where the Syrian president does not allow its inhabitants to enjoy the luxury of electricity as a punishment for not submitting to his police regime. Another one carried a blanket. A third one, on the roof, brought down with difficulty a bloody lump: a spinal column with bloody bits dangling from it. He threw it onto the blanket and vomited. The second man wrapped it up while the others tried to locate more remains of someone who just hours before tried to wear out another terrible day. Leer más