15-year-old Muhammad Najem from Eastern Ghouta (Twitter: @muhammadnajem20)
The Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, Syria is home to more than 350,000 people. Once renowned for its fertile soils and rich agricultural production, Eastern Ghouta is now better known for the Assad regime’s brutal Sarin attack in August 2013, killing more than 1,500 people, and for being home to the longest military siege in modern history. As of February 2018, Eastern Ghouta has been besieged by forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for four years and 10 months, a full year longer than the siege of Sarajevo.
During that time Eastern Ghouta has suffered from chemical weapons attacks and intense bombardment at the hands of pro-regime forces, with hundreds killed in the first few days of February alone. Amnesty International have condemned the Syrian government and its allies, saying that its ‘surrender or starve‘ policy amounts to a crime against humanity.
Half of Eastern Ghouta’s population are estimated to be children according to UNICEF. A recent survey of 27 locations in East Ghouta conducted in November 2017 has found that the proportion of children under five years old suffering from acute malnutrition was 11.9 per cent.
15-year-old Syrian boy Muhammad Najem inspects the damage at his school in Eastern Ghouta following regime bombardment. (Twitter @muhammadnajem20)
My name is Muhammad Najem and I am from eastern Ghouta in the Damascus countryside, I am 15-years-old I live here with my mother and siblings.
I am in eighth grade but I stopped studying three months ago because of the constant bombardment of the place in which I live.
My school was bombed by warplanes more than once but after each raid, we would return and try to complete our studies. But my school was bombed until it was completely destroyed and I no longer have a classroom within which to study or a playground to play in.
The other schools in Eastern Ghouta have also been targeted and destroyed.
I want to tell the world what is happening to us today and convey my suffering, which I live through every day because of the bombings and the siege.
I want to tell the truth and to tell people what is happening to us. We are besieged, we are hungry, we are under constant bombardment, we are exhausted from the displacement and the killing.
This war is not ending, but we are forced to grow up in these conditions and no one has done anything to protect and support the vulnerable here. Conferences and meetings and false peace talks fail while the Arabs and the rest of the world are still silent.
In this war we have already lost everything, and we are still losing more, every single day, every single one of us has lost something precious.
Losing my home and my father
I lost my house, which my father built with hard work and the sweat from his forehead. Then my father was killed two years ago after a shell landed on the mosque where he was praying.
Many of the children here have lost their fathers or their mothers, many of us have lost siblings and many of us have lost our homes.
We have been dismembered, we have lost parts of our bodies, our hands, our feet and our eyes.
The world will not be able to compensate us for anything that we lost. We have lost sight of the sky and the sun because of the war planes that fly over us day and night in order to bomb civilians.
Muhammad Najem studies by candlelight in the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta (Twitter: @muhammadnajem20)
The siege surrounds us. The specter of death and starvation hovers over us.
Last week the regime began to escalate its violent campaign against us. Planes indiscriminately drop bombs of hatred and destruction on us.
On Thursday, warplanes mounted yet more raids on residential buildings. Everyone went down to the cellars and we could hear the roar of the jets above us as we held each other’s hands.
muhammad najem @muhammadnajem20 One of my friends was killed and the other was injured. This is the picture of my friend Salim after leaving the hospital yesterday after the violent raids on his house near my house. I love you so much and wish you and all the children of the world peace and safety❤ #saveghouta
I was walking in the street with some of my friends, including my friend Salim who lives next door to us when we heard the sound of jets approaching. We fled to the cellar, but Salim ran to his home to hide with his family and uncle. He did not know that at that moment six missiles were on their way to his house.
Smoke and black dust
Smoke and black dust filled the cellar, choking us and filling the cellar with darkness. Children cried and the women screamed as they tried to check on their terrified children.
When the dust settled, we saw that Salim’s house was completely destroyed and the Civil Defense teams were attempting to rescue the people, including Salim and his family, trapped under the rubble.
After hours of searching through the rubble, I found out that Salim had miraculously survived. But his younger sister had died, his mother suffered life-changing injuries and his younger brother is still missing. Salim’s little cousins Mohammed, Majid and Raghad were also killed in the air strike.
I find it hard to believe the life we are witnessing here in Ghouta. Today I am reassured at least because Salim has left the hospital, but he is unable to move because of his injury. We do not know what tomorrow will bring.
Syrian Coalition President’s, Khaled Khoja, Speech at Douma Massacre Press Conference on August 17th, 2015
Speech “Original in Arabic”
President of the Syrian Coalition
August 17, 2015
The murderous Assad regime killed hundreds of Syrian civilians in a series of massacres in Idlib, Dara’a and Douma, near Damascus. Assad’s air force targeted a marketplace while the residents of Douma were exchanging what has remained of food supplies after two years of a suffocating siege. Yesterday’s massacres are war crimes and crimes against humanity, and are added to the ongoing genocide, siege and starvation of civilians in Rural Damascus.
At noon yesterday, Assad’s warplanes deliberately and repeatedly bombed a crowded marketplace in Douma with the intention of killing a many people as possible. After civilians gathered to rescue the injured, Assad’s aircrafts returned and bombed the area several times thereafter, targeting wounded and rescuers alike, a crime that outweighs every other crime, terrorism, primitive barbarity, and hatred of man.
The regime’s boldness and indulgence in committing massacres against civilians for over 53 consecutive months has been upheld by international silence that amounts to complicity for these massacres. Whoever supplies this murderous regime with arms and shields it against accountability at the UN Security Council is a partner in these crimes against besieged and starved civilians.
And whoever opposes the establishment of safe zones for Syrians on their territory and prevents providing them with weapons to defend themselves and their children sends a clear message to the regime that it is allowed to commit more atrocious crimes.
For over 53 months, the Assad regime has seen, in this these positions, an authorization to commit more massacres. While the Syrian people insist on the departure of the criminal Bashar al-Assad and that it is impossible for them to have a role in the present and the future of Syria, we now emphasize this position and are even more adherent to the right of the Syrian people to defend themselves. We also emphasize the legitimacy of their cause and the need to complete the liberation of all Syrian territory from the abomination of this usurper regime, the Iranian occupying militias and the murderous sectarian militias that are invading Syria.
The United Nations, and the UN Security Council and its permanent members must recognize the right of the Syrian people to live and must stop protecting the child murderer Bashar al-Assad and stop depriving the Syrians from the right to defend the lives of their children.
Any talk about political and peaceful solutions while the Assad regime continue to commit massacres with immunity will surely fail to restore stability in Syria.
We emphasize the need to protect civilians in the liberated areas and support their demand for the establishment of safe areas.
The Syrian Coalition has begun setting up a committee to document all crimes committed by the Assad regime to submit them to the International Commission of Inquiry.
We highly laud the steadfastness of our brothers in the Free Syrian Army and affirm our commitment to prosecute war criminals and bring them to justice, led by Bashar al-Assad.
We also emphasize that we continue to coordinate with rebel factions to take appropriate steps to protect civilians and deter the regime from committing more crimes.
We call upon our friendly countries to support them and to bring the perpetrators of the massacres in Ghouta, Douma, Idlib, Zabadani, Wadi Barada and all areas of Syria to the International Criminal Court.
We also call upon the international community, specifically Russia, the United States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League to assume their responsibilities towards the Syrian people who have been slaughtered for nearly five years amid international silence that amounts to acceptance of these crimes.
Mercy to our fallen heroes.
Victory is for a revolution and glory for the defenders of freedom and the dignity of Syria.
Thirty years ago today, then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad launched what’s known as one of the bloodiest chapters of modern Arab history: the Hama Massacre.
The Hama massacre (Arabic: مجزرة حماة) occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian Arab Army and the Defense Companies, under the orders of the country’s then-president, Hafez al-Assad, besieged the town of Hama for 27 days in order to quell an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood against al-Assad’s government. The massacre, carried out by the Syrian Army under commanding General Rifaat al-Assad, effectively ended the campaign begun in 1976 by Sunni Muslim groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, against the government.
Initial diplomatic reports from Western countries stated that 1,000 were killed. Subsequent estimates vary, it was between 30,000 or 40,000 civilians were killed (Syrian Human Rights Committee), in addition to the 15,000 missing who have not been found to this day, and the 100,000 expelled.
About 1,000 Syrian soldiers were killed during the operation and large parts of the old city were destroyed. Alongside such events as Black September in Jordan, the attack has been described as one of “the single deadliest acts by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East”. The vast majority of the victims were civilians
After the initial attacks, military and internal security personnel were dispatched to comb through the rubble for surviving members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers. Torture and mass executions of suspected rebel sympathizers ensued, killing many thousands over several weeks. Rifaat, suspecting that rebels were still hiding in tunnels under the old city, had diesel fuel pumped into them and set ablaze and stationed T-72 tanks at the tunnel entrances to shell people trying to escape from the tunnels.
Under international law, siege is not specifically prohibited. However, deliberate starvation in a conflict is widely held to be a war crime and the law of armed conflict requires all sides to allow free access of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.