Moadamiyeh: A Syrian story of exile

Moadamiyeh: A Syrian story of exile
As Syrians are forced into a decision between death and expulsion, Dani Alqappani writes on the path he chose to follow.
4 min read
19 Jan, 2017
Aleppo, Syria [Getty Images]

It was destined for the Syrian people to go through all kinds of pain, unimaginable, unprecedented, pain.

For six years, in Moadamiyeh, we felt as though we would survive the siege and attacks, that we would be the first to witness victory since we are the closest opposition-held area to the capital. We took it for granted that the international community would be just and trusted them to fulfil their promises and help the Syrian people who called for freedom, dignity and justice.

The very last thing on our minds was to find ourselves displaced from the land of miracles.

“Are you watching the news?” Assad’s gangs will expel the people of Homs,” my friend in the media office told me. I grieved, but I could not fully understand what that meant.

At the time, there was a ceasefire with the regime in Moadamiyeh after bombs, chemicals or hunger killed thousands of civilians, and hundreds more were detained.

We became used to seeing death and blood as the siege continued, and slowly, we lost faith in the so-called principles of the international community.

In 2015, the picture became clearer. Regime forces and sectarian militias came from Idlib and began expelling the people of Al War, in the suburbs of Homs. Our fate was not far off from being the same, but the decision at the time was to remain firm in our demands of freedom and the removal of Assad.

There was never a choice really to begin with. Sacrificing your home and memories appears far more rational than seeing your people being killed.

Soon, we woke up to news of the expulsion of those in neighbouring Daraya. All we could think then, were flashbacks to the videos we watched for Homs. The opposition began to crack, and the failings of the world became clearer; the time for our decision had come, mass destruction, or expulsion.

Yes, there was an option – an option of annihilation.

When Ghassan Bilal, one of Assad’s generals, threatened, “either you, 45,000 civilians get annihilated, or you leave the city,” pointing at the FSA fighters and the activists, it was a decision of mass destruction.

There was never a choice really to begin with. Sacrificing your home and memories appears far more rational than seeing your people being killed.

Around two thousand began their day of hell, packing their bags in the midst of tears and cries. The irony here, was the laughter of the SARC employees, not caring as thousands said goodbye to their families.

As the buses came, we were split into two groups. We waved, with tears in our eyes to our families, while looking at the black spot in the future; the north of Syria. My mother’s last words never leave me, “Please, don’t forget us.”

My mother’s last words never leave me, “Please, don’t forget us.”

 We reached the north after a day’s travelling, and despite it being the early hours of the morning, there were many people who gathered to welcome us. The first few weeks were a pleasant shock, finally there was enough to eat, and the people of Binnish were generous and living modern lives.

Things began to change when pro-regime attacks intensified, and we moved to Idlib, reportedly safer, but the airstrikes remained, with an additional problem. There were dozens of armed groups, but none united in opposition.

As regime bombardment continued, expelling the people of Khan Al Sheeh, west of Damascus, and the people of Aleppo, I decided to leave to Turkey.

My friends helped me to pay the smuggler, and after an exhausting twelve hour long trip, I reached Gaziantep, where I live now.

It has been over a month now, with no job, no ID and no hope.

Many questions now play on my mind.

Who is going to live in my house? Why did we have to leave our homeland?

Who wins when there is a tragedy in every Syrian family? Am I going to return to where I spent 28 great years of my life?

Is Assad not a criminal after all?

From where next will be people be expelled?

Who lives in Daraya now? Homs? Eastern Aleppo?

Is this not a demographic change?

Is it not a change of the great history of Syria?

Why are they having talks in Astanah when the killing and destruction continues?

And I have no answers.