Alone in Moadimiya, But Vowing to Stay

Amer, a 24-year-old in Moadimiya, has vowed not to leave his hometown. But he says life in this besieged pro-opposition enclave near Damascus is getting harder.

Written by Ali Safar Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes

“Food rations are now coming through, but they’re not enough,” he says. “They give us food rations. We still have small arms that allow us to defend ourselves but [we can’t] launch an attack and break the siege.”

He refuses to accept a cease-fire agreement that was reached last week between the government and local civilian leaders. Analysts have said that the truce – one of a series reached this month in the Damascus suburbs – was more a surrender out of desperation than an act of reconciliation. Food, fuel and basic supplies had run exceedingly low.

“The truce doesn’t mean anything to the young men who have stayed here. Truces are reached between two equal parties. This didn’t happen. We were never a strong [foe] when compared to the army that has besieged us,” Amer says.

“We were a group of young men who decided not to turn themselves in to the security apparatuses. It was when they started killing the residents of Moadamiya for no reason that we decided to fight them.”

Moadimiya sits in close proximity to the mountains and the several military headquarters of President Bashar al-Assad’s Fourth Army Division. Mezzeh military airport, which houses the air force Intelligence headquarters, is also close, making it a convenient target.

Amer recounts the early days of the revolution in the town, which remains one of the staunchest rebel strongholds. He was a college junior studying liberal arts when the demonstrations began.

“We first joined the protests in solidarity with the [original] Daraa demonstrators who were brutally killed by the regime. We were the first city to protest in the suburbs of Damascus,” he says.

“We knew we weren’t different from the residents of Daraa and Homs, both which have been oppressed by the regime with force and fire. We became certain that we needn’t cut olive branches to hold during our protests. Rather, we have to buy arms to defend ourselves.”

His life was upended when his pro-opposition leanings landed him on a government “watch” list.

“I carried arms for a brief period. During that time, I hid in the olive groves with a number of other youths from Moadamiya,” he says. “When the Free Syrian Army kicked the army and security out of the city, I laid down my arms and decided to work in getting the news out to the media. I did that for a whole year until the complete siege of the city at the beginning of 2013.”

Amer lives alone now; his family has long since fled Syria. After they left Moadamiya, “I no longer thought of anything,” he says. “I completely forgot that there’s another [reality] outside the city limits. The reality that I lived and continue to live is a life on its own. It has all the details you’d expect and much more of what you wouldn’t expect.

“I collect wood to keep warm and to cook. I have lost over 33 pounds from malnutrition, which is why I tire easily. This leaves me unable to run as quickly as the others when the regime air force raids the area where we gather greens to eat.”

“When I return home, I eavesdrop to learn when the generators will be on for the field hospitals. That’s [the only time when] I can recharge my cell phone and my laptop. At night, I use my cell phone to light my room, using the small lamp in it.”

Once, he says, his luck almost ran out.

“I used to live in my [family] home. At the insistence of my friends, I moved to a safer house. The next day at dawn, I awoke to the sound of two explosions due to two fallen rockets. When I ran to see the targeted building, I discovered it was the house where I had resided. My family home had been turned into rubble, similar to half the buildings in the city.”

Amer says it’s the feeling of loneliness, and the separation from his family, that upsets him the most. He talks to them regularly via the internet, which is still functional in Moadamiya because the city shares the same network with surrounding areas that are under regime control.

Still, he vows to stay. “I have survived four kinds of death: shooting in demonstrations, shelling, hunger and a chemical weapons attack,” he says. “I don’t think anyone who has coexisted with death like this would be thinking of running away.”

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