By: Iman Al-Hourani
Today my cousin sent me a picture of this tree that stands in front of my grandma’s home in Hama, Syria. My uncle and his family live on the floor above her, and our house is right across the street. Our street suffered the damage of ’82, but has been rebuilt and improved in the past three decades. Earlier today, clashes between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian forces occurred in the very street separating my grandma’s house from mine.
My relatives claimed that today’s attacks on Hama were worse than the attacks during the first week of Ramadan 2011. Only a few days after the Houla Massacre, the regime renewed its assault on Hama. Bullets came down like rain on the street that I used to cross numerous times per day each summer. They were landing on the porches as my cousins were typing and updating me about their situations. My mom told me that my grandma is usually never afraid during the attacks since she has lived through ’82 and has seen the worst. However, she could tell after her phone call with her that today she was truly afraid. The fact that my cousin, her grandson, was arrested last night for taking part in a protest also surely added to her uneasiness.
For the past fourteen months, my mind has been unable to completely process what exactly has been going on. I hear the news, I see the pictures, I watch the videos, but my mind is still in denial. Syria- the home of my most cherished summer memories- is now considered a war zone? It was not until I saw the pictures of my street capturing the after-math of the clashes that I realized that this is actually happening. Pictures of my uncle’s car that I used to see parked in front of his house everyday revealed the damage that the Assad regime had done. Its shattered glass, blown out headlight, and bullet marks on the hood brought back memories of the hundreds of times I discovered the city as a passenger in it. The image of this tree was proof of the truth I refused to believe. The mental image of a soldier standing next to this tree and being targeted by an opponent brings chills to my entire body. The photos of the chillingly barren street and its closed corner store contradict my memories of it being constantly busy and bustling with noisy cars.
It is also worth mentioning that the wall behind the tree in this photo was rebuilt after the 1982 attacks. It was destroyed by tanks, but was slowly rebuilt like the rest of the city. Walls have been rebuilt, bark has re-grown, and the memories have been repressed into the back of the Hamwi residents’ minds. Material objects can be replaced, but what about the people that will never be seen walking these streets again? Days like this send the Hamwis back not only to the “Ramadan Massacre” during the first week of August 2011, but back to the month of February in 1982.
Source: The Syrian Sun