This story was read at the event “Syrians on Syria” in Antwerp, on 16 March 2016. For security reasons the name and some details of the stories were changed.
My name is Fatima. I’m an employee at Homs municipality and I lived in the old city of Homs (which used to be controlled by the opposition).
I have two children: One 20-year old son who is here with me, and one daughter who is still in Homs. My husband went buying bread one day in 2014 and never came back. Like so many others, he was probably picked up by the secret police and hasn’t been heard of ever since (and we all know what that means).
Our neighbourhood in the Old Town has been totally razed to the ground and my house is now not only on the ground, but, literally, under the ground. We had to find refuge in the new part of Homs, an area now controlled by the regime and therefore “safe” from barrel bombs, at least to some extent.
The last 4-5 years of my life have been pure hell. Constant bomb attacks and always the fear that someone else from my family would just disappear. My husband’s brother was tortured to death. My own brother died in a barrel bomb attack. (All by the regime.)
I now need to look after my children. I decided to come to Europe last summer, by boat from Turkey like everyone else, in order to save my son from being conscripted into the army. I sold all my jewellery to pay for the trip. They take 17, 18, 19 and 20-year olds, give them a gun and then bring their bodies back in a box a few months later.
But I could pay only for two people and not three, and I’m very concerned about my daughter who’s still there, alone with her grandmother, on the ground.
And I’m also very afraid of what could happen to other male relatives of mine who are still on the ground as well, if I were to show my face and give my real name and speak out about all this in public.