Rafat: Safety…

Rafat Baeram in Eastern Ghouta

Safety is to be sitting in an underground basement
And hearing the sounds of shelling and fighting [between the Free Syrian Army and Assad forces] around the clock: crash, bang, crash, bang..

On the homes of the residents and the streets of you town or city or the beginning of your street or just after your building, anyways you feel them around you and close to you and it’s a crappy feeling..

You are sitting in a place where if you want to leave you barely have time to say goodbye to everyone around you every time you exit to the surface, and try to convince yourself that maybe there will be a proper ceasefire just so you can get food and fill up water or bring diapers or to smell the scent of gunpowder with dust and blood which is filling the entire street.

And the first task when you reach the surface is to try to get on the internet and put at ease the people who are worried about you and are waiting for your response to their messages and to send them a message telling them that you are OK and still alive. And to read quickly the local coordinating bodies and the groups to which you subscribe to see if there is anyone you know here or there who had the raids land upon him when you were hearing them the entire time you were underground.

You hear from afar the sound of the plane accompanied by the warning sirens and you get ready .. you have a few seconds to send to the last person you were talking to “goodbyyyye” .. and to immediately run down the stairs to the basement, stairs which you have not moved from yet and you hide and hear the sound getting closer and say “this is going to strike me this is the one” .. and crash, bang it slams into the beginning of the street with an earthquake which you feel has swallowed the whole world. You go up to see that it hit a building and you choke from the smell of dust which is filling the place and cannot see anything in front of you, you step back a little to take a breath and put the collar of your shirt over your nose and return while you are running to search for sounds of people calling out for help and trip over the debris filling the street and the metal rods.

You hear a deep voice which obviously belongs to someone who cannot run away and is screaming “ambulaaance, ambulaaance, people!”.. And the sound of another screaming “fire, some get in touch with the fire department!” and there is none to answer the voice except the sounds of stone and glass breaking and water leaking from the water tanks, along with the sound of reconnaissance planes.

The people come out of the basements running and they start to crash into each other from the dust and the smell, and they begin to help as much as they can and the neighbors cooperate to extinguish the fire from the neighborhood’s water well (using a pump) while waiting for the fire department and ambulance which at that same moment would be at the site of another nearby air strike and has not yet heard of this strike.

Soon, the ambulance arrives and evacuates the injured and flies quickly to the [medical services] point, and here the war planes return with the sounds of “Feel” [surface-to-surface] rockets, and you should take care because there is a chance they may strike the same place. Anyways, what do you see in front of you? A car, a building’s wall, a brick, the door of a house torn out, whatever just make do, what’s important is if they strike again you need to take care of yourself (to the extent possible) and you will be very lucky and God would have granted you continued life if the second strike doesn’t hit you.

You return running to the basement to put at ease those who were inside and did not come out that things are OK, praise God, and there is just one injury, and the strike hit the house of so and so, and the fire is in the house of so and so. And praise God [for deciding and gently limiting the damage].

And you sit on the floor and start to recall those moments in your head and smile because you are still alive, and you are dusting out your hair and the clothes you are wearing and the plane comes out again–who knows how many times? And it repeats the same scenario–and uglier–but in a different town or city, or a different neighborhood or street.

The time is getting late, and you need to catch some sleep, but the sounds are mixing with each other; the reconnaissance planes with the warplanes with the rocket launchers with the “feel” rockets and whatnot, and the sound of fighting is around you and the basement shakes with every strike targeting the area so you surrender after you are convinced that there is no safety anywhere. You cover your head and say “I testify that there is no deity but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” and you trust your affairs to God and sleep for about an hour. You wake up to one of those sounds, energized, as if you have slept seven hours; the normal amount of sleep for a normal person ..

Eastern Ghouta which is resistant and awaiting deliverance from its Lord.