The Assad regime and its Russian allies are brutally attacking Idlib province in Syria, but the world has abandoned the Syrian people.
By Waad al Kateab
Ms. al Kateab is a co-director of “For Sama,” a film about the war in Syria.
A man in despair after an airstrike in Sarmin, a city in Idlib, Syria, killed seven members of his family.
A man in despair after an airstrike in Sarmin, a city in Idlib, Syria, killed seven members of his family.Credit…Omar Haj Kadour/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
When the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria destroyed and took control of my city of Aleppo, its residents, including my family, were forced to flee to the northwestern Idlib province. The pattern repeated after every military assault by the Syrian regime on cities and towns outside its control. Idlib became the sanctuary for about four million people.
Relentless aerial bombardment by the Assad regime and its Russian allies and a devastating ground offensive have displaced more than half a million people from Idlib since December, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
In the past few weeks, the attacks on the people trapped in Idlib have severely intensified. The White Helmets, the civil defense group, documented more than 6,600 attacks that killed 208 civilians in January.
I am a Syrian filmmaker traveling in the United States for work. I watch the news from Syria on my phone. An image appears repeatedly: a straight road stretching to the horizon, packed with cars and trucks filled with families fleeing from the city of Ma’arat al-Nu’man in southern Idlib. Ma’arat al-Nu’man is the latest place to be turned into a ghost town by Russian and regime bombs, pushing about 110,000 people from there.
ImageA Syrian family passing through the town of Hazano in Idlib province as they flee the ground assault and aerial bombings by the Syrian government and its allies.
A Syrian family passing through the town of Hazano in Idlib province as they flee the ground assault and aerial bombings by the Syrian government and its allies.Credit…Aaref Watad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Most of these families are fleeing for the second, third or fourth time. Like mine, their original homes were in places you might recognize from news headlines: Aleppo, Douma, Ghouta, Homs. Each of these places was the site of a massacre by the forces of the Assad regime and its Iranian and Russian allies. The survivors had sought refuge in Idlib. Now they are on the move again. The United Nations Children’s Fund reported that more than 6,500 children were forced to flee Idlib every day last week.
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On a train from Washington to New York, I stared at pictures of mothers fleeing Idlib in cattle trucks. I read about the Turkish border being sealed shut, the Russian and regime forces attacking Idlib relentlessly.
The images of the exodus from Idlib return me to being in one of those cars over three years ago, when I was forced to flee my home in Aleppo. My body remembers the cold and pain of that journey. The feeling of holding my daughter, Sama, on my lap and trying to keep her warm. I held a tin of beans and would feed her one at a time. And I tuned the car radio, desperate for any news of the evacuations as we left my beloved Aleppo for the last time.
I scroll through endless updates from Idlib: a 15-second video clip of the Ariha hospital struck by a Russian jet; the son of a White Helmet rescue worker begging to see the body of his dead father; another sobbing White Helmet volunteer who found his own son under the rubble.
In the past week I have met officials from the House of Representatives and the Senate. In each meeting, I have just minutes to explain what is happening in Idlib. I tell them everything, and it feels like nothing. I don’t believe it will change anything. The Syrian people have been abandoned. Some politicians and U.N. officials tell me they hope for an end to the violence. Others tell me they can do nothing.
Waad al Kateab
adcali.com 14 ,Feb, 2020