24th July 2019
Sweida – one year after the July 2018 ISIS massacre.
An emotional return to Sweida and the villages of Shrehi and Shbeki almost one year after the ISIS attacks, massacre, and kidnapping of civilians in July 2018.
My article for Mint Press News recorded the testimonies of these courageous, traumatised civilians just after the ISIS attacks and also when the kidnap victims were finally released months later…thanks to the Syrian Arab Army mission to rescue them.
Salha and her 7 months pregnant daughter-in- law, Shams, were at home asleep at 4 am when ISIS terrorists first crept into peoples homes under cover of darkness and began their campaign of death and destruction, slaughtering children as they slept peacefully.
Salha received a call from a relative who told her to hide as the cries of Allah Akhbar began to resonate around her home. She woke Shams and tried not to stress her, fearing for the unborn baby… they fled the house and hid themselves among the exposed buildings and caves of Shrehi while ISIS entered the house just below them, murdering all their neighbours who were inside.
Salha’s son Mu’taz had been martyred in Daraa, in 2012. He was 22 years old, another young life sacrificed for his homeland, defending his country against international terrorism.
His comrades had left him, mortally wounded, bleeding out from a stomach wound. They went to get help. While they were gone, Mu’taz wrote on the barrel of his gun with his own blood:
“This is for Syria, for my homeland”
Mu’taz died before they could treat him in hospital.
Mu’taz’ final message to his mother was…
“Tell my mother, dont be sad, dont cry, the dignity of Syria is our most precious gift, no sacrifice is too great for our mother Syria.”
Mu’taz had also sent his mother a message five days before he was martyred.
Salha told me he must have known he would be killed. She told me she is illiterate, she can’t read so she asked his comrades to put his words on his photograph and to read it to her as often as possible so she would not forget his last message to her.
This is what Mu’taz wrote for his mother.
If I am martyred
I urge you to receive me with ululations and a smile before you say goodbye to me.
I don’t want you to wear mourning for me
or cry for me, because that will hurt me
My friends will carry me like groom in his expensive white suit.
My coffin would be of saffron and dewy flowers
My grave would be between an olive tree and a fig tree
To make me comfortable to bring me rest
And may peace embrace my grave
I ask you in the name of God
Put a Quran under my head, a photo of Bashar al Assad on my chest.
And please, my gun must remain in my right hand.”
Salha wept on film when she recalled the tragic events in July 2018 and the loss of her precious son but she also broke into a beautiful smile when speaking of Mu’taz sacrifice for Syria, for Humanity. The light that shone in her face came from a soul that has faced suffering and horror yet still converted it into hope.
Here is her moving interview in the video below.
Taken from her simple but poignant words:
“The Syrian Arab Army, may God grant them victory, victory for our country.. because without our Army… our Army is from the people for the people, they are the ones protecting our homeland. Without them we would have been defeated.
We can sleep at night while the Army is protecting our land and honour and dignity. Dignity is the most important for us. May God protect the Syrian Arab Army.
Oh Syria, stand up and beautify yourself. Remove your burdens. God bless your President, your Army and your men. For you, Syria, we sacrificed our precious martyrs. God bless all our country and grant Her victory.
A wounded heart is very painful and nothing is more precious than a son but thank God when the Army, homeland and country are still steadfast, thank God.”
These people are still suffering but they are healing and the cycle of life is returning to their community.. painfully and slowly, they are rising again to reclaim their lives.
Watch the full interview here: