February 22nd 2011, I went online and found some people talking about starting a revolution in Syria like what happened in four other Arab countries. We got a huge push from what we saw in Libya, and I thought if Libyans stood up to Gaddafi, we too can do it. Let this begin.
In March, I talked to various people via twitter about a date to start a revolution in Syria. Some of them were in Syria, and some were outside, but we all knew that the start will be small and difficult. We knew that we, the first ones, will be completely suicidal by going out in a demo, and we knew we won’t get many people on the first day like they did in Egypt. We used the hash tag #Syria and kept our names secret.
I suggested a certain date but we agreed on March 15th, and we started a campaign on twitter and many joined the newly opened revolution’s Facebook page (I wasn’t a part of the Facebook campaign as I rarely use Facebook). The Egyptian freedom fighters helped a lot on twitter, they gave us tips from their experience. Now, it’s March 12th, and I still have not found anyone in Homs to go out with me. My family members are all outside of Homs, and my friends.. well, let me just say that my friends weren’t that optimistic yet, and I couldn’t blame them.
March 15th, it has started. I left my house around 10 AM, I went online and I was contacting people on twitter (I remember @SyrRevo, @Layal_Mhm, and others) trying to get info about the first demo in Homs. Someone mentioned Khalid Bin Alwalid mosque, so I went there for Duhr prayer, I went out and stood there waiting for someone to join me, no one came, nothing happened. People here had no idea.
I went back to the internet café and asked about Homs, no one in Homs but me was using twitter apparently, and I couldn’t access Facebook using my proxies. I only had one Homsi friend in twitter and I didn’t know what side he’s on, so I had to block him for awhile (Sorry @Abbudy, hope we’re cool bro!) I unblocked him afterwards of course.
I finally got some news about the first demo in Damascus, and I got a small video.
I shared the video with everyone I know, and I kept tweeting and spreading the video with the hash tags like they did in Egypt. Again, many Egyptians helped me and we got some serious flow in twitter. The government didn’t have a clue about twitter at the time. I even contacted some celebrities in twitter asking them to give us a push and a “Good Luck” and some of them did.
March 17th, Dara and Homs joined Damascus. Tens went after the prayer from Khalid Bin Walid mosque and chanted for freedom. It didn’t last long and I couldn’t catch up as I live far away from that mosque.
March 18th, I went to Khalid Bin Walid early so I wouldn’t miss anything, but no demo happened. There were many security forces’ vehicles and members, I took photos and spread them online.
March 19th, the same as March 18th.
March 24th, Khalid Bin Walid Mosque is closed and no prayer will happen there on the 25th. Many people died in Dara last week and Homs was about to go big.
March 25th, I was near Khalid Bin Walid before the prayer, I saw the security forces getting ready, I walked among them, talked to them, and ate falafel with them (From the stand in front of Nice Price). They told me they were brought there to help near Khalid Bin Walid mosque if anything happens. I noticed that they’re all young men with no education or careers, they do what they’re told because they don’t know better.
I was able to bring some people to Omar Bin Khattab mosque to join in a demo, but I decided to visit a couple of mosques by the end of the prayer to try to get people to go out, and it wasn’t a mission impossible since mosques in Homs don’t start the prayer at the exact same time. You can easily pray in Khalid Bin Walid then drive to Droubi mosque before the latter starts the prayer, and then Omar Bin Khattab…
I saw many people ready near Khalid Bin Walid, they didn’t pray in it cause as I said earlier it was closed down, but there is a smaller mosque not far away from it, so after the prayer people paired up and walked toward Khalid Bin Walid mosque and around City Center, they were standing and waiting for something to happen there, I went into a pharmacy there and bought some meds just so I have a small bag with me in case security forces ask me what am I doing there. I walked to some people and told them to go to the New Clock square and wait there and asked them to spread the word. It was very scary talking to strangers about this, so I didn’t use any words like “Demo, or revolution..” I simply told them stuff like “Try near the New Clock” or “Nothing to see here, maybe near the New Clock”.
I took a taxi to Abdulhamid Droubi mosque and as I approached, many were already on the stairs chanting for the martyrs in Dara” بالروح بالدم نفديك يا شهيد” “We would sacrifice our souls and blood for the martyrs”. I asked the driver “What are they saying?” to see his response. He answered “بالروح بالدم نفديك اسرائيل” which means: “We sacrifice our souls and blood for Israel”, and from his answer I knew he was one of the bad guys, so I asked him to take me to Hamra Street. It was a nice surprise to see people going out on their own in Droubi mosque. Anyway, I arrived Omar Bin Khattab mosque as they finished the prayer, and a big demo went out, I joined in with a huge smile on my face. My mom didn’t believe anything would happen that day, so I rushed before the demo, went home which is on our way, told my mom to listen and look out, then rejoined the demo. We walked our way to Dablan Street, and I decided to go back and shoot a video of the demo. I did so, then I was about to rejoin them when I saw a man walking behind me. He called someone on his cell phone and asked him for backup in Dablan Street. He called him General “سيدي العميد”
Two station cars arrived moments after and parked in the middle of the street near Al Asi ice cream shop, the drivers were in security forces uniforms, and the rest were dressed in casual clothes, I went in a near street and started taking a video of them from behind without them seeing me. They had wooden sticks in their hands. After they went towards the demo -which arrived to the New Clock Square-, two women started yelling at one of the drivers, asking him to leave the demo alone. He started shouting back and pushing them, I took that on video and waved at the women to move on. I turned my back only to see a third station car stopping behind me and 7-9 young men with wooden sticks came at me and started beating me without saying a word. I was all alone and couldn’t do anything at all. They broke my nose, and hurt my head. They kicked me and beat me for about 12 minutes then left me lying there after my face was covered in blood. They took my phone and my ID, they asked me if I was Syrian, and why was I taking a video, and I replied with “Do I look Iranian to you? Of course I’m Syrian” then they gave the phone back after they couldn’t unlock the screen, then followed the other ones, I asked the one who has my ID and was still around about it, he then gave it to me and apologized. He said that his friends are stupid and he told me to leave and take care of myself, he was a decent guy really, I admit it. I turned around and started walking away when I saw people watching me from their balcony, I touched my face with my hands so they got all bloody, I looked at them and showed them the blood, and said “Did you witness that? Do you approve of that? What are you gonna do about it?” I walked back home after this beating, took a shower, and went to bed. I woke up with a very sore body and a blue color under my left eye.
I didn’t feel real pain until I woke up, I obviously took some painkillers before I went to bed.
Anyway, after I woke up I noticed that there were bruises all over my back and my right shoulder, my nose was broken as I said earlier, and my head was cut open in two places. I have photos of all that but I wouldn’t post them because they’re not pretty.
Two or three hours after, my friends called me, they asked me if I can meet them, and they came and pick me up, we decided to go to Tartus to see what is happening there, and to sit by the sea and relax, as the sea always makes me feel much better.
We drove around in Homs and many streets were closed down by security forces, I had my sunglasses on to cover the color under my eye and my messed up nose. We went to Tartus and there was a big pro march there, they all had photos of Assad and they were singing and dancing in the streets. I never felt so angry, they’re cheering for those who attacked me and broke my nose not 5 hours ago. At that moment I knew that our revolution will take a much longer time than I expected.
I went to a doctor the next day and he fixed my nose and gave me some pills.
The marks of this beating didn’t disappear from my face until April 27th.
After the beating I took on March 25th (10th day of the revolution), I had to take a break from going out in demos, I even took a break from going online. I deleted my twitter account after I knew that it has been linked to me and being watched.
A massacre happened in Homs on April 17th, the day after we went to bury the martyrs, and the funeral turned into a huge demo that ended up in the biggest square in Homs (New Clock Square). We gathered there around noon and people started coming from all over the city to join. The streets to that square were secured by metal trash cans and other objects, and groups of us started guarding the streets. We learned what to do from the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, and so it began. The first real sit-down in Syria. There were more than 150,000 people in that square, and we brought big banners, lights, and even tents to the square. Security forces did not get involve. The streets to the square were all guarded as I said and everyone who comes in the square gets checked for weapons to keep the square safe.
The crowds felt safe there and the chants from this sit-down could be heard from all around the city. It was a mini Tahrir Square in the middle of Homs, and it felt great. This was the first time I felt freedom, real freedom. I could say whatever I want to say and I wasn’t afraid. Not being afraid was a new feeling for me, and for everyone there. I walked among the crowds and saw the happiness in their eyes. It was an epic sit-down.
That was when I knew that people in Homs would never give up their rights anymore, they will never go back to how they were. Homs is now the “land of the free”.
People started to send water and food for us, drinks and fruits as well, everyone was happy this happened, and I was a bit chocked that we actually pulled it off.
When it got a little dark I started walking around to check for snipers since there were government buildings in that area, but I didn’t find any. I got a call about security forces vehicles coming our way and that they were near the Old Clock square. I went there and saw many security forces armed men just standing there. I knew that they won’t let us spend the night there. Short after that a warning was given to us to empty the square (It was about 9:30 PM as I recall) but of course we didn’t move. We changed the name of that square that day calling it Freedom Square.
Night came and there were about 50,000 left in the square, and most of them knew that the regime won’t let this have a happy ending. The regime couldn’t afford a sit-down in a major city like Homs. The total number of people who went there and joined is a much bigger number as I saw people coming and going all the time, I think hundreds of thousands went there but they didn’t stay long.
The weather was good and that helped us stay there, but warnings kept coming and they were serious.
Around midnight, there were only 7,000 – 10,000 people in the square, and I think there were only 5000 when the security forces attacked.
The attack was around 2 AM, and it was a vicious one. They started shooting directly at us, they didn’t care about anything. Tear gas bombs were everywhere and they started arresting people.
The shooting didn’t stop after we all left, as they were celebrating their “victory”. The regime’s security forces freed that square from us, they won over their own people. It was such a sad and ugly view. They danced with their guns on our blood, they burnt our banners and signs, they chanted for the dictator and against the people. They spread their hateful mottos on the walls and destroyed the shop windows in that area including the banks.
The things they did can still be seen when walking by that square, as some of the mottos are still visible and the banks had to use ugly wooden windows instead of the broken glass ones.
I went home that night and cried. I knew there will be many more deaths and that the regime doesn’t care if we all die. It was a horrible ending for a good day.
I remember that I was so excited about the huge sit-down that day I tweeted a pic from it using the account that I use with my real name since my other account was deactivated earlier.
After that day, some people in Bab Al Dreib made a small replica of the New Clock and used it in their demos, and then people in Khaldieh made a bigger and better replica to symbolize that we will go back to that square soon, and you can still see the latter one in the daily demos in that neighborhood.
April 19th, I was captured from the street and taken to a place where they questioned me for 4 hours, then let me go. I have no idea why this happened but I got through. I didn’t tell my family about this incident yet because it will only make them worry more.
The questions they asked me were silly, they asked if I had a weapon, or if I received money from outside the country. They asked if I got any calls from Lebanon or if I had any relatives in prison. The man who interrogated me was wearing pajamas and no shoes in his office. I did not see anyone being held there, and I am not sure exactly where I was.
In April, many new places joined the revolution, villages and cities that I never heard of were with us, names of people I didn’t know started to appear, and lots of new faces. Good ones and bad ones. The Syrian regime said that what’s happening will be over very soon, and some people actually believed that. Some of the people I knew started to have doubts after they heard that, but they still got faith.
In May, I got my health back completely and started going out in demos again, my neighborhood was still quiet, so I started going to other places whenever I could. Demos in Bab Al Sibaa were my favorite ones, people there were so tough and they were organized. I also went in Inshaat where I saw many of my friends and in Baba Amr where I knew no one.
After people burnt and destroyed many big photos of Bashar and Hafez Assad in Homs in the previous months, there were still a couple that I see every day. I hated that so much, so my friends and I went out and burnt them all. We failed to burn the one near the Cultural center and my friends got his fingers burnt while trying, while I was shooting the video, but he went a couple of days after that and threw a paint balloon on it and that did it. He went alone when he did it but he took a picture of it. They painted the Syrian flag over it the very next day.
In June, my neighborhood was on fire, and demos were happening every day now. I didn’t always stay in my neighborhood because I don’t like sticking to one area. I probably went in demos in most areas of Homs during June, and some of them ended with the protestors and the security forces throwing rocks at each other. There were no shooting in some neighborhoods yet, security forces came in buses with only black sticks. That all changed in no time.
Ramadan is coming soon, and we all agreed that we need to take the demos to a new level.