Idlib Calling | 19 december 2019 | by Evert-Jan Grit

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Meet Ahmed, theater producer from Saraqeb, and friend and partner of PAX. His life is no bed of roses. Saraqeb is in the Syrian province of Idlib, in the northwest of the country. Idlib's future is, to say the least, uncertain.
Every day, people get killed in air strikes and shelling by the Syrian and Russian armies. Children die covered in dust and debris. The war in Idlib is primarily a war against civilians.
A couple of times a month we speak with Ahmed to hear how he and his family are getting on. He says its important for people in Idlib that we here in the Netherlands hear about what's happening. It makes them feel like they haven't been forgotten.

Idlib Calling: The Big Game

Thursday December 19th

It’s been a while since the last Ahmed Calling blog. We’ve kept in touch but we didn’t know what to put in a blog posting. Since the last blog, the attacks on Idlib have increased, and the extremist violence has become more eratic. There is heavy bombing, especially to the south of Saraqeb. Ahmed is afraid that the violence will reach Saraqeb soon, so yesterday he moved his family to a safer place. Ahmed returned to his house in Saraqeb. He’s home alone now. A fervent fan of the Barcelona football club, he invited some friends over yesterday to watch El Clásico, the soccer match between Barcelona and Madrid.

“Hi Ahmed. Barcelona- Madrid ended in a 0-0 draw. What do you think?”

“Bad. Bad match for Barcelona. But at least they didn’t lose.”

“I brought my family to safety yesterday, outside of Saraqeb. I’m afraid the bombing will start again. It’s been terrible in the last few days. More than a hundred attacks yesterday. Especially in Ma’aret al Nu’man. Many refugees are coming through here again.”

“Helicopters threw barrel bombs. But even worse – when people tried to flee, planes came and shot them on the road. Do you know what an L 39 is? It’s a plane, a bit of an old-fashioned model, like they had in World War II. It flew in circles above the highway, shooting at the refugees with machine guns.”

“Do you want more news? The Syrian pound isn’t worth anything anymore, there’s no work, there’s no future. There’s just war. We’re stuck, we can’t leave, we don’t know what will happen and we don’t dare even to hope anymore.”

“After coming back from bringing my wife and daughters to safety yesterday, we passed out food to people who had just fled the bombing to the south. They now live next to our house. Six families are sharing three rooms. My wife had cooked chicken with rice for them. There’s nothing else we can do.”

“So I was really looking forward to the game yesterday. Watching with friends and forgetting about the war. But what a let-down, a 0-0 draw. Still, I’m trying to see the good side. For instance, Barcelona’s keeper kept the goal clean. I’m a fan of his, so that softens the blow a little.”

“I hope you have a Merry Christmas — let’s stay in touch.”

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