Idlib Calling | 21 januari 2020 | 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: ‘I wish I was a kangaroo’

Friday 17 January

News coming out of Idlib is without exception negative. The ceasefire between Russia and Turkey didn’t last long. The refugees who were on their way back during the brief ceasefire have fled again. According to the UN, 350,000 more people have fled recently. Although the fighting is taking place mainly in southern Idlib, more and more people are leaving central areas of the province, including Saraqeb, with their most prized possessions. Ahmed has stayed behind, alone in his house to guard against thieves and looters.

“Hi Ahmed. What happened?”

“Well, I’m home alone again. I brought my wife and children to stay with family outside the city. It’s become unbearable here. The sound of explosions and helicopters and fighter jets flying over never stops. Sometimes I wish I was a kangaroo.”

“Sorry?”

“Every day we see the news about the fires in Australia, and people rescuing koalas and kangaroos, and helicopters dropping potatoes and carrots for the animals. If I look outside, I see helicopters here, too. But they only throw barrel bombs and sow death and destruction. You have to wonder why? Why is the world so worried about animals in Australia but not about us? If we were kangaroos, would the helicopters come to help us?”

“You can’t blame regular people, I know that many people sympathize with us. But the governments are letting us down. That’s the harsh reality.”

“We were happy for a little while because of the ceasefire between the Turks and the Russians. But the fact that they can’t agree on a solution for Libya means they decided to bomb Idllib again. How crazy can it get?”

“My children have learned to tell whether a missile or a bomb is going to come close to us or not. The other day, we heard the sound of missiles in the air, and my daughter jumped into my lap to reassure me. ‘Daddy, don’t worry, they’re not going to hit close to us, they’re going farther away.’ ”

“I don’t know how long it’s been since we went to a playground. The children used to be so happy! Now, the only thing they know is this misery.”

“Don’t ask how I know, but I think Saraqeb will be safe for the time being. I know all signs point the other way, but I want to believe it. I can’t help it.”

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