Former FSA fighter Ammar Abu Uday is living with his family in a camp in the northern Syrian countryside. They are among thousands of residents who were evacuated from the Waer district of Homs city this past April as part of a surrender deal with the regime.
The rebels holding Waer surrendered to the regime earlier this year following more than three years of siege and bombardment. After weeks of evacuations from the last rebel district were completed, the Assad regime regained full control over the third-largest city in Syria.
When 32-year-old Abu Uday left, he asked one of his relatives who remained in Waer to sell off his furniture and rent the floors of his home in order to generate money to live on.
But after his relative had found someone to rent the apartment, Abu Uday’s “luck ran out,” he tells Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier.
Members of the security branch in Homs city condemned his home this past Friday, marking the entrance to the building, along with other homes belonging to displaced Waer residents. The mark, historically with red wax, on the building’s entrance means the house is condemned—it cannot legally be sold or rented.
Now, potential tenants who were preparing to move in have backed out. There will be no rental income for Abu Uday, which means he has few hopes of leaving his tent.
“No one will agree to live in the house, fearing reprisals for our involvement in the revolution.”
Q: How did you learn that your house in Waer had been marked and condemned by members of the security branch in Homs city?
We were in touch with a close relative [still in Waer] who had agreed to help us sell the furniture in the house. He was going to send us the proceeds so that we could get back on our feet here in the camp. We agreed that he should rent the house out at any price because we really needed the money.
He called us the day before [security forces] raided Waer [on Friday]. He said he had drawn up a lease for someone to rent the house. But last Friday, my luck ran out. Forces belonging to the security office in Homs city destroyed the furniture and condemned the house [with an ‘X’]. My relative informed me and, according to him, they told him: 'These are the houses of the terrorists.'
Zogharah camp outside Jarablus on April 29. Photo courtesy of Syrian Graph.
The news spread all around the Zogharah camp—how the regime’s security branches raided the neighborhoods and marked the homes of the displaced residents for condemnation.
Before we left the Waer district, we offered a floor of our house free of charge to several families who were staying. The rest of the floors would be rented out, but sadly, no one will agree to live in the house, fearing reprisals for our involvement in the revolution.
Q: Could you talk about how you felt when you learned that your house had been condemned?
In all honestly, without any exaggeration, it would have been better if we had stayed under bombardment and the siege, if we died before seeing what our situation would be like now in this camp.
We wouldn’t have left the homes we lived in for this camp, where we’re waiting to die.
The bombardment and the siege were more merciful than the idea of living at the mercy of the regime or living in this camp.
Q: Why did you leave Waer? Why did you choose to go to Jarablus though you knew about the poor conditions in the displacement camps?
I left the Waer district because I was convinced that the regime would seek revenge on those who support the rebels and the revolution. My father is detained. My brother was detained six years ago and, until this very moment, we’ve haven’t learned a thing [about his fate].
My mother and my sisters are wanted by the regime because they worked as nurses in an [opposition-run] field hospital. I’ve been a fighter with the Free Syrian Army since the beginning of the revolution.
As far as the regime is concerned, these activities warrant retaliation and imprisonment. The regime and its supporters believe the residents of Waer to be behind every missing person, every casualty and every explosion [in Homs].
For this reason, we chose to leave to protect our lives and our dignity despite the poor conditions awaiting us inside the camp.
Q: Do you have hope that you will return to Waer one day?
When we left the Waer district, we were hoping for a life that would help us forget the brutality of the siege, forget the homes that we had left behind. But, sadly, life in the camp is more hideous than a life of bombardment in Waer.