The local council in a rebel-held town in Idlib province announced that their city was “doomed” on Monday, after an intense regime and Russian bombing campaign has left much of Jisr a-Shughour destroyed.
“We call on the international community to pressure the criminal regime to cease its bombings,” read the statement, released by the Jisr Media Center, a pro-opposition media organization based in Jisr a-Shughour.
“Residents have left, and life has stopped in the city,” the statement continues. “The city is doomed.”
Jisr a-Shughour has been under intense regime and Russian bombardment since February, when the Syrian government launched a renewed air campaign against opposition targets in the Idlib countryside.
Destruction in Jisr a-Shughour following a reported Russian airstrike on April 2017. Photo courtesy of Idlib Media Center.
“We’ve gotten used to the bombings,” says 39-year-old father of four Hamid a-Saoud, a resident of Jisr a-Shughour. “They don’t scare us anymore.”
A-Saoud tells Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier that he is faced with “two bitter choices.” He can remain under the airstrikes, or move to a refugee camp along the Syrian-Turkish border.
“Because I’m poor, I would live a humiliating life waiting for aid inside a tent,” he says.
“I will only leave my city as a dead body.”
Q: Tell us about why you haven’t left your city, and decided to stay behind despite the announcement.
The main reason I haven’t left my home, my city, is that I don’t have many options in front of me. I either leave for another nearby city or village penniless, rent a house and face more bombing, or, I stay. We’re faced with two bitter choices.
[If we don’t stay,] we could leave our home, our city, and try to stay safe by going to a camp on the border—only to slowly succumb to death?
Because I’m poor, I would live a humiliating life waiting for aid inside a tent—just because it’s far from the bombs. Our right to a normal life in its most basic forms has been denied. Can’t we die with dignity?
I will only leave my city as a dead body. Staying here waiting to die is more merciful.
For the poor in this war, their only fate is to wait for death.
Q: Describe life in Jisr a-Shughour since the announcement.
Today, we live in a city that has no water, no electricity, no schools, no mosques, no hospitals and no organizations giving us aid. The planes fly in the sky above us. We live in our home, with life having ceased in the city. It’s become nearly empty, with people unable to buy even a loaf of bread.
After the years of bombing this city has seen, we’ve gotten used to it. It doesn’t scare us anymore, even though they use incendiary and cluster bombs.
We’ve handled all different types of bombings in this city, but the Russian bombing, with its bunker-busters, destroyed us in February. Every day there were more than 15 airstrikes, at least.
Q: Who do you think is responsible for your situation today?
The whole world is responsible, and all of the nations in it. We are human beings, not things. What is happening in Syria cannot be tolerated. Even humanitarian organizations are tired of giving us a handful of food baskets to deal with only a small part of our suffering in this war. Everyone has abandoned us, watching us die under this savage bombardment. No one is offering help.
I hope this suffering ends in all of Syria.