الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام “The people want the fall of the regime”, the slogan spray painted on the school wall 15th March 2011 Dalia Al-Haji "Wake up Assad! Your time is up!" screamed a voice. Boom! A huge barrel fell from the cloudy sky and exploded. Guns firing, bombs dropping, my head felt like it was about to explode. "Ring! Ring!" my alarm clock shouted. Mind racing, heart pounding, I sat up on my bed trying to piece together the fragments of my terrifying dream. I was so confused. I think I was in a warzone. Thank Allah it was just a dream! I walked out of my small bedroom and looked at myself on the moldy mirror. I was sweating and panting, my eyes wide open in fear. I couldn’t shake it off, even if it was just a dream. It was unsettling and unusually realistic. Although, it might have been because of that haunting documentary I watched on the Russian Revolution the other day. My day went as normal; I ate the delicious breakfast abbu made, went to the store nearby to buy a copy of the latest newspaper. It was a small store, and had many copies of different newspapers hanging from various racks. I Mouwawiya Syasneh was one of the boys who was tortured after he and some of his picked up the paper nearest to friends’ spray painted the walls of their school. He lost his best friend and dad in the war. me and read the title on the cover page: "14-year old boys tortured for painting anti-government slogans on school walls!" "Is this true?" I asked the newspaper vendor, a 45-year-old man who has four children. "Yes," he said " My son was one of them," he said looking at the ground. "I am so sorry," I said trying to lift his spirits. "It's ok," he said sadly. We said our good byes and I headed home. The first thing I did was show my older brother, Abadi, the paper. "They deserved it," he said calmly. I looked at him in disbelief. "How could you say that?" I asked him. "Dalia, you know I work for the military. I am not allowed to speak against Assad," he said. Assad, a power-hungry tyrant, was brainwashing my brother. I gave my brother an angry look. "Mouwawiya Sayesneh, one of those poor boys," I said aloud. "He lives in our neighborhood," I said looking at him. "I know," Abadi said.
I left the room not wanting to talk about it any further. I walked straight to Mouwaiwya's house carrying a box of Hadaf Walnuts from abbu's Bakery. They lived in a house similar to ours-small and compact. I nervously knocked on their small wooden door. Almost immediately, a man appeared at the door. Mouwawiyas father, a tall and tired looking man, who seemed surprised to see me, answered the door. "Yes?" he asked me quizzically. "Hi, I am Dalia. I live down the street. I came here to say hello and make sure your son was ok" I said as kindly as possible. "Ok," he said and let me in. A small, teenage boy, bruised and tired, was standing in the corner of the room. "How are you, Mouwawiya?" I asked him while handing the box of Hadaf walnuts to him. "I am fine," he said with no emotion on his face. "Are you feeling better?" I asked. "Yes," he said with the same expression. "It must have been horrible," I said. "It was horrible! People should do something about it! Instead, since morning, I have been getting visitors asking me the same questions!" he said, finally making eye-contact. "I am sorry Mouwawiya, I should go now," I said getting up. "I am sorry," he said. I nodded and left. In the evening, I met up with my friends. We talked about Assad and his cunning regime for hours. All of us had several opinions, however, one thing every one of us could agree on was the fact that torturing young teenagers was wrong and something had to be done about it. As soon as I was about to leave, I got a text from another friend: "Hi Dalia! Have you read the newspaper articles about the 14-year-old boys who got tortured? Well, we were thinking of things we could do and we found that the best idea was to have a peaceful protest. Do you want to join us?" "Yes," I texted back on my small Nokia phone. I went back home today knowing that I am doing something for a change in this world. That feeling does not come often and makes me proud every time I think about it. The government has to improve now. 16th March 2011 Dalia Al-Haji Guns blazing, crowds screaming, blood spluttered all around, the Syrian Revolution had just begun. People were trying to dodge the deadly bullets coming straight at them. Wounded people scattered everywhere, trying to get to the ambulance nearest to them. Bullets piercing people like a needle through a thread. The feeling of gun powder refusing to wear away from the palms of my hand. I was one of the few people helping the wounded and carrying the dead into the ambulance. This morning, I woke up knowing I am going to do something for the better, change what's wrong. I got dressed and immediately set off to the North of Deraa, where the protest was happening. I took a taxi there, and reached within 45 minutes. There were only a few people there, but within a half hour more than three hundred people had arrived. I was ecstatic to
see the massive crowd of people, protesting for the same cause. This protest was louder and larger than all the previous protests, that were a lot smaller. Syrians, loud and determined, protested in peace. I was in the front of the crowd, stern-faced and resolute. Everything was going perfectly. Suddenly, in a distance I saw a man, with a familiar red scarf around his neck, holding a harpoon gun in his hand. It was my brother! "Abadi! Wha–” before I could finish, he started firing. Bullets raining heavily over the crowd, this protest became less perfect and peaceful than it was supposed to be. I was angry, I was disappointed, I was worried. I did not know what to do. My friends came over to me and we hid behind a small building. We sat there, Violent protests in Deraa, Syria. People are sick of the government and want a ducking, trying to think of something democracy. to do. Should we escape? How do we escape? Emotions and questions were clouding my head and I couldn’t think straight. That was when I heard the sirens of an ambulance. The blue and red lights coming closer and closer. People in white uniforms coming out, trying to get anyone injured inside. That was when I decided to help them out. I, being one of the lucky survivors on the front row of the protest, started helping the wounded. I spent the rest of the day taking people to hospitals, witnessing mothers crying, children lost in the ruthless crowd and the military mercilessly shooting people, not stopping even for a moment. My friends and I, sweating and panting, were saving lives. We went on and on, through the waste lands and through the highways and then to the hospital. Finally, about one hour ago, they stopped shooting. Bloodstains all around the street. I do not know where Abadi is, I don’t want to look at him ever again. I believe this is the start of something big, the Syrian Revolution. October 12th 2014 Dalia Al-Haji Depression. When self-doubt creeps in and swiftly turns to depression, not many choose to live. I have suffered from this condition ever since my older brother, Abadi, shot that young man beside me. He fell to the ground immediately, whispering his last words "May God save my family". I still, to this day have nightmares about my brother, pushing that trigger, killing and wounding people mercilessly. That red scarf imprinted in brain, even if I haven't seen him in years. A woman like myself can't make a change in this society. What was I even thinking?
I was scrolling through Facebook last month, and I came across the White Helmet page. The White Helmets are a brave organization, with hundreds of noble men who volunteered to save lives of people stuck under the rubble after a barrel bomb or a chemical attack. Ever since early this year, when they started this organization, I was following their Facebook page. They posted some very great articles about how these men saved souls and bonded families. However, this particular post was about The White Helmets organization recruiting new members, women. They were starting a women's team! Finally! Something I could do to make a change in this country. I immediately signed up. Now, even women can be noble, save souls. We had one month of training in southern Turkey, where we learned various techniques to retrieve people from under the rubble. We learned how to observe the sky to find planes that carry barrel bombs, we learned to use ropes and torches in various ways, we learned to truly care about anyone we save. Finally, the time had come. Today was our first day at work. My colleagues and I observed the sky all morning. At around 10:30, a plane came in, it looked like Russian plane. It dropped a barrel bomb about a kilometer away from where I was. My colleagues and I drove there. Barrel bombs, an extremely dangerous weapon that kills hundreds instantly, caused the entire area to become nothing but rubble. We searched the area for eighteen hours. We saved a total of 24 people from under the rubble. I wanted to have one last look around everywhere before we left, just to make sure we weren't missing anyone. I reached a small building, when I heard something. It was a baby crying. I frantically looked around everywhere, calling in all The Womenâ€™s White Helmet Team created in the October of 2014. They have worked to save my colleagues. I lifted up Syria, saving hundreds of civilians stuck under the ruble every day. a huge piece of what was once the ceiling of the first floor. Beneath all the bricks, dust and broken glass, was a two-week-old child. I carefully picked him up and showed everyone else this 'miracle baby'. "He is truly a special child," I said, tears flowing down my cheeks. "He is," Hadafia, one of my colleagues said. Everyone else around me started crying too. Today, was a very successful day. I feel proud, I feel brave, I feel powerful. The White Helmets, an organization of brave men and women, save hundreds of lives. Depression feels like a thing of the past. Becoming a part of the White Helmets has helped me clear my mind from all the things that haunted me for years. My brother no longer mattered to me. He may still be alive, bombing people, but I am here to save everyone he tries to kill.
Through my experiences so far, I believe that this Revolution may not end the way people want it. The White Helmet organization was created for saving the lives of desperate people under the rubble. These people have done nothing to save their lives themselves. This, however, is not the people's fault. The government is too strong and has support from multiple countries, making the Syrians as weak as tiny ants compared to a mighty elephant.