I was looking at the most amazing scene I had seen since I arrived in the States – the flowering cherry blossoms.  My God, it felt like heaven.  The sun was sneaking through the shy clouds.  Poems of unconditional love were being recited by the light wind playing with lovers’ faces while they were standing there holding hands enjoying the beauty of an early spring day.

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I was taken by the scene.  I looked at my cold hand – no lover’s hand to hold you today.  I am sorry. Let me warm you and my freezing lips up with a cigarette.  Yes my beloved cowboy killers – it’s time for you again.

Rushing down the steps to the street, calling a taxi to get me to a meeting at the State Department to brief some officials about my experiences inside Syria and my beloved Moadamiya, I tried to get myself together to focus. I took out a mint to erase the smell of tobacco from my breath.  “Looking good,” my friends who were escorting me to the meeting said, “now let’s go get ‘em.”

We went inside the State Department building and started talking about the chemical attack, the brutal siege, the constant shelling and massacres, Assad’s use of starvation as a weapon, barrel bombs, blackmailing the rebels to surrender through the civilians and calling that a truce, and my great escape.  As I spoke, it seemed to me like they really cared about what I was telling them. They asked a millions questions – hard ones and surprising ones.

Cherry blossoms – what a view.  The image remained in my thoughts during the meeting.  I started telling the officials that you need to act before it’s too damn late and how could Obama keep looking the other way about all that Bashar and Iran and Putin are doing in Syria?

I told them that since I’ve arrived here, all I’ve seen on CNN or NBC was news about the Malaysian airplane over and over.  With all due respect for it, I think there are much more important things going on in the world - like Assad’s using chemical weapons dozens of times in limited doses during the past few weeks, barrel bombs destroying what’s left of Aleppo and Syria, or how about how Bashar fulfilled his promise that he made in the middle of 2011 and turned Syria into a new Afghanistan, or how Hizballah and Al​-Qaeda are getting more experienced and stronger, while both of them  are fighting side by side against the free Syrian army, above and below the radar.

The officials told me that were doing their best and left. Then others approached me and told me to keep it up because I am right and there is much more that the US can do.

I felt a bit disappointed, but as we left the State Department, I remembered that someone as important and as pretty as Angelina Jolie had visited the Syrian refugee camps dozens of times and that she is somewhere here in the States and that she is standing with the Syrian people.  Angelina’s support gave me hope, especially when she called Kim Kardashian a witless bimbo after Kim misinformed people about Syria on Twitter.

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Suddenly it hit me in the face.  Why the hell doesn’t she run for president?  Imagine Angelina in the White House as the President of the United States of America. That also means that we would have Brad Pitt as the First Lady (man).

I think Angelina is like me.  She can see just how pretty the cherry blossoms are but she also sees the beauty of the Damascene jasmines and recognizes that they are worth saving.

I thought about that as I lit another cowboy killer to warm my cold hands and freezing lips and returned to the park with the cherry blossoms. My God, what a beautiful scene? And my God, how I love Angelina!

Image  —  Posted: April 14, 2014 by mhamou in Uncategorized

Lost and Lonely in Washington

Posted: March 20, 2014 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

There are echoes and shadows of previous days and old friends. It’s strange how life can become like daydreaming. No more black and white for me, I guess. Everything is colored in gray: my past, present and future.10013821_223389617857241_1084390771_n

It took almost three awkward weeks in Damascus, staying at the Dama Rose Hotel, meeting high profile officers from the Forth Division, acting and lying to them until I managed to make it to Beirut using a fake ID.

In Beirut, things became even more awkward for me as I met friends and reporters who I had spoken and worked with for months without ever meeting in person. It’s funny how these types of relationships develop, how we put names, faces and flesh to voices on the phone and Skype.

I got myself a new phone number in Lebanon using my fake ID and within hours it was under watch by God knows who. Sometimes while talking to friends, the line would open and I’d heard people talking in Russian. Sometimes, I’d randomly hear the answering machine of a Syriatel number, as if I called someone and their phone was turned off. The best part of Beirut was meeting a lot of amazing and pure hearted people and getting to know them better.

While in Beirut, I also broke up with my girlfriend who I hadn’t seen in years. It seems like sometime between the last time I saw her and the time I called her from Beirut, she had moved on with her life. She is not the girl I used to know. It also hurt that I was so close to my mom and family members but couldn’t see them.

Meanwhile, back home, friends and people I thought I could trust started saying bad things about me because I left or because I talked about the corruption that was happening in Syria.

The regime too was pissed at me and created a huge campaign against me and my family, accusing me to be a CIA agent or God knows what else because I am asking people in the US and the world to care more about Syria and push their governments to help.

While leaving from Beirut, I went through a lot of trouble until I made it to DC. I felt like Ben Affleck in Argo, but the minute the plane took off from Lebanon, there was no more fear of being caught… I think.

Now here I am on the other side of the planet, away from my beloved Syria and Moadamiya, surrounded by so many amazing Syrians, crowded streets, tall buildings, and a loneliness growing like a beast, eating me from the inside.

Whenever I hear the sound of an airplane, my eyes turn to the sky in search of a MiG fighter or a chopper dumping explosive barrels. I always keep my cellphone on the charger in preparation for blackout. I store extra packs of cigarettes and candy bars so in case anything happens, I won’t be starving or dying for a smoke like I used to.

People here don’t know how much they are blessed to have power and food and safety and they take it for granted. They don’t hug their family and friends tight like we do because they don’t feel that this might be the last time they might see them. They don’t understand… they just don’t. But this is going to change. I will speak, scream, and write, until they start listening… until they understand.

In DC, I met a couple of friends I consider close, but I did my best to hide from them, because they know how much I suffer and I didn’t want to fall apart and cry like a five years old. That would only make both of us feel bad. But now I feel even worse because I realize that my avoidance made them feel like I don’t care about them, while all I was trying to do was stay strong enough to do the work I’m supposed to do here.

Somehow, I have to find a way to stop feeling lost and lonely in Washington.

The Syrian Revolution Continues…

Posted: March 3, 2014 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

In March 2011, the Syrian people rose up against the dictatorship of Bashar al Assad, demanding freedom and dignity for all Syrians. After three years of heroism and sacrifice we stand once again to tell the world that the Syrian revolution continues.

The Assad regime has tried to suppress the revolution with bombs, missiles, chemical weapons and starvation but we continue to stand tall against this evil. On March 15, 2014 we ask all of the decent people in the world to raise their voices with us and take action to support the Syrian revolution for freedom and dignity. Join us in Washington DC and in cities around the world to say down with the Assad regime. The Syrian people deserve their free Syria now!

Register for the anniversary event here: http://march15.splashthat.com/

Assad’s Trojan Horse Comes To Moadamiya

Posted: January 24, 2014 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

It’s been a while since I blogged and told the world about what’s going on in Moadamiya, but once again, the lack of electrical power and an overdose of trouble keep getting in the way. But I decided I have to make time for this no matter what, so here I am. Assad’s weapon of starvation is now in its most advanced stage: the Trojan Horse. The Assad regime is trying to turn people against one another, using food as a weapon of war and as a weapon to divide us. The regime has allowed the delivery of only three shipments of food containing just one meal per person since we agreed to the truce and raised the regime flag.

You know that prolonged starvation can stop your mind from thinking straight, change your beliefs and even your faith in things you previously took for granted. That’s my explanation for the big change I’ve noticed in many people here in Moadamiya.

For me, starvation inspired me to start the hunger strike, which is something I’d never thought about before. Only a few of our townspeople have made the best of our situation. For the majority, this unspeakable suffering has brought out an ugly side.I can somewhat understand why people seem to only care only about getting food, no matter what the terms are, but for me that is unacceptable. I feel the hunger they feel, but I am not willing to be blackmailed by the regime. Besides raising the flag, the regime wants us to also give up heavy and light weapons, which are the only protection we have against the regime coming in and carrying out a full massacre on our people.

The regime has also requested that all leaders of the Free Syrian Army and powerful local council members go out and negotiate with the regime face to face. They have called for all high level officers and prominent activists to report to the Fourth Division Headquarters, without any assurances of safety. At the division, they will be interrogated and asked to sign a statement stating they are terrorists and likely also be asked to sign blank documents, and God knows what the regime will use those for. This is the way of the Assad regime and we know it well.

Some members of the negotiation committee are working hard to stir a big mess in the town, which will make us weak and an easy bite for the regime. So, here’s the regime’s Trojan Horse: food and a truce, an apparent gift, which the town leaders sign for with good intentions, but this so called gift destroys us from the inside. Assad slowly takes control of the town, and activists like me continue to receive death threats for speaking out against the regime’s evil methods.

As my situation in the town grows more and more dangerous, I’ve decided to leave Moadamiya. This of course is impossible due to the siege, but I am working on finding a way out. Your prayers and well wishes are appreciated.

-Qusai Zakarya

A Few Brave Hearts

Posted: January 3, 2014 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

Braveheart-QuotesHere’s how I would describe what’s happening in Moadamiya in the past few days. Assad’s so called ‘truce’ is beginning to pay out pretty damn well for him, while all we get in return is crumbs.

Total Assistance Delivered on December 28, 2013:

429 Cans of Beans

96 bags of Sugar (each bag contained 5 Kg)

98 bags of lentils (each bag contained 5 Kg)

99 bags of rice (each bag contained 15 kg)

792 bags of bread

23 cans of tuna

22 cans of sardines

23 plates of sweets

487 liters of oil (for cooking)

492 small bags of pasta

15 cans of hummus

98 bags of wheat (each bag 2.5 kg)

Each person’s portion of the assistance consists of:

150 Grams of Sugar

300-400 Grams of either wheat cereal or lentils (one of the two)

500 grams of rice

Two pieces of bread

So that’s what we got after we raised Assad’s flag over our town and handed over a heavy armoured truck, won from the regime during battle. The regime said that they will deliver another shipment of food, but we haven’t seen anything so far. 

Meanwhile, the regime is telling the world that food entered Moadamiya and that the problem is solved. In reality, all we got is one meal per person and this is after 15 months of siege and starvation. 

The regime is trying to win residents of Moadamiya over by telling them, from under the table, look we can get you food if you return to being loyal servants to the regime, but if you continue to back the revolution you will starve to death. Unfortunately, the regime’s nasty and evil plan is successfully manipulating some people in here. I don’t know if I can blame them or not but that’s how it is.

There’s nothing I want more right now than to spend all day telling the world about the regime’s evil manipulations and to remind them that Moadamiya is still under siege and still suffering from lack of food and medicine. However, it’s been so difficult to find the means to do that. I don’t own a cell phone and the one I borrowed from my friend, had to be returned a few days ago. Now, I work only with a borrowed laptop and very little access to power to help keep the laptop charged. It often dies in under an hour and then I have to scramble to find a source of power to charge it up again. This is one of the reasons I haven’t been able to write a new blog entry for so long.

My bad back is still killing me and the doctor says I need urgent surgery or I might lose the ability to move my left leg.

I also feel I need to mention Assad’s new fashion of hitting rebel held towns with huge barrels of C4. He’s doing all he can, with a green light from the international community, ahead of the Geneva II conference, so that he can be in a strong position to negotiate.

It’s a dirty little world that lets such brave people suffer all this time, and endure all the ways of death on this planet, just because they asked to be free from a dictator. But world silence won’t hold us back, just as Assad evil cannot.

We’ve been resisting for so long and so hard, that some people lose sight of the original objective: to bring down the regime and establish a free Syria. After nearly three years, many brave souls have died, others were captured, fled, or just left and forgot about the revolution. There have been many ups and downs and it’s been a long journey and I think it’s going to take a hell of lot more time and a lot more pain until we get our freedom.

We started this revolution with a few young brave hearts, and I am sure that no matter how few remain, we will finish what we started. So, I’m going to go William Wallace for my ending, but without the skirt and blue paint ; )

“You may take our lives but you will never take our freedom.”

Endings and Beginnings

Posted: December 29, 2013 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

1469953_263120097171645_1295208086_nIMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

QUSAI ENDS HIS HUNGER STRIKE

MOADAMIYA, SYRIA, December 29, 2013: The Food Justice Baton Is Passed to the World by the Hunger Striker of Syria, and We Shall Uphold It

On November 26, Qusai Zakarya began a hunger strike in a nonviolent action to demand that the Assad regime’s armed siege on the Syrian town of Moadamiya be lifted, and that humanitarian agencies be allowed to bring food and medicine to the dozens of besieged towns in Syria.

Due to health issues, Qusai decided to end his personal hunger strike on December 28, his 33rd day. With this, he passes the baton to the International Solidarity Hunger Strike. “Access to food for the populations of dozens of Syrian towns that are still besieged and still starving, remains critical,” Qusai says.

An International Solidarity Hunger Strike launched on December 20, to support these goals. Philosophy luminaries Jurgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib, Slavoj Zizek, and Hilary Putnam; Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja; Syrian media activists Razan Ghazzawi and Raed Fares, poets Marilyn Hacker and Martin Espada and Syria’s Khawla Dunia, joined the Strike.

Our ranks expanded with prominent American public figures such as Bill Fletcher Jr., Naom Chomsky, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Norman Finkelstein, Simon Critchley, and Congressman Keith Ellison. Solidarity hunger strikers include Andrei Codrescu of Romanian origin, as well as Omid Safi, Nader Hashemi, and Leila Zand, who are of Iranian origin, and novelists Robin Yassin-Kassab and Mohja Kahf, who are of Syrian origin. Syrian schoolteacher and protester Soad Nofal, Syrian writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh, and Syrian doctor Mazen Halabi, along with many other Syrians, joined. The response of Huwaids Arraf, Palestinian American co-founder of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement when she was invited to join the International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria was, “Yes, without hesitation.”

The International Solidarity Hunger Strike is still growing and will continue until January 22, when the Geneva Conference on Syria convenes.

The team working on Qusai’s Facebook page, including Rasha Othman, Bayan Khatib, and Mohja Kahf, who are Syrian activists in North America, deeply appreciate Qusai’s personal commitment to bringing international focus on the food blockade affecting one and a half million Syrians. “Qusai is a valuable spokesperson for Moadamiya citizens, and for the Syrian revolution for freedom, human rights, and democracy,” says Terry Burke of the Minnesota-based Friends for a NonViolent World, who is also part of the team. She adds, “We are grateful that Qusai ended the strike before suffering permanent damage to his health.”

Despite the recent submission of the Local Council of Moadamiya to humiliating conditions imposed by the Assad regime in exchange for regime promises of allowing food into the town, to date only a small amount of food has been allowed in by the regime: one truck with canned food inadequate even for one meal for the 8,000 civilians in Moadamiya. Local civilians, including Qusai, believe this is a cruel regime ploy to keep the town dependent on arbitrary regime conditions.

The Assad regime is still violating international law and still using food as a weapon of war not only in Moadamiya but in dozens of other Syrian towns that remain under starvation siege. International humanitarian agencies have not yet been allowed unfettered access to Moadamiya to distribute food and medicine, as required by the non-binding Statement of the United Nations’ Security Council last September. We still need a binding UN resolution on this, and it must happen before the Geneva Conference convenes.

Qusai’s act of civil resistance was bravely forged amid surrounding conditions of violence. His nonviolent action motivated many people around the world to join in solidarity with besieged and starving Syrian civilians. This solidarity is even more urgently needed as Qusai now passes the baton to all of us. Email stopthesiege@gmail.com to join the International Solidarity Hunger Strike, and please sign the petition to support its goal of allowing food and medicine to be brought in to starving Syrians:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Member_states_of_UN_Security_Council_Lakhdar_Brahimi_Allow_immediate_humanitarian_access_to_help_Syrians_without_descrim/

Hunger Strike, Day 30: We Will Never Give Up

Posted: December 25, 2013 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized
Assad's flag. The flag of oppression.

Assad’s flag. The flag of oppression.

During another filthy truce offer from the Assad regime to the civilians of Moadamiya, Assad once again aimed at getting us to give up on the revolution and return to being his loyal servants; and he once again used food as weapon in attempt to make us kneel to his criminal demands.

Assad has been starving the besieged people of Moadamiya for over a year, trying to make us desperate enough to resort to any means to feed our families and children. And so our local council has now approved an agreement to raise the regime flag high in our town, as a first step in a bigger deal. In return, the regime promises to deliver daily meals to the town. This tactic will keep incoming food under regime control. We will continue to be under their mercy for every meal on a daily basis.

What we need is for the regime to break the siege and allow the people Moadamiya open and free access to the get the food and medicine they need.

I cried like a five year-old who lost his mom when I saw the regime flag over the building. I remembered all of my friends who died for the sake of the revolution and the others who continue to struggle in the name of freedom and dignity. Dear God, what a feeling…

It’s Christmas day, and for the first time in my life, I truly wish that Santa was real so I could ask him for food and medicine for all the besieged towns so we can be saved from this humiliation and suffering. I don’t know about Santa, but I do know that I will keep going with my work, supporting the struggle for freedom and human rights in Syria. We will never ever give up.