“Starving on Christmas” was the name of the report I wanted to shoot for the U.S. news network NBC in the besieged city of Daraya, which is separated from our beloved Moadamiya by a huge regime checkpoint manned by Assad mercenaries.
I went there yesterday afternoon to shoot the destroyed churches by the Assad shelling and bombardment and to try to talk to some Christian families and how they will spend this Christmas under siege , with empty stomachs and frozen bodies, no trees to decorate and no presents to give to their poor kids.
I got shot on my way there—just a graze, nothing worth mentioning—and could not get the footage, so I am going to have to try again today, inshallah.
After being treated at the local hospital, I went home, and managed to set a fire using some plastic and wood which my friend had gathered from the rubble of destroyed Moadamiya houses. I was humming George Michael’s song “Last Christmas,” which I can never keep out of my head at Christmastime. For me, it rings bells of familiar joy about spending Christmastime in the traditionally Christian section of the old city of Damascus, Bab Touma (Thomas Gate), where I used to go with my Christian and Muslim friends to hang out late. Good times—once, my friends challenged me to talk to this beautiful girl and in return they’d buy me dinner, and I was broke like the Great Depression, plus she was really cute. So I put on a Santa hat and I went near where she was standing with her friends and started to do my happy dance in the middle of Bab Touma Square. Now, I am an awful dancer, but believe it or not she and her friends started to dance with me, laughing. Within seconds a bunch of guys and girls came along and joined us, but my friends chickened out and stood there like icemen. I won the dinner fair and square, and got the girl’s number.
Ever since the exposure of Bashar’s flirty emails correspondence with his female aid who called him her “duckie,” we call him “the Duck” just to make fun, and duck-heads is a nickname for his supporters. Some duck-heads, such as the notorious Mother Agnes-Mariam, talk about Assad’s protection for Christians and other minorities. But in Syria Christians and Muslims have been living as brothers and sisters hundreds of years before Assad, and he is not the force protecting Syrians of any religion—our human values are. And having an accountable government in future Syria, one that guarantees human rights equally for all Syrians will be the best protection for Christians, not a dictator’s whim. Lots of Christian Syrians are with the revolution and want to see Assad behind bars as a war criminal. One of them was a citizen journalist like me, trying to get footage of Assad crimes out to the world; his name was Basel Shehadeh, and he got killed by regime fire while filming.
And guess what—like all the other townsfolk, Christian Syrians in besieged rebel towns are starving for Christmas.