x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Deir Ezzour: Like a funeral at home

People search for survivors in the rubble of a buildinin Boukamal province of Deir Ezzour.
People search for survivors in the rubble of a buildinin Boukamal province of Deir Ezzour.

After 12 days and what seemed like a thousand missed telephone calls, Mohamed wept when he finally managed to get through to his mother in Deir Ezzour.

His daughter, Lameese, said it was the first time she had seen her father in such an emotional state.

"Not knowing what was going on is torture," she said. "Not knowing if they are alive or not is sometimes worse that knowing they are dead."

The telephones in Deir Ezzour had been dead from August 17, just before the end of Ramadan, until August 28, after Eid. That, said Lameese, had made it impossible for the family in Al Ain to enjoy the festivities.

"It was like we were in a funeral at home. We all felt helpless."

This was the first Eid the family had spent outside Syria.

"We were meant to all be there, but we couldn't," she said. "It was the first Ramadan my grandma has spent without my granddad. He died in February, and she was in mourning and was meant to be out of it during Eid. Instead, no one was with her."

Lameese's second cousin and his family were also supposed to come to Al Ain but they were killed when their house was shelled.

"No one can see an end to all this," said Lameese. "[The uprising] is all a shock. I thought Bashar was popular."

She was surprised when the protests reached Deir Ezzour in July. "I had been in Syria a few months before it happened. Everything was fine. But maybe that is what I think because I live abroad and don't go through what people who live there go through."

Lameese said her grandmother was determined to stay. "She is not prepared to leave her house. We do not care who stays and who goes, we just want this war to end. We want things to go back to normal. The people were not prepared for this."

* Ola Salem, with additional reporting by Zaineb Al Hassani