As she boarded the flight to Damascus, her heart beamed with love, pride and nostalgia. Aliyah was visiting her home in Damascus after a year. She was studying medicine in the UK—a childhood dream nurtured by her parents. As a daughter of academics, Aliyah was determined to follow in her parents’ footsteps. But the joy of this achievement was soon overshadowed by the worry for her parents’ life. Syria was in a state of great unrest.
Despite being aware of the prevailing situation, Aliyah was in for a shock as she walked out of the airport. The streets were dark, deserted, as if a pall of gloom had descended upon the town. The police cars were seen patrolling the streets. Oh my God! What if something has happened to mother and father? I need to see them! What do I do? Aliyah’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of prayer from the nearby mosque, followed by the sound of ambulances in the distance. She couldn’t breathe.
The panic was sinking in. She had spoken to her parents barely two days ago. And now, their phones were switched off. She wanted to run home to them. Distraught, she asked a military officer for help. The officer seemed empathetic, rather concerned. He offered to drive her home but insisted on making a stop at the military camp first.
Flooded with doctors and nurses, the military camp looked more like a hospital. Not able to make sense of what was going on, Aliyah looked around like a child lost in a fair. The officer took her to a large tent with corpses in body bags. The sight of the countless dead was Aliyah’s worst nightmare. The officer told her about the missiles that struck the city the previous night, killing entire families in an instant. Barely a few had survived and reached the camp.