Lessons From Homs

(This piece is part of a series running all week on Beyond Compromise about Homs. In memory of the city, its brave people and its countless dead.)


It feels like light years have passed since those long February nights I spent watching a live stream of Homs being shelled into oblivion. Mortar rounds, rockets, and intermittent gunfire: smiling as I heard the rooster crow over the sound of bombing, wincing painfully each time an explosion came close enough to shake the camera, forgetting to breathe whenever the live stream stopped abruptly, and sighing with relief, albeit momentarily, when the connection resumed; the media activists who were risking their lives to give the world a (virtual) view as their city was pummeled to the ground weren’t dead —yet.

In the two years and two months that have passed since the onslaught of Baba Amr, Homs has endured an unfathomable amount of tragedy: siege and starvation in some parts, displacement and bombardment in others, and death —death in ubiquity.

Through it all, Homs has been largely abandoned: by you and by me, by those in other parts of Syria, and most greatly, by the international community that has been content to watch bombs fall on neighborhoods that are home to thousands upon thousands of internally displaced individuals and that has done next to nothing to feed those who have lived under siege for two years, looking to leaves and insects for sustenance.

But what’s remarkable about Homs and its people is their resilience that has continued despite the treachery. There is faith that fills their hearts, a passion that glistens in their eyes and a fire that burns deep inside that has allowed the people of Homs to persevere. For three years, the Homsi revolutionary fire has not only continued to burn, it has proven that it will not be put out.

As I write these words, Homs’s freedom fighters, outnumbered and under-equipped, are battling to prevent their city from falling to the Assad regime for good. While the odds may seem to be in the regime’s favor (after all, the strength of the world on the ground can’t do much in the face of a fighter jet), the brave men of Homs possess the motivation, resistance, and courage to stand tall in the face of the most monstrous of enemies. No one knows when or if Homs will fall. But what we do know is that the men who are fighting tooth and nail to hold on to their city possess qualities that we should all aspire to have.

It was in the February of 2012 that Homs first taught me what it means to be defiant, and it is today that it is showing us all that true defiance is to continue forward despite being on your own. So here’s to Homs, to its people, and to resisting in the face of any struggle.

-Maryam Saleh

Maryam Saleh is a Syrian-American writer based in Tampa. She holds an undergraduate degree in mass communications and is currently pursuing a juris doctor degree. She tweets here.

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