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The author is Sami, an activist who lives with his parents and a brother in Inshaat, a suburb of the central city of Homs. Government forces shelled portions of Inshaat and the nearby suburb of Baba Amr for a month before driving out Free Syrian Army rebels. Two UN monitors were in Inshaat recently to monitor the April 12 ceasefire.

The Syrian government places severe restrictions on international reporting in the country.  We invite Syrians on either side of the conflict to tell the world how they cope with street violence, human tragedies, political chaos and economic loss in their daily lives. In some cases, material has been edited for clarity, but does not alter the content. Syria Witness reports cannot be independently verified and to assure their personal safety, many Witnesses do not use their real names.  Find more on-the-street reporting at Syria Witness.

Sami in Inshaat, April 27, 2012

Witness: You have told me you are working with refugees now. Tell me what’s happening.

Sami:  It’s all about my small neighborhood called Inshaat. How life dramatically changed in it in a few weeks.

First, you have to know that my neighborhood of Inshaat was a very wealthy and fancy area in Homs. It was peaceful then under Free Syrian Army control, then a war zone, then under regime control and now a refugee camp. How strange to see your town empty from most citizens and in just a few days it turns into big refugee camp for other neighborhoods.

Witness: I saw ads for the Safir Hotel in Inshaat on the Internet.  Is it a fancy hotel? Is it still open? Do they have power and water?

Sami:  It’s the same hotel that UN observers are in now.

Witness:  Tell me about the UN observers? Have you seen them?

A child from Homs fled with family to refugee center on Lebanese border (AFP)

Sami: The Safir Hotel is not far from my house. There are two observers there. I don’t know what they are doing after two days of their coming. I didn’t see them move in the city. The nearest school where we have refugees falls three streets from where UN observers are, but they didn’t visit yet.

But even with the presence of UN observers, snipers didn’t stop shooting at anything that moves in some parts of Homs and even the tanks and heavy weapons haven’t been taken out from our city as the Kofi Annan plan says.

The regime has changed Homs totally from before they came. Imagine. They washed streets and they cleaned trash that has stayed for weeks in Homs. They even brought back public buses to work even though most main streets in the city are still closed until this moment. The government also opened the university in the city before observers came to show them that life is normal.

Witness: Where did the refugees come from?

Sami: Most refugees came from the north part of Homs, parts of Khalidiya, Bayada and some Qsour. Some of them come from Baba Amr and some from parts of old city like Bab Al Dreib.

Witness: What are conditions like now for the refugees?

Sami: Some of them sit in relatives’ houses, some in schools which we opened as refugee camps. Many people have shared their homes and many houses contain now two, three or even four families.

I think there are a huge number in our schools. They sit in schools where we have provided them things like clothes food water and lights. Neighbors help with feeding, teaching children in some classes and sometimes they spend the night with them in the schools.

Witness: Is the Red Crescent there? Any international NGOs?

Sami: No, no. Not Red Crescent or any others are organizing. All who work have volunteered. Most are young men and women from Inshaat.

In the last operation government soldiers stole almost everything. Electrical appliances, furniture, clothing and accessories from luxury homes. We were lucky that we stayed at our home because they have stolen from every empty house they could everything such as gold, money or very expensive things.

Commercial districts of Homs purportedly shattered by government bombardments over several weeks. (AFP/Shaam)

I can’t forget the look of the tanks that were carrying stolen furniture. It was funny and sad in the same time. A lot of houses became totally empty.

Witness:  Describe Inshaat. Do you still have many friends there?

SamiDo I have friends in Inshaat! All my friends are from here. I have spent all my life here. It was a medium neighborhood with high, nice buildings, good streets, and gardens. Rich people bought houses here.

Baba Amr is a nearby neighborhood to us and was one of most important centers of Free Syrian Army in Syria. When the last government operation began on Baba Amr it also began on Inshaat.

So some very important people from Inshaat asked a big colonel in the Assad army, “Why are they shelling Inshaat and destroying it?”

He said, “Because in the first of revolution protesters of Inshaat raised their shoes to Bashar Al Assad.”

In Arabic culture, raising your shoes means a big insulting. Inshaat was the first area in Syria where protesters raised their shoes to Assad. That was in last May and they came to seek revenge from us in February.

Well, Inshaat now is two parts: the east which didn’t get shelled so much and which most refugees are in now and the west, which had the most shelling and most of its residents didn’t come back yet. What is between the east and west part is a street called Barazil.  There are now five checkpoints in Barazil.

I saw how streets were empty and there was no food or bread and then thousands of people came to here when shelling started in the old city of Homs and on the north. Inshaat then filled with refugees.

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New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

New comment and video from Inshaat and Homs

David Arnold

David Arnold coordinates the Syria Witness project at Middle East Voices and reports on Middle East and North Africa affairs for both Voice of America and MEV. The Syria Witness project publishes on-the-ground citizen reporting, giving Syrians the opportunity to offer to a global audience their first-person narratives of life on the streets of their war-torn country.

1 Comment

  1. James Jose Paul

    June 2, 2014

    Asia Foreign Contractors Settlement Center Peoples Republic of China.

    Official And Private Approach

    Attention:

    I feel quite safe dealing with you in this business proposition having gone through your remarkable profile on the internet and as one of the leading profit oriented companies which I intend investing part of my money into any profitable business you will i ntroduce.Though, this medium (Internet) has been greatly abused, I choose to reach you through it because it still remains the fastest, surest and most secured medium of communication.However,this Correspondence is unofficial and private, and it should be treated as such. Before I introduce myself, I wish to inform you that this letter is not a hoax or Scam mail and I urge you to treat it with the seriousness it deserves. I also guarantee you that this business is hitch free from all what you may think of.

    I am Lesheng Zhou, 55yrs, male, single and the Audit Manager Asia Foreign Contractor's Settlement Centre China Branch. My office monitors and controls all foreign contract settlement here in Hubei Province of China. I am the final signatory to every payment files for the remittance of huge funds moving within both on the local and international levels in line with foreign claim settlement. I have before me list of payment files, which have been identified either as an over-invoiced sum or ghost file. On this note, I wish to have a deal with you as regards to this unpaid funds as I have the file before me and all datas are correct and it is my duty to recommend the transfer of these surplus funds to the Chinese Government Treasury and Reserve Accounts as unclaimed entitlements, I have the opportunity to write you based on the instructions received two days ago from the inland revenue board to submit the List of payment reports/expenditures and audited reports of revenues before the end of next week.

    My Conditions:

    1).After processing of all relevant legal documents with your name as the bonfide beneficiary, I will personally endorse your file here in my desk and the sum of $10.5million will be insured and deposited with a bank here in China who will then contact you for onward transfer of the fund into your chosen Bank accounting your favor.
    2).I will be responsible to handle all the transfer expenses with the help of a (financier) if above my capacity as you will not contribute financially to the success this transaction.

    As soon as the transfer is made and confirm in your Bank account, I will then fly down to your country for my share and your advise on how I can invest into your line of business.
    3). This deal must be kept secret forever, and all correspondence will be strictly by email and telephone for security purposes no fax messaging please.
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    Finally,if you AGREE with my conditions, I want you to send to me now your FULL NAME,ADDRESS and a DIRECT TELEPHONE NUMBER where I can call you and discuss in details and the deal will commence without delay as I will proceed to fix your name on the Payment list instantly before the end of next week. I hope you do not reject this offer and have this funds transferred.Waiting for your reply soon.
    contact leshengmanager@outlook.com
    Faithfully,

    Lesheng Zhou
    Audit Manager

    Reply

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