The writer is Mousab Alhamadee, a Syrian author and translator of English books. He writes here about his occasional motorcycle commute in darkness from a clandestine mountain location, where he works for the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, for brief visits with family in Hama.
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By Mousab Alhamadee in Hama, May 1, 2012
I can only spend a few hours with my wife and my daughter, who is three years old now.
Then, when it is nighttime, I get back on my motorcycle, ride out of Hama and return to loads of work that waits for me in the mountains. I am one of a small number of activists in Syria who can speak good English and talk to the media of the world for the Local Coordinating Committees of Syria.
I will not claim that I am one of those who planned the revolution in Syria, but the eruption of the protest movement in my country was – as I saw in March, 2011 – a chance for me to help get rid of the dictatorship in Syria.
I ride my bike slowly on these difficult mountain roads. As I travel in this darkness, I wonder why Bashar al-Assad makes his war against me and other vigorous young men of Syria. We are supposed to be the national fortune – Mousab Alhamadee
I saw my friends die in front of me. Some of them lost legs, other lost their hands. Many remain in hospitals in Turkey. This was enough to end my tranquil life. I didn’t hesitate to join the revolution.
So, I came down to the streets in Hama. But I soon realized that the price of fighting for freedom is not that easy.
I used to sit for hours with my personal library, sitting at my desk to write my own books and translate the books of others. I worked without being disturbed.
When I look back at my life before the revolution, I feel proud for what I have achieved. A young man of only 30 years has 13 books to his account. I wrote three of them and translated ten others from English to Arabic. Two of the books are “Imperial America” by John Newhouse, and “Islam: A Short History” by Karen Armstrong.
But what happened to my friends gave me determination to become an activist. I believe strongly that Assad is a criminal and his regime must go; otherwise, there will be a great betrayal of the souls of my friends who were martyred and of the wounds of my injured friends.
That is why I let change overtake my life completely. Instead of my warm house, I now live in very poor conditions in the mountains between Hama and Idlib. Here in the mountains I have access to the internet to move the revolution forward with equipment provided to the Free Syrian Army by members of the Friends of Syria.
But now it is time to go. I hug my wife, kiss my daughter and head back to the mountains. It’s a horrible darkness and the roads are rugged and empty. I am always afraid that robbers might appear and stop me, or kill me. The regime wants me dead or alive as a member of an armed gang. But I have no weapon to defend myself. I don’t even have a small pistol.
I ride my bike slowly on these difficult mountain roads. As I travel in this darkness, I wonder why Bashar al-Assad makes his war against me and other vigorous young men of Syria. We are supposed to be the national fortune.
I remember reading once that Europe invested in its youth. So, I ask myself this: How could Assad’s regime lose if they gave their people more freedom, especially for young people. Syria would be stronger and the country would be developed on all levels.
I feel the burden of the whole world on my shoulders. I try to go to sleep thinking of [my daughter's] face. I love [my daughter]… – Mousab Alhamadee
Wouldn’t that even serve us with our conflict with Israel? Maybe if Syria was a developed country, Israel would sit down for peace talks and negotiate the return of our Golan Heights without going to war. Then peace could be achieved for the benefit of all peoples in the Middle East.
I drive these dark mountain roads for an hour and a half until I reach my destination: a place where I could hardly find a pillow or a quiet place to sleep. No one is there to receive me at the door. No one to hug or kiss. Just the guys smoking hubble-bubble and chatting loudly.
I am tired. I feel the burden of the whole world on my shoulders. I try to go to sleep thinking of [my daughter's] face. I love [my daughter]…. And I love my books. My desk. My cozy home.
Freedom comes at a high price.
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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.