ABOU BADWI (48) FROM HOMS
'In Syria we never had the freedom to do and say what we wanted.'
Five years ago I was a car mechanic, specialized in Range Rovers. I owned two garages in the Baba Amr neighborhood in the city of Homs. Each garage had seven employees and an adjoining shop with car parts. The total worth of the inventory was $140,000. Along with this I also had two cars which delivered chickens for slaughter.
In 2011 when the protests in Syria began I was supporter, although I did not actively participate. But it's important for people to know that in Syria we never had the freedom to do and say what we wanted. Even before the war any protest would be punished by threats or torture by the regime. For example when my son deserted from the army and went into hiding I could no longer leave my neighbourhood of Baba Amr. Because if someone is a deserter then the entire family is threatened, up to and including being killed.
But the real drama began with a demonstration against the mayor of Homs in February 2012. Residents believed that he should resign because of corruption and other scandals. So it was not about Al-Assad. But because there was nothing being done with their demands the crowd grew larger with each passing day and the mood became grimmer. After 13 days a sixteen-year-old girl suddenly climbed onto the stage and screamed into the microphone: ‘Out with Al-Assad!’ The entire square held its breath. Everyone knew that after this public statement Al-Assad would give the order to end the demonstration. But we thought too, hey, it’s the 21st century; he will come with water cannons.
We were terribly wrong. They began firing with live ammunition and hundreds of people were killed during those days. Then the garbage trucks came to clear away the corpses and I literally saw soldiers dancing on the bodies. It was horrific.
We gave our Facebook-friends the opportunity to be part of our conversations by posting questions. Abou Badwi answers the question of Niels: How can we be of any help at the moment and five years from now? (26 sec)