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The night of the massacre in Sweida – based on eye-witness accounts | Kholoud Charaf

Friday 3 August 2018 - 12:48pm

Mourners carry the coffin of one of over 200 killed in Sweida

200 people killed and 300 injured after three terrorist bombings in Sweida, southern Syria.

On 25 July 2018, the so-called Islamic State (IS) launched a brutal offensive in the province of Sweida, southern Syria, involving multiple suicide bombings in the provincial capital (also called Sweida) and simultaneous raids in which militants stormed surrounding villages and slaughtered civilians. According to news reports, an estimated two hundred civilians lost their lives and hundreds of others were injured. The majority of the victims belonged to the Druze minority, the third-largest religious minority in Syria who are considered to be heretics by IS jihadists.

On the night of the massacre, IS fighters entered eight villages in eastern Sweida simultaneously at 4:30 AM.  They knocked on people's doors and slaughtered whoever opened the door. The attack was coordinated, as suicide bombings took place inside the city of Sweida on the same night. Having heard the explosions, young Druze men from neighboring villages came to help people in Sweida. but it was too late. One such man who went to help the people of Sweida posted his testimony of what happened on his Facebook page. He tells of his shock when, after arriving in the city, he entered a house which had been attacked by IS. Bloodstains covered every corner. In one of the corridors, he saw an elderly woman who had her throat slit. Next to her lay an elderly man who had been shot. The man was still alive and managed to explain that there were more people left in the bathroom. When he went in, he noticed the most beautiful face he had ever seen. It was a face of a small boy, about 5 years old, hugging his mother and sister, whose corpses laid in a pool of blood. Terrorists had brutally killed them before his eyes.

As the news of the attacks spread, many people from other villages joined the relief-effort and confronted the IS fighters. They say they received no support from the Syrian army. The confrontation led to the retreat of the IS fighters, but they reportedly managed to kidnap more than 30 women and children as they fled. The day after the massacre, during the funerals of those who had been killed, religious officials banned the mayor and government forces from participating, protesting that their efforts to protect civilians were insufficient, and alleging their involvement in the massacre.

I was in my room in Kraków, Poland, when I heard this horrific news. It was a big shock. How could human beings kill one another like this, face to face, without feeling anything? It is unimaginable to me. We do not need to say and hear "sorry", we need to do something. It's time to wake up and take action.

For the last eight years of the war, the citizens of Sweida have tried to stay away from the conflict. We are not numbers, we are human beings, and we have the right to live in peace. Where were the Syrian authorities when their own people needed protection? Why does the world not react to these crimes? Why are they silent? We are in 21st century and we still continue to live with the brutality of murder and war. Is this what we want?

If we keep looking at what is happening now in Syria without any reaction, we will lose our humanity and this brutal game of war will touch not only Syria and the Middle East but will spread throughout the world. Death starts to matter only if it touches someone you know. Protect yourself by protecting others.  We all have the right to live in peace. We, the Syrians and the Druze people, were and still are peaceful, but war and massacres are touching us despite that. Terrorists and murderers do not distinguish, they are willing to kill anybody who doesn't want to support them.

Stop the Killing.

Kholoud Charaf is a poet, art critic and social activist from Al-Mjemr in the south of Syria. In 2003, she graduated from the University of Damascus and obtained a diploma as a medical technician, where she also studied Arabic literature. She worked as the head of the medical unit at the women’s ward at the Al- Swieda central prison and, in 2013, worked as an English teacher at the Syrian Children’s Education Institute. 

In 2017 she became a member of the Syrian Arab Writers Association. She received an Ettijahat Grant on 2016, which was sponsored by the Norwegian Mimeta association in Lebanon. Charaf completed a research project on tragic poetry after the war, entitled "The Tragic Persona in Nouri Aljarah's poetry after 2011". She published her own poetry collection in 2016, most of which were translated into English, French, Polish, and Italian. Charaf became a guest writer in Krakow City of Refuge in March 2018 as part of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).