It is nighttime here, and I am about to go to bed. Before I disconnect from Syria, I notice Omar is on Skype. I send him a message telling him that his video on Anderson Cooper tonight was impressive. I tell him that he makes me proud to be Syrian. I tell him that I wished I was with them in Homs. A few seconds later, he sends me a link. I open it. Suddenly I am in Homs, at daybreak. He messages me: This is my livestream from Baba Amr. I plug in my laptop charger. It is going to be another long night.
It is six in the morning (6:00am on the dot) in Syria. I watch the static frame filled with a gray sky and rooftops of buildings. Three large satellite dishes in the foreground and a minaret in the distance. It’s completely silent. Then a rooster begins to crow, over and over, in precise intervals. Birds chirp. It was bliss to watch the stillness, for once nothing was happening. I feel pleasure at knowing these familiar sounds, knowing the exact scent of the winter air, knowing the peacefulness of an early morning in Syria. Omar was with me in the room that I couldn’t see, but his view was my view, his window was my window.
Then, the quiet is punctured with long, thunderous rumbles of rockets, quick shots of bullet fire, panicked voices of a few women, and once, a girl’s chilling scream. The familiar vanishes. I message him: I cannot believe this is my country.
He sends me the following statement from earlier in the day:
"The humanitarian situation on the ground in Baba Amr until this moment is still a mix of rocket launchers, tanks, mortar launchers hitting the area from all sides. More than 500 shells have come down on us since the morning, targeting homes, protest places and mosques. Al-Anwar Mosque was shelled with more than ten shells which led to the destruction of a large part of it; surrounding homes were also destroyed. The humanitarian condition is difficult at the moment, there is no bread, no medication and no nutritional supplies and as we mentioned in our last report, a field hospital was targeted and we lost a number of our medical crew. There is no form of communication inside the area and any moving thing is targeted by snipers surrounding the area.
Life is at a complete stand still. There is no escape or safe passage from the area and there is no safe shelter inside the area from the rockets and shells. The number of martyrs has reached sixty from the last statistic we received from Doctor Mohammad Almohammad (the head of the field hospital). These are their names:
1) Mohammad Alatassi 2) Hatim Alabeed 3) Abdul Hamid Qurrah Hussain 5) Abdul Hamid Sabooh 6) Diyaa Alsheikh Fada 7) Adnan Khudr Salami Bade Alahmad 9) Mazeed Alhamad 10) Hameed Qaheet Alhamad 11) Abdul Kareem Mubarak 12) Mohammad Alawad 13) Adnan Alhazouri 14) Rami Alsaeed 15) Hassan Aluwair 16) Abdallah Almohammad 17) Ma`moon Alizoo 18) Abdul Kafi Alizo 19) Hamood Alaqlah 20) Child Hamza Hasoon 21) Child ra`ed Alharshah 22) Ghazi Alhaseebi 23) Child Jamal Masood 24) Child Manal Alali 25) Child Ayah Aldoomani 26) Muhammad Abdul Rahman Alqadri 27) Child Ayman Alkhaled 28) Nahla Almuhesen 29) Fatima Alabdo 30) Suad Almohammad 31) Khudr Alhassan 32) Khaled Alsoos 33) Child Foad Alamer 34) Ridwan Alashlaq 35) Budran Abd Alaziz 36) Wasil Jum`ah 37) Marwa Nadaf 38) Ahmad Alahmad 39) Muhammad Alrakaan 40) Rasha Omran 41) Kamal Zein Aldeen 42) Abdul Kareem Qurrah Khaled 43) Ziyad Hishiyeh 44) Ghurwan Almala 45) Abdullah Alsamra 46) Samer Alsayyid 47) Baby Abdul Rahman Orabi
The rest of the martyrs’ names are unknown until this moment. There are eleven martyrs—three of them children and a child that we have not yet identified due to disfigurement and cutting of limps. Thirty have been buried at night under shelling, however, we could not get the rest to the graveyard and the number of martyrs increases every hour due to continuous shelling.
There have been more than two hundred injured, mostly children, women, and the elderly because shelling concentrates on houses. There are many injured who have permanent injuries now, for example the loss of a limb or an eye (or both) and body disfigurements. It is expected that some of these injured people will die because they are in a critical situation and there are no supplies to treat them completely."
I read the words as I listen, connecting them with the view, linking each devastating sound to another, still unknown, name that would be added to today’s list of the dead.
At first, I watch with Omar without sharing the link with anyone. Then I tweet it and it begins to spread. Soon there is almost a thousand people watching with us. We are all in the room with Omar but painfully aware we are really a world away. As I type my messages to him, I try to time them in between the explosions. Is there a tactful way to message someone as rockets and bullets rain down around him?
We listen. Where were those monstrous weapons? How far away from Omar? What targets were they reaching as we listen? I send a digital message (DM) to my friend. My heart is being ripped to shreds at these sounds. He messages me back; The sounds are mercy. AK47s and machine guns are precision weapons. No swoooosh sounds we`ve been hearing for the last couple of days.
Precision weapons: meant to kill precisely. There is nothing precise about the blasts that were shaking Baba Amr, except their vicious intentions of murder and destruction.
I know everyone is imagining the scenarios of what was happening on the ground. Would a YouTube video of bloodied, mutilated bodies that we would watch tomorrow be the net result of one of the explosions we were listening to right now?
I peer through Omar’s window for over an hour. The roosters did not stop crowing, competing with the loud shelling. But it is a futile battle they would soon lose. Slowly the intervals of silence became shorter. I record a video of my screen. I had hoped to capture the quiet that was there before as well as the deafening explosions, but it was too late, the pounding sounds had become almost continuous.
The sky is a brighter gray. Morning has arrived, snatching away any peaceful moments that now feel like a dream. I say a prayer for Omar, for Baba Amr, for Homs, and go to bed.
It is the middle of the night here. The view from my window is pitch black, and I think of Omar’s window looking over the rooftops, as he watches another terrifying day unfold.
Clip recorded by author from Omar Shakir`s livestream broadcast.
Missiles targeting residential neighborhoods in Baba Amr, Homs on February 8 2012.