Conversations: A Road Trip to Idlib

As part of our collaboration with Syria Deeply we are cross-posting a series of articles that capture civilian voices caught in the crossfire, along with perspectives on the conflict from writers around the world.

Below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and a Syrian university student. She’s from a conservative Sunni family in Aleppo. She hopes to leave the country, but first had to get a passport from her family’s registered home address in Idlib. She told us her observations about the road between Aleppo and Idlib:

The driver took us to Idlib from all the “liberated” villages. We passed from a village called Kafar Halab, which has a big hill nearby. The landscapes there were amazingly beautiful. I want to buy a house there after the revolution..

There was graffiti everywhere we passed through. Some of the writings support the regime and others are supporting the opposition. Each one of them tries to erase the other one and write in its place. It is very childish. You can never trust anyone of them.

I saw the shamsin bread factory on my way and there was an unbelievable crowd in front of it. There were thousands of people fighting and pushing each other for bread. Then I saw the Magic Land restaurant complex. It has a billboard, that now reads “We are a nation whom Allah gave the pride of Islam”.

We passed from a Free Syrian Army checkpoint, and then we reach the Icarda intersection, where was located al-Nusra Front Islamic jihadist group’s checkpoint. Surprisingly, they were nice to us. Perhaps they saw my hijab and modest clothing and they respected that. We passed from Binnish and Taftanaz, both are targets of heavy aerial bombardments, however, life is still normal there and people seem not bothered at all from living under shelling. They are insisting on not leaving their homes. Some university student girls from Binnish joined our vehicle and told us their stories of how they are going to Idlib everyday for their lectures, fearing all the way that a shell, a barrel or a car bomb will take their lives…

Finally we reached Idlib, but my passport wasn’t ready yet. I wandered around and had a tea near the souk. They have a nice souk (covered market), which is exactly a smaller copy of our old souk in Aleppo. There were a lot of people and life was bustling there, just like it used to be in Aleppo before the big fire in the old city and the historic souk two months ago. I bought a Derby chips (a very famous Syrian produced potato chips) and the seller started to chat with me when he heard my Aleppo accent.

He asked me about the situation in Aleppo and I replied that it is still not good. He replied saying that when they were being shelled in Idlib we were making barbeques and eating kebab in Aleppo! I got mad and left the place.

Aleppo, Syria. 28th December 2012 — People gathered around a bakery in the street. — After the loss of water, fuel and electricity cuts in areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army, Syrians try to resume normal daily life in Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War. (Source: Mike Blacktoviche)

I bought some bread from there to bring it home with me, because there is no bread in Aleppo. Before, we used to bring home sweets and other luxuries from our trips, but now a piece of bread is more valued than anything else… I hold the bread with both hands the entire road as if it is a treasure. On my way back to Aleppo, in the front seat of the bus there was very obsequious man, who used to greet every checkpoint we were stopped by. He sucked up to them whether if they were army or rebel checkpoints.

I cannot say how my heart was tearing apart on the road every time I saw these people and our beautiful country burning everywhere. I am sick of all the propaganda, applause, analysis, and everything from both sides. What I saw on the road was enough for me.

These people want to live!

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