Last night the Syrian regime took control of Maarat al-Numan in Idlib after weeks of brutal attacks with the support of Russian airforce and Iranian militias.
The city is now completely empty of its residents, who carried their most precious belongings and said tearful goodbyes to the homes they might never see again.
Today, let’s remember Maarat al-Numan as the beacon of hope and pride it was for the past eight years.
Let’s pledge to live by the example it set when it resisted both the Syrian regime and extremist groups time and again. When it opened its heart to civilians who were forced to flee from Ghouta, Homs, Aleppo, and other parts of Syria after surviving mass atrocities and starvation sieges. When it created civil society that inspired Syrians around the world.
Photographer Ali Haj Suleiman wrote:
“The occupier has entered Maarat al-Numan.
Language is inadequate in times of tragedy, and Maarat is greater than vocabulary.
Our sorrow is deeply rooted now that Maarat has fallen. So is our helplessness.
How are we to bid farewell to the city that gave us the safety only a mother can give her children, as it now becomes a place for ghosts and monsters?
As she bids us farewell, covered in blood and dust, Maarat al-Numan is saying to those who love her: I’ll wait for you, I know you’ll come back.”
Picture taken in Maarat al-Numan by Ali Haj Suleiman