When I hear or read the name “Baba Amr” so many things come to mind… memories, victories, defeats, but mostly it is complete sadness…
When I hear the word “Baba Amr” I remember a 5-year-old boy named Ahmad al-Ra’i… the reason why this kid’s name keeps jumping to my mind is because I was 2 meters away from him while he bled to death…
It was December 28, 2011 and the situation in the neighborhood of Baba Amr was deteriorating rapidly. Families were fleeing the neighborhood – women and children everywhere, and on that day it was raining…raining bullets and bombshells.
At noon we got a call reporting 8-10 casualties, who were mostly kids, they were targeted while escaping Baba Amr in a van. When we heard about that accident, we forgot every single safe access rule that we were taught. Two ambulances headed to the area with 7 medics and 2 doctors on board. We were in a race with time, we had to reach them as soon as possible, and we had to reach them before it was too late. As we drew nearer, it began to dawn on us how hazardous the area was for there was non-stop firing in addition to the occasional explosions.
It was a tie, the lives inside the ambulances and the lives inside that mini-van, but we couldn’t go back even though it is common knowledge that a medic’s life is more important for he can save more people. Somehow, we were shunning that particular rule, burying it deep inside our countless fears when suddenly a silver pick-up truck appeared out of nowhere. Inside it was a man in his late twenties begging us to go ahead and approach the van.
Although we were hesitant and couldn’t make up our minds, that young man saw how badly we wanted to help regardless of the consequences and he spoke the magical words “we shall go together, follow me and I will lead the way”.
The decision was made that one ambulance would get nearer and evaluate the situation – it would be the scout – and the other would be on standby waiting for the orders. As usual, the goodbyes and praying began and the road to that vehicle was the longest one I’ve ever ventured. And there it was, a grey van with broken glass and the angel of death hovering over it and another young man lying near the driver’s door. Obviously he deserted his seat and tried to get some help, but bullets found their way to his body before he could take his phone out.
My eyes were still fixated on the young man – who I thought was the father – when BOOM BOOM BOOM, another sudden, yet predictable bullet shower hit us. The driver who was also a medic started leading the vehicle backwards. I still don’t know why he chose that particular route, but perhaps the angels were protecting us. The team leader was reporting to the operation room as quickly as he could manage while trying to take refuge inside the car. I couldn’t move an inch, I was glued to my seat and as stiff as a dead body. I was searching for the man who led the way and was making mental notes of how pink the bullets were when I heard a scream from the back, something was burning and my friend was shouting and the other one was rocking back and forth. It took us 3 minutes to distance ourselves from the van but it felt like a life time.
When we were safe we started checking on each other, making sure that no one was hurt, apparently a bullet found its way to the wood inside the car and burned it: the reason my friends opened the door and threw it but he hit the cabinet and screamed. Fortunately, we were all safe and sound but we knew that the passengers of that van weren’t that lucky.
The shift was cancelled, we were forced to go back home and I was too scared to tell my parents because my mom didn’t approve of my risky work. When I got home, I started searching the internet for news; I had to know what happened to that family. It didn’t take me a long time to find a video on YouTube that had the answer to my question…that was when the tears began. It had been a long time since I last cried after a mission, but the corpse of that helpless 5-year-old lying in the mosque being displayed to the Arab Observers was more than I could take.
I cried for that young boy who was deprived of his childhood, parents, friends and most importantly, his right to die in peace.
After that incident, all girls were suspended and not allowed to be on call. Even our ambulance service stopped for a week, but we were forced to go back because of the massacre of Deir Ba’albeh and then Baba Amr .
Again, I was left to my guilt, my sense of being useless and helpless, my right to abhor life even more, loathe the angel of death and above all, utterly detest myself and my weakness, wishing that I had some kind of armor that made me bulletproof.
I wish it were me instead of that young child, I wish it were me that death craved, I wish I were there in that mosque, holding Ahmad and keeping him safe from all the dirty fingers that were tarnishing his angelic body. I wish I had the strength to forbid everyone from seeing his wound because I know that it meant nothing to them, I wish I were able to yell at them ordering them to just shut the hell up so that Ahmad can listen carefully to the beautiful song of the birds that were leading him to the beautiful place in which he would be happy and safe.