The people of Idlib are living in fear because they know well what Assad and Russia are capable of

By Mohamed Barakat, activist and manager of a cultural center in Aleppo’s western countryside.

I have lived many horrifying moments witnessing all kinds of weapons being used against us, prohibited and non prohibited, but the most cruel memory for me is when my village Urem al Kubra was bombed by Russian airstrikes in August — 39 people died that day, half of them were children. Our neighborhood was completely destroyed within a few minutes and I survived with my wife and two kids when a bomb missed our house, just by a few meters. I will never forget that day.

People are living in fear because they know well what Assad and Russia are capable of. There are a lot of people who are fleeing to relatively safer areas in the north to escape the impending assault. Some families in south Idlib countryside are fleeing after their neighborhoods were bombed during the last few days. Markets are functioning weakly as everyone is scared. Parents are scared to send their children to school.

People here are always scared of chemical attacks because they already witnessed the horror of it during the past few years. The only useful preparation for a chemical attack was when the White Helmets provided training sessions to residents to raise awareness on safety measures to take during a chemical attack. And of course there are families who bought medical masks or even tried to make primitive masks made of cups and charcoal in a desperate way to protect themselves and their children.

Civilians in Idlib are now divided between the ones who completely lost hope in the international community and its ability to stop the assault and the ones who are a little optimistic and still call for world leaders to intervene and impose a political solution to avoid this humanitarian crisis.

Many people here, especially activists, journalists, and humanitarians cannot flee to regime areas because the regime will come after them and they will face the same fate of detainees who died under torture in Assad’s prisons. Fleeing or reconciling with the regime is not an option for anyone who opposed Assad.

I believe that world leaders are able to reach a political solution but only if they are willing to. If they really care for the lives of civilians, they can dismantle and fight those extremist groups including Al Qaeda and ISIS instead of using them as an excuse to keep bombing Syria. Assad and Russia cannot continue to kill civilians claiming that they are fighting terrorism. This is a lie that the world cannot accept. We all know that those planes only target residential areas, schools, hospitals, and White Helmets centers. We provided the world with every proof that Assad and Russia are targeting civilians and not terrorists and yet, the world chooses to ignore us.

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