Despite the roar of bombs, life continues in the rebel-controlled city of Banash, 50 kilometers from Aleppo. An Al Arabiya crew managed to enter the Syrian territory through liberated areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army.
Al Arabiya news reporter Aliya Ibrahim reported on her risky trip to the free city of Banash, relating how she crossed into Syria a few kilometers past the Turkish city of Al Rihaniyya and was greeted by a group of rebels, who were in a high spirits, playing the tunes of al Kashoush Ibrahim and Abdul Baset Sarout. Here is her account of her journey:
A group of young men were hiding behind an olive tree near our destination point. We were walking against the torrent; while people were leaving the Syrian territory and heading to refugee camps in Turkey, we were crossing the border into Syria.
“Zaza”… from carpenter to fighter
I was accompanied by Sobhi, a 25-year-old man who was wounded in the face by a secondary fragment when he was fighting in Salah Addin Street in Aleppo. He had crossed the border to treat his wound in Turkey, but medics had told him that the fragment was not extractable. Thus, he decided to return to Syria and continue the fight with a large smile on his face.
The guides us to a new checkpoint, where people crossed in both directions. There the rebels had people register their names and present relevant documents, and then instructed them on the safest routes for their journeys.
We met ‘Uncle Zaza’ at the checkpoint. Zaza is an energetic 46-year-old man with long salt and pepper hair who has lost all of his teeth. He told us that he wouldn’t shave his beard or put away his rifle until the last minute of the revolution.
The well-known former carpenter longs for his pre-revolution life, but is convinced that he cannot go back to his normal life unless rebels achieve victory.
Hamadi… one of the revolution’s youngsters
As we were waiting at the checkpoint, rebels started discussing the future of Syria after the fall of Al Assad’s regime. Some supported the establishment of an Islamic state while others refuted the idea. Some believe that Syrian people have become more attached and committed to Islam due to the losses that they have endured, thus, they can only resort to their faith to overcome their sorrow.
We also met with Hamadi, a law student and the son of an English literature and music teacher.
Hamadi complained there is a shortage of weapon supplies and said that the available arms do not allow rebels to fight the regime’s forces. “One cannot face a tank with a rifle,” he told us.
He proposed taking us to Aleppo city, but we refused his offer and insisted on going to the city of Banash with Mustafa, a former journalist based in Dubai who has quit his job and joined the fight in Syria. The main task of our escorts was to secure the roads while we passed the cities controlled by the free Syrian army.
The road to Banash
On our way to Banash, we passed by the cities of Taftenaz, Dana and Sarmada, which became well-known in the news for their involvement in the revolution against Assad Regime. The regime has targeted these cities that are controlled by the resistance.
When we arrived at our destination, we were received by a huge black sign written in both Arabic and English: “the free city of Banash.”The other side of the sign reads, “Our only and eternal leader is Allah.”
Despite the imminent danger and the roar of bombs, life seemed to flow as usual in the city. Streets were teeming with slogans supporting the revolution and the souk was witnessing the usual Ramadan rush. A few feet from the souk, young men were writing signs for upcoming manifestations. As we talked to the people of Banash, we noticed that they were convinced that the road to the end of fighting was still long.
We spent few hours in Banash before heading to our next destination, Sarakeb, accompanied by armed men. It was late in the evening when a former lieutenant in the Syrian army received us in Sarakeb. It is the start of a new day in “the liberated areas.”