Before the Bustan al-Kasr massacre, which took place in Aleppo on Nov. 16, 2012, I went with an Al Arabiya team to cover the protests in the neighborhood. I put on a helmet and a bullet proof jacket then observed the protestors and wondered; how I can look those women, children, and youths in the eye when I am that protected. Is there any explanation to this discrepancy except for the fact that I am so detached from what they feel and what they suffer from?
The demonstrations began, and so, we started telling the world about the demands of a city under bombardment night and day. There were thousands of protestors all from different age groups. This gave us a sense of security, even after knowing the Syrian regime has a habit of targeting peaceful demonstrations.
Protestors were happy to find members of Al Arabiya among them, for the media coverage they got was limited and their voices hardly ever heard. Before the end of the march, I had gathered three youths to talk on camera. One was a young man named Amir; he was our guide in Aleppo. While speaking with them, all of a sudden, a missile fell right next to us and hit a balcony overlooking the protests. Debris scattered for hundreds of meters, both killing and injuring a large number of people.
The moments that followed this immediate attack felt like they took place outside of time itself. I scanned the area to find the three people I was talking to minutes ago lying motionless on the ground. I heard Karim screaming with pain from a dislocated foot. His screams were just among many that seemed to echo from everywhere. The strongest of all was the cry of a girl who I did not see but could tell was between the ages of six and eight. “Dad! Dad!” is all she kept saying.
I couldn’t feel a thing, my body was numb. I soon discovered I had blood all over my face and something was stinging both my back and hand. I was astounded, even though I knew better. I was aware of the Syrian regime’s ability to commit such massacres, but, all I could ask myself was: Is this real or am I dreaming?
We were soon transferred to a field hospital that I had already been to twice, during previous trips to Aleppo. Only this time, I was there as a victim not a journalist. Despite the shortage of medical supplies, the place was like a beehive. Doctors were acting as quickly as possible and did their utmost best to save patients. They knew that any delay was extremely dangerous. One of the doctors told me that they may not be able to stop the attacks; however they would work to try and reduce the loss of life.
Sixteen people died in that incident, including the three I was interviewing. Fifty were injured, 20 of whom had both their legs and feet amputated. Amir was one of those.
Al Arabiya has been covering the Syrian crisis since the start of the revolution. I travelled to Syria with the crew three times. Reporting from hotspots like Idlib, Homs, and Aleppo. But it was only that fourth time one of us was got wounded. In fact, what happened to me was just one of the most positive scenarios we had in mind, it could have been worse.
Those who work in the media and especially in places like Syria are real heroes. There was never a time when journalists were such a target like they are now in Syria.
While working, we had to bear in mind that staying in one place for more than an hour made us sitting ducks for the Syrian regime. It was necessary for journalists to move in groups of two or more to remain as safe as possible.
Regardless of the difference between protestors and journalists or between those who believe in a cause and those who cover it, the human dimension remains the same to anyone exposed to the Syrian reality. The humanitarian tragedy in the country takes its toll on journalists as well, for they are torn between their duty to tell the world what they see and the suffering they go through as they see people lay dying or even worse just helpless. Journalists just do their best to convey the truth and hope through doing so they can take part in saving lives.
But no matter how many dangers they are subjected to, it remains their sole duty to cover the story at hand, because not giving this tragedy the media coverage it deserves is bound to increase its repercussions.