Only in Syria: Even an Ancient Citadel is not Immune to Destruction
by Mousab Alhamadee
“I don’t know what to do now! I feel the whole world is a cup of tea.”
These are the words Trad utters after the Syrian army forced him to leave his home in Al-Madiq Citadel in Hama, Syria. Trad’s fate was the fate of over two thousand people who lived in the historic citadel before the army seized control of it in March 2012.
Al-Madiq Citadel in the province of Hama, was one of the first cities in Syria to rebel against the rule of Bashar Assad’s regime on March 28, 2011. The regime’s attempts to break the resilience of the city and its people had failed for one year. Because of this resistance, the city had to pay a very high price at the end.
The Syrian regime brought modern tanks and heavy artillery to the city of the ancient ruins of Apamia. The city used to be a popular touristic attraction, but now it was the site of violence and destruction. The shelling began in mid March. The targets included the modern city, the old city with the Islamic Citadel and even the Roman columns of Apamia — beloved by tourists who flocked to see them from around the world. Apamia is an ancient site that dates back to 301 B.C. This archeological treasure was once famous for its deep roots in philosophy and education. It was a center of trade during the Roman Empire and later became the Byzantine capital of the second province of Syria. Despite this rich history and the area’s immense cultural importance to Syria, it was not protected from the crimes of the Syrian regime which showed no mercy as shells and rockets destroyed the columns of Apamia, and the towers and vaults of the ancient citadel.
The regime turned a blind eye to thieves who excavated Apamia city illegally and stole mosaics which were buried in the ground. Here are some of the images of the stolen mosaics collected from residents’ mobile phones. The town people felt the vengeful regime was destroying their present lives and homes while ruining their archeological and touristic sites.
The shelling continued for three weeks, forcing 2400 people to leave their homes and flee the city. More than 200 houses were destroyed completely in the modern city, 500 homes were partially destroyed, and the historical citadel – which was inhabited by three thousand people and which dates back to the twelfth century – witnessed all kinds of damage, including complete destruction of some houses, and partial ruin of many of the old towers. The regimes’ tanks climbed the rugged path leading to the citadel. The entire citadel was turned to a military complex and its inhabitants were unable to come back to their homes. Only those who lived in the modern city were allowed this mercy. As for those who lived in the citadel – the impoverished area of the town – had the right only to take their furniture with them if they had not already been burned by the heavy shelling.
Trad and his family, along with the other people who used to live in the citadel are homeless now. Although they lived in poverty and misery before the regime’s conquest, they now experience a humanitarian crisis. In the this part of Syria, the villages are connected by centuries of deep relationships. People from the modern town and those of the nearby villages were quick to help the people of the citadel and offer them shelter. The Free Syrian Army also sent very small sums of money to the catastrophe-stricken people. But, will all this aid make them forget their warm homes nestled between the ancient stone walls?
And will Trad – who used to live at the top of the world in his citadel – stop feeling that the world is just a cup of tea?