Umm Al-Ghiyas

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This documentary shows the life of Umm Al-Ghiyas who has lost four of her sons in the Syrian war.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Woman: “As they say, a blow that doesn’t break one’s backbone makes him stronger. Maybe, that’s what we have experienced. We got stronger.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Woman: “I said, “It’s not true if I tell you that I’m not anxious for them. Yes, I’m anxious for them.” He said, “But you encourage them.” I said, “Yes, I encourage them.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Woman: “I saw the house shadowed by grief. The neighbors were all downstairs. I saw the house filled with people. I was quite unfamiliar with such a scene.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Voice of Man: “When we heard the call for prayer we all got happy. We were like members of a family. We were like brothers. Each of them has left precious memories in the houses.”

Conversation [Arabic] Conversation between some women: “How are you, Um al-Mahand?

-Good morning Umm al-Mahand. How are you?

-I told you in the morning …

-All young people are the apple of my eye …

Hello, good morning! How are you?

Hello! How are you? Are you fine? God bless you!”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Their father joined the army in 1967. Two years later, we got married. Their father was always the best during his career. He was in the front line. He was very courageous. When I learned that he was a military officer my motivation for marrying him increased. Those in the army are good people. They serve their country. That’s why I admire them. So, when I found out that he was a serviceman I was persuaded to marry him. We’ve been living here since 1980 and we’ve been in Damascus for 40 years, that is, since 1973.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “We were 13 children and with our parents we were a family of 15 members; eight sons and five daughters.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “We were 13 children, without considering the sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. In Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha or any other occasions like Mother’s Day or the New Year, it was like a wedding when all members of the family gathered together.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Mr. President asked me, “Mother, how many sons do you have?” I answered, “I used to have 8 sons.” He asked, “How many daughters do you have?” I answered, “Five.” He said, “Bravo! Thirteen children! Our father was President and we were five children and we thought we were too many. How did you bring them up?” I said, “It was a difficult job. But God helped us. We tried hard. Thank God, our efforts paid off.””

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “We were a happy family though we were not well-off. But we did our best. Well, you know, too many little children. The life was difficult. The life with 13 children was even more difficult for our father.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “I have to say that handling such a big family was a daunting task, but the elder children took care of the younger ones. As for me, I was brought up by my brothers.”

We were friends. We quarreled with each other. We made it up. We ate with each other. We slept and woke up at the same place. It seemed as if we needed no friends from outside the home.

Though we were a big family we enjoyed a friendly atmosphere there. We were happy that we were a big family.

We were a happy family. It was difficult on occasions to gather all together because my sisters with their husbands and my brothers with their wives and children were too many to be gathered at the same place.

However, we were happy. We grew up properly. Though we didn’t have toys or had to wear hand-me-downs we were happy and we felt that the world was our oyster.

When my mother missed her children she would say, “I wish we could go back to the past and you all became kids against to be around me.”

Our home has a very friendly atmosphere. We enjoyed our friendly chat and laughed most of the time. Our home was filled with joy and happiness. Then, the crisis erupted.

This was the way we used to be before the crisis began. The events came as a big shock to the whole Syria, not just to our family or a specific area.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Even before the crisis, I expected my brother to spare no effort and sacrifice themselves to defend their country. They were noble people and had everything necessary to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ Friend: “Here is Abou Torabi Street. It used to be a safe street. The residents who have come from all provinces of Syria used to have a peaceful life here, as if they were all members of one family. When we were in the streets we felt safe. When there was a call for prayer, we were all happy. We were like a family. We were like brothers. We couldn’t imagine that someday terrorist groups like Takfiris and al-Qaeda would come here. When the terrorist groups came in and destroyed the country we couldn’t believe how we used to live and how we had to live.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “None of my brothers were in the military. At first sight, it seemed that it was not their duty to defend the country.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “None of the family members hesitated for a moment. They took up arms voluntarily. They all gave up their jobs to defend their country. At the beginning, they didn’t have weapons. The government hadn’t asked them to do so. Some of them gave up their jobs without asking for a leave of absence.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Unknown National Defense’s commander: “As the conflicts spilled over into the streets, the National Defense Force, with the help of the Syrian Army managed to push the armed groups back. Now, the National Defense Force consists mostly of employees, workers, craftsmen and some other fixed forces that have picked up weapons to defend this area, their families and honors against the terrorist groups.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Unknown man: “There was a violent conflict. The armed groups were much more than us in number. But with the help of God, we could defeat them and force them to retreat.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Our mothers showed resistance during the crisis and they didn’t tell their children not to join the army. On the contrary, they encouraged them to help the army. Our mothers always encouraged their children to defend the country. They dedicated their dear sons to the country. They set an example for other mothers in the country. Every mother is a school by herself, especially if she is a Martyrs’ mother. Such a mother is a school and a role model for all Syrian mothers.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “My aunt, Umm al-Ghiyas, has become a classic example of resistance. She’s illiterate. She cannot read or write. But I, a literate man, have learned many things from her.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “I said, “It’s not true if I tell you that I’m not anxious for them. Yes, I worry about them.” He asked, “Do you encourage them?” I answered, “Yes, I encourage them. I worry about them but we believe that no one dies before the destined time. So, I encouraged them.” I swear to God that every moment I was expecting to hear the news of their Martyrdom.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Let me tell you something. As the crisis began, I bought a black dress. We I went to my village at the seaside they asked me, “Why do you have a black dress on?” I said, “Because every moment I may hear the news of my brothers’ Martyrdom. Psychologically, we were completely prepared for those moments.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Some said, “How can you let your children go to the front line and why do you encourage them to do so? We cannot let our children go.” I said, “If I don’t let my children go and if you don’t let yours the enemy will attack us right away. No, I swear to God that I will encourage them.” Mahmoud had been wounded one month and a half before he was martyred. He had been wounded in the head. With his head bandaged he continued fighting against the armed groups. I told him, “Dear son, your wound will get infected. Dress it up and take your pill.” He said, “Dear mother! I swear to God that I cannot sit back and relax.” I swear to God that they fought even when they were wounded.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Mahmoud was the “wise” brother at home. I used to get upset when I heard the news of others’ Martyrdom. But when my brother was martyred and I experienced it personally I found that a very difficult experience. It’s too hard to lose you dearest. Brothers are very lovely.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ Friend: “When we were informed of Mahmoud’s Martyrdom, we got sad that we lost him but we were happy that he was martyred. When we visited Umm al-Ghiyas to offer our condolences we got surprised to see her with high morale.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “In such cases, mothers usually cry. But thank God, my mother has deep religious faith. He wept and said, “Thank God!” He said, “You departed this life, my dear. Thank God! You departed, my wise boy. Thank God!””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Thank God! We thank God for everything.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “Mahmoud was a generous, courageous man.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Unknown National Defense’s commander: “Mahmoud was Martyred while he was trying to save his brother, Abbas; a scene where one brother sacrificed himself for his own brother. Abbas was standing in front of the terrorists saying, “Allah alone is enough for us”.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “My brother was the first Martyrs’ in the family. Before he was Martyred he kept saying, “Take care of Abbas. He will be martyred. He does unusual things and goes dangerous places.””

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Vadda Isa, Martyrs’ Abbas’s Wife: “I used to ask him, “If something happens to you, what shall we do?” He said, “God will never let you alone.” He used to tell us this sentence.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “One day, I asked Abbas, “How are things going on?” He said, “Everything’s fine, mother. Thank God!” I said, “May He help you win the war.” I always boosted their morale. I said, “Go ahead. With God’s help you and the military will win the war.” He said, “Yes, God willingly. There’s no doubt about it.” My sons had high morale.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Abbas said, “What deeply affected me was to bury my brother’s body with my own hands while it was still bleeding.” When he said this we all burst into tears. Abbas was very kind. All of them were very nice and kind. What I’m going to say is that what they said about each other.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Vadda Isa, Martyrs’ Abbas’s Wife: “Whenever I saw him and his fellow combatants sent on difficult missions it crossed my mind that whether the day would come. I always tried to keep that though away saying to myself, “No, he will be with us. He shouldn’t leave us.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Whenever Abbas went on a mission I felt that I would never see him again. Every day, I used to talk to him on the phone. My husband said, “You talk to Abbas a lot.” I said, “I feel that he’s leaving us. I want to talk to him as much as I can when he is still among us.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “When he said goodbye to us I really thought that I attended his funeral. He was a living Martyrs’. He was a Martyrs’ since the beginning of the crisis.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “40 days after Mahmoud’s Martyrdom I went to Abbas. This time, I felt that I would never see him again. I stared hard at him. I wanted him to stay there with me.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Vadda Isa, Martyrs’ Abbas’s Wife: “I always felt that Abbas was trying to give the responsibilities to our son. He taught him some jobs. He taught him driving. I told him, “He’s too small to drive.” He said, “No, let him learn driving. He must take on more responsibility. He has to take care of you when I’m not here.” As if he knew what was going to happen. He planned for the future. He knew what fate awaited him. He always said, “Don’t worry. When I’m not at home, my son is. He’s a man of family. He takes care of his sister and brother. He takes cares of you.” He always reminded us of this point. He made us prepared step by step that some day he wouldn’t be with us any longer.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Hai Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ Daughter: “As if he had felt something. He wanted to call his father. He was anxious for him.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmmud Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ son: “The last time was before his father was martyred in Darya. He came up to us and took us to a restaurant. It was dark. He came and took us to a restaurant and said, “I threw a party to celebrate my Martyrdom.” We got sad as he said that. The next day, early in the morning I kissed his hand and said goodbye to him. I felt that I would never see him again. He said, “Just pray for me.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Hai Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ Daughter: “Take care, my dear father.

Have a nice journey, the apple of my eye.

O you who are my world.

Who is going to take care of us after you, the apple of my eye?

Take care, my dear father.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Thank God!”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Abbas could have survived. His commanders told him to retreat. They told him to retreat because many were martyred. Abbas answered, “Around me are many Martyrs’ and wounded combatants. I cannot retreat. There are many wounded here. I cannot leave them alone and return.””

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “When my cousins were Martyred, Abbas told me, “What a splendid funeral. What if I was martyred instead of them?” He really wanted to be like them.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “My sister, Sana, was the last one who talked to Abbas before his Martyrdom. Abbas and Sana liked each other very much. At the very last moments, Sana called Abbas saying, “Dear Abbas, I really worry about you. What has happened?” Abbas answered that he would call her later. Sana told him, “Please tell me what’s going on there? Are you fine? I can hear shots.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “Abbas answered, “What are you afraid of? We will die sooner or later. What’s wrong with it? My friends were killed. We will also be killed.” I got disconcerted and didn’t tell him anything. Though I believed deep in my heart in what they were doing I couldn’t help worrying about them.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “I have never envied anyone in my life except Abbas. I envy him his Martyrdom and good reputation. I hope that I will be martyred as well when the time comes.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “When I got home, I felt home reigned with grief and sadness. I saw the neighbors downstairs. I saw a crowd gathered at home. It was a strange scene I was unfamiliar with. Well, you cannot hide sadness and grief. As I reached the staircase I saw mother saying, “Abbas left.” It was a real shock to hear that Abbas was martyred.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “The day Mahmoud was martyred we found out that Abbas was wounded. When we heard the news of Abbas’s Martyrdom we were informed within ten minutes that Yareb had been martyred as well. Abbas’s body was brought back but Yareb’s wasn’t. His body is still kept by the armed groups.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “They couldn’t bring back Yareb’s body because the armed groups took it. But this issue never lowered my aunt’s morale. Umm al-Ghiyas feel that whenever she goes in Syria her son’s grave is there. She never complained about this issue.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “When I got home, I just looked at my mother’s face. I wanted to know how her face looked like after all those sufferings. I felt that God had given her patience. If God likes somebody, He gives them patience. I learned patience from my mother. When I saw her I calmed down. I saw her weeping silently. She was deeply sorrowing but she kept thanking God. She said, “God gives and He himself takes.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “A blow that doesn’t break one’s backbone makes him stronger. And the blow didn’t break our backbone.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “It’s quite natural that when children were killed their father’s heart broke. But he took pride in them though he was very sad. He took pride in their martyrdom. He knew that they would be martyred. He told them, “I know you. You are men, in the real sense of the term.”

Their father died two months later. That is, he died two months after three of his children were martyred. God have mercy on his soul.

I said, “God! I only seek help from you. I give up myself to your decision. I’m shouldering a heavy burden. Help me. O God, I’m weak. Help me. I’m shouldering a heavy burden. Give me patience. And He did.

They told us, “Umm al-Ghiyas, your sons were courageous and did many important things. It’s enough. I said, “I have promised God and my children.” Since the beginning of the crisis I’ve never told my son not to go. I only encourage them. I swear to God that if I had only one son left I would encourage him to continue his brothers’ way. Here is our homeland. Here is our country and the people must remain free in the country and live free there.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “My aunt has still a few sons left. She even encourages them. Well, it’s natural if we say that it’s enough and they must stay here and take care of their brothers’ children. But my aunt says, “Don’t prevent them from going. The country needs them. Our homeland is worth more than that. If all mothers don’t let their children go to the front line, who shall defend the country?””

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “Ammar’s wife told me, “Mother, Ammar wants to go too. He’s very determined.” I said, “Don’t worry, dear. No one dies before the destined time.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Unknown national commander voice: “After his brothers were martyred, Ammar became a father figure to us.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “Ammar was the last one in the family who was martyred. Ammar was the saddest one in the family after their brothers’ Martyrdom. The point that no one knows is that I saw him put his picture beside the pictures of his three Martyred brothers. At the bottom of the picture he had written, “Martyrs’ Ammar Al-Abbas.” And the picture is still there. That was why we didn’t get very sad after his Martyrdom because we were prepared for that.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ friend: “Ammar was an example of courage and all his friends and fellow combatants in the region have something to tell about his courage. He was really a great man. When my brother, Hosham, was Martyred, Ammar supported me like a brother.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Leila Al- Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “One night before his Martyrs’dom – which was one night before Eid Al-Adha – he was with his friends when they heard the news that some wanted to set off a bomb in a mosque where the prayer for Eid was to be held.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ friend: “This is Abuzar Ghaffari Mosque. In Eid al-Adha we were all in the alleys. A man came up to us and said that a bomb had been placed in a canister in the mosque. He said that the bomb was placed there with a cover on it. Ammar rushed to pick the bomb up before it hurt the people praying in the mosque. As he picked it up he heard a sound. When he heard the sound, he put the bomb on his chest. Suddenly, the bomb went off.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “What we haven’t understood yet is that how Takfiri’s way of thinking entered Syria. We never have tribal classification in Syria. We all belonged to one single tribe and that was Syria.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ friend: “Ammar was the fourth Martyrs’ in the family. He was a real man. We must call him the Martyrs’ of religion and country. It was he who picked the bomb up and took it away to prevent it from going off in the mosque. He sacrificed his life to save his fellow combatants and the people praying in the mosque.

His last looks were very meaningful. They were filled with joy because he wanted to join his Martyrs’ed brothers. With his heroic deed, Ammar did Syria proud. He sacrificed himself to prevent a disaster.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “When Ammar was Martyrs’ed, I felt it, though I was not there. It was 6:30 am that I woke up. I needed water. I wanted to turn the water pump on but it was out of order. I went inside to see if water had come or not. Suddenly, I saw Ammar before my eyes. I wanted to call him right then. But I changed my mind. It was 6 in the morning and I didn’t want to make him worry. But then I thought that I had to call him. I felt it in my bones that something was going to happen. I had to call Ammar.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “My aunt is suffering from different diseases like diabetes, blood pressure etc. And like others, I was anxious for her not to lose her composure. I wondered what I could do to console her. Then I realized that I had to learn patience from her.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Bashar Isa, Martyrs’ friend: “It was a daunting task to tell Umm al-Ghiyas that Ammar had been martyred. As soon as we told her, “Ammar …” she interrupted us and said, “… was martyred.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “When I saw him, I raised my hands this way. He said, “Don’t worry, dear aunt. It’s no big deal. It’s OK.”

He said, “I heard the news of his martyrdom at 5 but no one dared to tell you.” I didn’t let him tell me the news because I knew it before.

He said, “Dear aunt, it’s no big deal. Ammar has been slightly wounded.” I said, “No Aburiad! Ammar has been martyred.” He denied it but I knew that my son had been martyred.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “In Eid al-Adha, I heard from her things never more beautiful. She said, “Today is Eid al-Adha (festival of the sacrifice) and I sacrificed my son for the country.” And of course, it was her fourth child martyred. She said, “I have still sons left. The country is worth more than that.” Hearing her saying such things I couldn’t control myself and burst into tears.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “I know that I have lost my sons, my most precious property, but I take pride in them. I know that my sons have been martyred but God has given me the best thing I had asked. He gave me patience. Whatever happened I asked God to give me patience. And He answered my prayer and gave me patience. There are many pure people around me that pray for me and ask God to give me patience. Thank God!”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Muhammad Khazem, Martyrs’ Cousin: “I felt I was standing before a great mountain. She boosted our morale. She kept saying “Thank God! Thank God! God gave and God took.””

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Conversation between Umm Al-Ghiyas & Bashar Isa: “-How are you, mother? Are you fine?

-Thank God. I’m fine. Thank you.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “I walk quickly. Go and get the stuffs, Leila. Look. Here is Muhammad. Sometimes, I think about different stages in the lives of my children. From their childhood until they left me: Childhood, adolescence, when they grew, their marriage, when my first grandchildren were born …Sometimes, I call my grandchildren and daughters-in-law. I feel they are as heartbroken as I am. When I talk to them they feel better and get happy. Dear Muhammad, how much you look like Abbas. Whenever I see you I feel I see Abbas. You look like Abbas. My dear Abbas. Salute to you. Hi dears. It’s a long time I haven’t visited you.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_38:39

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Umm Al-Ghiyas, Martyrs’ Mother: “God willingly, your blood will pay off. Thanks to your blood, Syria will win the war. God have mercy on your souls.

God have a mercy on your soul. I loved you very much.

Welcome!

Come here! Come on!

Dear Ibrahim, come here!”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Vadda Isa, Martyrs’ Abbas’s Wife: “I’m sad because I’ve lost my dearest but she has lost her husband and four of her sons and she’s very distraught. She is my mother. I never regard her as my mother-in-law. She is my mother and I take pride in her. She is our role model. As I said a mother is a school. When a mother is of great character she hides her sorrow not matter how great it may be. She acts like this to show that she’s still strong though she has lost her sons. It’s a great lesson to the whole world.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Sana Al-Abbas, Martyrs’ sister: “What matters here, are not the family’s sorrows. What matters here is the country. What matters here is Syria. Nothing else matters.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Children’s voice: “O children of the world! We are talking to you from the country of freedom, from Syria. We grew up with you and no one is greater than us. O children of the world! Don’t forget helpless children in an occupied country. And don’t forget any tears …”

   

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