The streets of the Syrian city of Homs are quiet today, two days after Syrian forces opened fire on protesters early Tuesday morning. At least two people were killed during the clash in the city's main square. A resident of Homs, who asked us to identify her only as “Nadia,” says she witnessed the events firsthand. We spoke to her about the crackdown and its aftermath. As the audio recording of our conversation is of poor quality, further below also please find a written accounting of the events as provided to us by “Nadia.” The text was shortened by one paragraph, but is otherwise published as it was received.
"Nadia" speaks to VOA's Cecily Hilleary:
First of all I promise you that everything I will write is 100% true. I will only write to you the things that I am completely sure of and the things I saw by my eyes. I am not going to include the things that people are assuming or gossiping about, it’s going to be true facts only.
April 18 2011:
This was the day of the protest. During noon and before the protest, the people prayed for their casualties in one of the biggest mosques in the city. After the prayer, there was a march to the cemetery. After they were done burying the casualties, they all marched again to one of the biggest squares in the city (now named by us as freedom square). That’s when the protest started & it was about two o’clock in the afternoon.
People started gathering over there. They all sat peacefully with no violence or weapons. I went there about 6:30 P.M. There were children, men and women, young & old, from all ages, religions and areas in the protest. There were about 30,000 protestors. Everything was very organized. There were committees with different duties. Some were responsible of protecting the women, where they surrounded the women to make sure that no one attacks them in case the security forces break in. Others were responsible of cleaning and picking up the garbage to keep the place clean. Also we had people in charge of all the entrances to the square; men made three checking points at each gate to make sure that no one enters with any violent weapons ; in addition to that they were checking the personal ID of each one to make sure no government gangsters enter.
In addition to that there were people distributing free food and water to the protestors. There were some signs, but I can’t fully translate what was written so I will simply give you the meanings:‘ freedom, media freedom, releasing all the imprisoned people especially the young ones, changing the regime, allowing international journalists to enter the country, ending the Syrian media lies, we are peaceful, Muslims & Christians are together one hand united for freedom, saluting the casualties, we are against religious divisions, all the Syrian people are one hand.. ‘ . That’s mainly what was being said over there. Women also were holding candles to prove how peaceful we are, unlike what the Syrian media is saying about us that we are only ‘a bunch of gangsters’.
At around 8 o’clock, the security forces started threatening us that if we don’t leave they were going to shoot us. No one obeyed them & we stayed in our sit-in. We kept on receiving threatening warnings that we should leave, but the protestors stayed.
At 1:50 A.M. (during this time the number of protestors was less, they were about 5,000 only - people went at night and they were coming back the next day-) while the protestors were sitting peacefully, a messenger from the security force said that we have only half an hour to leave or else they will start shooting. At this point, the organizers along with some men of religion said that it is safer and better if we leave for they were worried about the children and women. At this point only men were left in the square.
The security forces were surrounding the whole area, and of course they were hiding behind buildings for they were too scared to face the protestors. They claimed they were going to give us half an hour to leave, but five minutes later they started shooting live bullets everywhere. The protestors started running and rushing to protect each other. They also tried to take all the injured ones & the casualties to give them medical care. If they didn’t do that, then the security forces will take the casualties to hide them, & the injured to prison without any medical care.
Some of the protestors couldn’t be saved, so the security forces took them even though they were injured. Now we don’t know anything about them. More than 20 casualties in addition to injured were on the floor. We only knew the names of six of them, but the rest are still missing and arrested, and we don’t know anything about them. One more thing I forgot to tell you about is before they started the sit-in, everyone declared his solidarity with the casualties. All shops and businesses are going to be shut for 3 days (April 18 to April 20) except pharmacies & food places….
Now I will tell you what happened the next day:
April 19 2011:
There were 4 casualties whose names were known & were buried after people prayed for them. After the prayer & during the march to the cemetery, security forces also shot people with live bullets & so far we know that two people were killed. The protest square was stuffed with armed security forces all over the corners so that they don’t allow any protesters to come back. The streets are quiet and calm. People are all home not because the government doesn’t allow us to go out, but because the whole city is shut down for the solidarity I previously told you about.
There was also a protest in Damascus. The medicine students wore their white robes & stood quietly (around 50 students) on campus. Suddenly and out of nowhere, security forces came. They were brutally hitting them using many types of weapons. Then they arrested many of them. There were many actions, demonstrations, and protests on this day all over Syria.
I would like to note to something that when people are being arrested during the demonstrations & protests, they are being tortured to death, and then thrown dead in front of their houses. One of their brutal torturing ways is to remove people’s nails!! They also arrest people from all ages such as 4th graders (in the city of Daraa), old men, teenagers…
All their actions are against human rights.”
Syrian authorities are blaming the unrest in the country on terror groups. Quoting officials, the Syrian government press agency, SANA, has reported that investigations have shown that “acts of vandalism and murder” are being perpetrated by “fanatical armed terrorist groups that are carrying out external agendas, and are not interested in reform or developing society.”