As usual, we were up all night to film and upload all the pictures and videos of the shelling, destruction, the injured, and the martyrs.
During the several days that the Assad army was shelling the media office, international journalist Mary Colvin arrived, with another journalist, Paul, whom we called “Abu Mrks” and Javier. They all arrived to Baba Amer that night through the tunnel that the revolutionaries use, which is 3700 meters in length and 140 cm in height.
These journalists lived with us through the days of shelling and through all the difficulties that we faced. They visited the wounded and the bunkers, attended funerals of the martyrs, and they conveyed the news to the world minute by minute on the internet and news outlets.
Two days after they arrived, we advised them to leave the area, because it became too dangerous, due to the increased intensity of the shelling by the Assad regime. It was obvious that there were no other safe places in Baba Amer. The mortars were falling like rain drops all over the neighborhood.
Mary and her friends left Baba Amer through the tunnel, but to our surprise, came back the next day and said “We have not finished our mission yet”.
The last night:
Another team joined Mary Colvin at 4:00 AM. That team included Edith, Rime, Oshleik, and a producer from Damascus. There were only two rooms: a small one and a bigger one (the one closer to the door). Everyone went to sleep using both rooms, except the activists who are supposed to continue the coverage through live stream.
Morning came more quiet than the usual – the shelling less intense – up till 7:30 a.m.. At that moment, a young activist came to me and gave me some video clips of the martyr, Rami, who had just passed. I told him not to leave because the shelling just started. He replied “Whatever Allah has written in our books will happen no matter what.” I did not know that his departure of the area had saved his life.
A few minutes later, 2 rockets hit the roof of the building. Everyone woke up panicking. When this happened, I was on Skype talking to Omar Shaker, another activist who was outside the neighborhood, recording the conversation.
We decided to evacuate the building to the opposite direction of the shelling source (the dorms area).
The journalists started picking up their belongings, so we said: “We have to leave everything and go now”. They were a little late in leaving, it took some time for them to wear their head gear and pick up their belongings, while the shelling continued. The first one to leave was Javier, he left with the head of the media office to the opposite direction. They were followed by Mary Calvin, Rime, and Oshleek. As soon as they reached the main door, the rocket that killed them was dropped at the exact spot where they were standing. It was likely dropped by a Helicopter or an army jet, since the building was surrounded by many 3-4 story buildings.
The Rocket caused a 1-1.5 meter hole in the ground, as well as shrapnel from the door and rocks from the wall and the side walk. All of the journalists who were in that area were injured.
At that moment, I was blinded with foggy layers of dust and smoke; I was not able to see any of them in the opposite corner. Everyone was very scared and in state of shock and panic. I heard the journalists screaming in pain, while my friend Omar Shaker was still recording our conversation. He kept asking what was going on. He heard all the shelling and the commotion.
After the debris started to settle down, I got up. Next to me was Abu Bakr. We started walking towards the building, and the first thing I saw was the bodies of Mary Colvin and Remi, I kept walking towards the other direction with two of my colleagues. One of them was injured and moving slowly. At that time, Abu Bakr was thinking of moving Abu Mark who kept saying leave to leave him and go to safety.
The truth is, Abu Bakr was thinking about leaving him and running away, but, he decided to carry him to the next room where all the other journalists were evacuated to.
The sound of the mortars did not stop, it was a constant shelling, one of the young men called the Free Syrian army, whose mission was to save the injured. Abu Bakr helped with carrying Edith to the ambulance that was driven by the FSA. They were transferred to the field hospital, which was attended by Dr Muhammad Muhammad and Dr Aki Hazzori. We took away the SIM cards from the journalists’ mobile phones. One of the heroes took a video of the bodies of Mary and Remi and of the destruction that took place. With all of this destruction, the satellite dish we were using to convey the news was not affected, but we were able to upload the videos a few minutes later.
As usual, the hero, Khaled Abu Salah, came to the location. We will never forget the tears in his eyes. He was extremely happy to see us alive, and he also took some pictures and videos of the area.
I will never forget Mary Colvin, the tall journalist who came to us from the same tunnel we use to move around. I will never forget how, with all the difficulties we faced passing this tunnel, she, as an elder lady, was willing to pass it to cover the truth from inside Baba Amer. I will never forget the kind smile she had upon her face.
On that cruel and bitter day, we lost our new friends, and the journalists who came to convey the truth and show the crimes of Assad to the world.
That day passed without moving the world to do something, or to save us, or save the rest of the wounded journalists.
The world was not able to enforce the entrance of the Red Cross to the neighborhood, which was a request for journalists.
4 Red Crescent cars entered the neighborhood, but the journalists refused to go with them, because those were controlled by the illegitimate Syrian regime that killed the people of Syria.
In the end, we were able to evacuate the wounded by members of the media Office. The heroic rebels of Baba Amr, and the Farouq Battalion moved them to Lebanon.
Edith was evacuated to France. She was greeted by the French President, Sarkozy, who thanked Russia for its assistance in the evacuation of journalists.
But the important question here is: What did Sarkozy do to help evacuating them?
Perhaps the most surprising thing that day to me was the bravery and the honesty of the journalists William, Daniel and Javier who were very easily able to leave without rest the injured, but they refused and insisted to get out with all the injured, either alive or as martyrs.
I was worried about the filmmaker, who was with us and suffered minor injuries, who went back with his friends to Baba Amr.
Abu Bakr, Hussein and Abu Raed were among the young men who went with the foreign journalists to help them get through the long, dark tunnel.
The tunnel had been hit several times, making it very difficult to pass through.
In the meantime, while we were trying to run away, we were ambushed by the Assad army at the end of the tunnel. The Free Syrian Army arrived, and there was a clash between them and the Assad army. Some of the people coming out of the tunnel were evacuated before the clash took place. Javier then came out during the battle, and had been severely wounded and could not even carry his own equipment or camera through the tunnel. Javier, even with his injuries, was able to help free two men from the army who had been shot it was one of the most noble thing I have ever seen in my life.
We were not able to receive any information about Javier until twenty-four hours later. We were searching for him, and finally we found him safe. Javier was the savoir and the hero.
When we found Javier, he smiled and said, “If you are terrorists, then I am the number one terrorist in Syria, and if you heroes are Salafis, then I am the Sheik of Salafi’s. You are the brave and courageous rebels of Syria.” These were the words of Javier, before calling and reassuring his wife, Monica of his and our safety.
After that night, we suffered many losses, martyrs and wounded from the Free Syrian Army who took it upon themselves to save the journalists, sacrificing their own lives.
That bloody night was to be remembered forever. That was the night when those journalists showed amazing courage and dignity, and resilience to convey the truth – scarificing their own lives. Also to be remembered was the amazing courage of the Free Syrian army and the heroes of Baba Amer, who also sacrificed their own lives to save the journalists.
After that night, the tunnel was finally totally destroyed by the Syrian regime and was unusable.
The first time of the bombing of the Media Office :
The bombing of the Media Office with journalists :