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World

Syrian Family May Have To Move Again To Escape Government Forces

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The war in Syria may be reaching a decisive chapter. There was of course the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. There was the fight against ISIS. Now we're into what could be a final stage. Hundreds of thousands of people who oppose the government are holed up in the northwest of the country, hemmed in by pro-Assad forces. One of them is Abdul Kafi Alhamdo.

He's an English teacher who lives in a rural village in northwest Syria, in one of the last rebel-held regions of this country. He moved there in 2016 with his wife and infant daughter after they evacuated from the city of Aleppo. For now, his life is safer than it was in Aleppo. He told me that his daughter likes to join him on these trips to a local market.

ABDUL KAFI ALHAMDO: That place, it's the most favorite place for my daughter. I mean, she sees a lot of people walking, laughing, speaking and noise. So my daughter - whenever I want to go to market, she wanted always to go with me.

GREENE: But now government forces have been getting closer and closer. And earlier this month, the market where Abdul Kafi's daughter likes to go was bombed.

ALHAMDO: When I arrived there, I couldn't know that place because everything - every shop was destroyed. People are under the rubble crying. People are running, asking about their relatives. Did you see my son? Did you see my daughter? Did you see my father? And I was just shocked. I was looking at those people without knowing what to say.

GREENE: That was in November. Where - have you moved to a different place since then?

ALHAMDO: No, I couldn't. Here in the countryside of Aleppo and Idlib and (unintelligible), it's crowded places now. I mean, you meet all people displaced from other towns and cities came to this area - from Darayya, from Damascus, from Wadi Barada, Homs, Hama, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo city like me. All those people came here. And here - when you have house, you are lucky man, I mean, because not enough houses for all those people.

GREENE: How did you get a house for your family?

ALHAMDO: Just you ask people. Here - I mean, you ask your friends, your students, your teachers, your colleagues. You ask them, they will tell you if there is a house. I mean, I dont know about the houses in America, of course. But just imagine that in Syria, in war and in this situation, some houses might be $300. Of course, here, people cannot get - most people, I mean, cannot get $50 at most. Just imagine that some houses are $300 a month.

GREENE: Is that - was that your daughter in the background?

ALHAMDO: Yes. She just got up, and she's crying. She wants to eat something - I don't know - maybe just some biscuits.

GREENE: How old is she?

ALHAMDO: In February, she will be 2 years.

GREENE: OK. So it's almost birthday time.

ALHAMDO: Yeah, exactly. I hope that I can make birthday for her. I hope that we will be here in our house. I hope that we don't have to move to another place because the bombing is now closer.

GREENE: How often do you hear the bombing?

ALHAMDO: Here in Syria, when there is a day without bombing, this is unusual day. The usual day, it's that everything - always, they are bombing. Today, just - there was a bomb maybe 1 kilometer away. But now, in comparison with Aleppo, this is paradise.

GREENE: Oh, it's paradise compared to what you went through in Aleppo.

ALHAMDO: I mean, when you - when you hear just one bombing or two bombings a day, it's paradise.

GREENE: You said that you're hoping that you don't have to leave before your daughter's birthday. What are you worried about?

ALHAMDO: Here, just - you have to know this - that people are tired financially, are tired psychologically, are tired mentally, are tired even physically. People in the liberated areas, most of them - as I told you - are refugees. So people are worried of more, now, displacement, more fear in the future because they don't know where they might go if the Syrian regime advanced more. No other place to go - you know that Idlib city now and Idlib countryside and Aleppo countryside is the last place people can go to.

Every time my wife asks me, where should we go, Abdul Kafi? What should we do? How can we have some money if we have to move away? These questions are repeated by everyone in this area. Just imagine - about 3.5 million living in this area are worried about this issue, about displacement. But where? Really, we don't know. Most people cannot go to the Syrian regime. For me, it's a favor for me if I am killed than to go to the Syrian regime area.

GREENE: Did you say it's a favor for you if you're killed?

ALHAMDO: Yeah. I mean, in comparison with being arrested by Syrian regime because what happens in Syrian regime prisons cannot be stood, cannot be endured by anyone. The Syrian regime prison is worse than hell, is worse than death itself.

GREENE: What is your best hope right now?

ALHAMDO: We need something to stop the bombing, something to get Assad away of his position and living as a free people. I want - we want to live in peace. We're tired. People are tired.

Every now and then, yeah, Syrian regime might advance more to my village. I will flee with my family to save my family's lives. I will go to the border. I don't know what I might do next. But of course, we have to save our families' lives. And we hope that something can be done to - yeah, to keep them alive because, really, it's tiring. It's tiring to think a lot about their safety. I mean, this is a heavy burden. I mean, you might pass away, but thinking about your family is difficult. This is not only me but all families here.

GREENE: Well, thank you for telling us your story. We'll be thinking about you and your family.

ALHAMDO: Thank you. Thank you very much.

GREENE: Take care. I hope we get to talk to you again.

ALHAMDO: Hope that. In a better situation, hope that.

GREENE: Yes, I agree with that.

ALHAMDO: Thank you. Goodbye.

(SOUNDBITE OF BERSARIN QUARTETT'S "VERFLOSSEN IST DIS GOLD DER TAGE")

GREENE: That was Abdul Kafi Alhamdo. He is an English teacher in northwest Syria. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.