Supporters of the revolution against the Assad regime take stock of the toll the war has taken nine years after it started.
Fared Alhor from Maarat al Nouman is 26 years old and has known nothing but war for the entirety of his adult life.
He was in high school before the Syrian uprising started, and had a part time job helping out with local publishing companies.
That experience would later come in handy by photographing the atrocities carried out by the Assad regime and the resulting humanitarian crisis in northern Syria.
Alhor has more than skin in the game when it comes to the conflict, having had his home destroyed in regime bombardments. He lost his aunt, and was forced to flee for the relative safety of north east Idlib when regime forces took his hometown.
Maarat al Nouman was recently captured from Syrian opposition fighters by regime forces backed by heavy bombardment from Russian warplanes.
Despite the toll the war has had, however, Alhor has no regrets about the uprising.
“Many people won’t understand why I say the Syrian uprising was worth it,” he said.
“Even though I was young when it kicked off, I am very privileged that I got to live through it.
“It made us young people understand the meaning of freedom and equality…something that did not exist before.”
Alhor believes that there will one day be peace in Syria but not in the foreseeable future. He believes the lack of international support for the revolution is the main reason why the regime of Bashar al Assad remains.
In 2015, Russia officially intervened in the Syrian civil war to support Syria's Bashar al Assad. Over the last five years, Syrian civilians have paid a heavy cost. Here's how pic.twitter.com/QxSlQwGJqd— TRT World (@trtworld) March 3, 2020
“The international community bears a large responsibility towards what’s happening in our country,” Alhor said.
“They turned a blind eye towards the relentless regime attacks against people, schools, hospitals, and even camps for the displaced.”
‘Seed of freedom’
While youths like Alhor have no regrets over the uprising, there’s no escaping the impact the war has had on their development.
Many Syrians have spent their formative years knowing nothing but war, at the expense of experiencing the kind of things other young people around the world get to experience.
Nazir Abbas, a 27-year-old human rights activist from Kafranbel, which was recently lost to regime forces, rued the years of his life lost to war.
“I have lost a decade of my life,” he told TRT World from a camp for the displaced near the border with Turkey.
“I should have had a family by now and enjoyed spending my youth with family and friends in our hometown.”
Unlike Alhor, Abbas is not optimistic about the future, admitting that the future is not ‘very bright’.
But like his compatriot, Abbas has no regrets about the Syrian revolution.
“We’ve grown up from within...the seed of freedom is ten years old now and it will continue to grow and thrive within us and in the generations to come.
“What keeps me strong is the hope that the Baath regime will be dismantled.”
The war in Syria has left more than 500,000 people dead and led to the displacement of more than 11 million people, including six million as refugees outside of the country.
Nevertheless, Syrians have stressed to TRT World that while the moment of physical freedom from the Assad regime appears distant at the moment, mentally there will be no return to life under dictatorship.
Sanaa al Ali, a 30-year-old mother who fled from Ghouta to northern Idlib said the past nine years of revolution have been as if she was born again.
“After a lifetime of having to churp praise for the ‘eternal leader’, Syrians have gone out and said no (we won’t),” she said.
Adding: “The revolution was the first time we heard our own voice, and we will never abandon it or give up our cause, no matter what.”
To further explain this mindset, Ali described what life was like under Assad’s Syria. She recalled how parents would remind their children not to say anything sensitive too loud for fear of being heard by the state surveillance apparatus.
“Whisper, the walls have ears,” she remembers her parents warning. Now, however, the “kingdom of fear has crumbled,” she added.
A theme that ran across the conversations TRT World had with the Syrians was that any notion of Assad winning the conflict were premature and pyrrhic.
Ali described the notion as an illusion, arguing that Syria had changed forever and would never fully be in control of the regime.
That - she insisted- was because Assad was fighting for territory while for Syrians it was a battle of ideas.
“We need to understand and restate that the essence of Assad’s battles against Syrians is a battle against an idea, the idea of freedom that we need to continue spreading,” Ali said.
“The revolt is an idea, and ideas do not die.”