I remember the day the army arrived in our village of Maar Tahroma as if it was yesterday, although it was six long years ago.
We woke up to the news that they were close and were terrified; the word army alone used to terrify us, never mind the prospect of them on our doorstep.
The villagers agreed that the men should leave and women and children stay on, so as not to leave Maar Tahroma totally abandoned. If the men all left, we reasoned, the army might be merciful towards a village containing only women and children.
Or at least that’s what we thought.
I remember how we sat in our house, my mother, my sisters, my little brother and I, our hearts filled with fear. We heard heavy gunfire and the sound of artillery moving through the streets of the village.
The regime’s soldiers and officers took up positions at several points across the village, then started raiding and searching homes.
They carried lists of wanted people with them, so-called terrorists whose only crime had been to demand freedom. The soldiers were accompanied by informants from the village, who now had no shame appearing in front of everyone in broad daylight.
When it was our turn to be searched, they entered our house very aggressively and messed up all our possessions. We could do nothing to stop them. My father was on their wanted list, but he had fled with all the others. His crime was to join the protests demanding freedom and the end of the regime.
An officer began screaming to frighten us.
“Who do you know from the villagers who go to the demonstrations? Do you want freedom like them?” he shouted. We stayed silent.
After they searched the house and failed to find my father, they moved on to his shop. There, they found his car. This was central to his livelihood, the only way he had to support all of us.
They started talking amongst themselves and it seemed that they fancied the car and were planning to take it.
They asked my mother for the key to the car, but she refused to give it to them. She thought they would be deterred and leave, but instead they broke open the car door and took it anyway.
They said it was what my father “the terrorist” deserved. My little brother was crying and we all begged them to leave the car but in vain.
They told us that my father could simply go and claim the car back; obviously they wanted to ambush and arrest him if he did so.
A few days later my father returned home. I can never forget his reaction when we told him about the theft of his car. It was everything we had.
Since then we’ve realized that this corrupt regime is a thief by its very nature, and we became accustomed to both moral and material loss. We hope that the revolution wins and that we get back what we have lost.
Shahd al-Omari, who lives in the Idlib countryside, was a second year arts student at the University of Idlib but was unable to complete her studies because of the security situation in the country.