Damascus is one of the oldest cities to exist in the world. It’s ruins testament to the different civilisations that had existed there, from the Greeks to the Romans, the Christians and Muslims. What once was a centre of a flourishing craft industry, specializing in swords and lace now lays war torn. Dr Rebecca Masterton travelled to Syria with Ahlulbayt TV for her third time, the past two other times having been before the conflict had broken out. Her intention was to go and document the effects of war on the areas of Sayyidah Ruqayya and Sayyidah Zainab.
The journey into Syria ran smoothly besides a long and thorough security check between borders and as they made their way further into Damascus, evidence of bombings could be seen as well as blocked off roads to the holy shrine of Sayyidah Zainab. After settling into a hotel and refreshing themselves, the team made their way towards the ziyarat of Sayyidah Ruqayya. It was apparent, as they walked through the bustling streets of Damascus, that even in a war town, normal day to day life must still continue.
As they come to the door step of Sayyidah Ruqayya and crossed the thresh hold, there was an overwhelming sense of heart warming serenity and peace that only the family of the Ahlulbayt could be responsible for. As if they provide a safe bubble in a world of turmoil, a feeling Rebecca describes as coming home. The shrine was exactly the same as it was before, a clear sign to all those who doubt, no matter what goes on in the world, the remembrance of the Ahlulbayt will forever stay strong and unenterable.
They then left the shrine, taking a moment to soak in it’s beauty before heading to meet with Hajir Samir. He was the head of an orphanage named after the daughter of Imam Hussain that was affiliated with the shrine. He showed them different classes of orphans sitting together in groups who’s curiosity was spiked as to who these strangers coming to see them were.
These children were looked after both physically and psychologically as some of them had suffered through the traumatic experience of having seen their parents killed, and some of them, their whole families. Sister Zahra looked after those children with cases of greater difficulty.
Cases where children had lost all sense of compassion due to having seen their father being slaughtered in front of them. They used many exercises in order to help these children get better and recognise their potential to build further from where they are now. Sayyidah Ruqayya being the perfect example of someone they can relate to and thus grow a closer relationship with, seeking her help to improve.
As well as this, their medical and social needs are also looked after. ‘Let me make something clear,’ He begins. ‘We are servants to these orphans. We are trying to be of use to Sayyidah Ruqayya and the Ahlulbayt.’ Inspirational words.
They talk to the orphans hearing of how their own personal heart-breaking stories, but also of how they no longer feel so alone now that thy are in the orphanage.
Later they attempt to visit the shrine, noticing that the level of security had enhanced greatly since last time. The main road usually used to get there, once neatly filled with shops and restaurants, now held nothing but rubble. Evidence of destruction and intense fighting. The shrine, however, looked untouched, a gem on the horizon. They had an interview with the head of the shrine who told them in great detail the changes and impact the war has caused.
After this they visited the graveyard that held the sacred heads of the holy martyrs of Karbala. It is believed that the head of Imam Hussain was returned to Karbala, however the rest still lay there. Um Kulthoom and Sayyidah Sakina’s shrines were also there, though it is debated as to whether this was actually where they were buried.
They visited many more places, all looking exactly the same as the Dr remembered except for the evident lack of people. Sometimes the echoes of artillery where present, causing a feeling of wariness and discomfort between the people.
They went to meet families to hear the stories of how their lives had been shattered by the war as well as visiting the graves of the hero’s who gave their lives to protect their country and the holy shrines.
A short journey consisting of a turmoil of emotions, yet the most prominent was the feeling of belonging, making it all the more difficult to say goodbye.