Ramadan in ruins for Idlib family

Destitute return to town of Ariha looking for cheap lodging amid remains

Powered by automated translation

As dusk settles on the gutted buildings around them, Tareq Abu Ziad and his family broke the Ramadan fast on the remains of their home.

The northern Syrian town of Ariha is a silent, grey sea of loose cinder blocks and mangled iron rods.

Mr Abu Ziad, 29, had to make a little clearing in the rubble on his roof to lay foam mattresses for his wife and three children to sit on as they shared their meal.

“Now my family and I are here on top of the destruction,” he said.

“We are reliving a very difficult and painful memory. I pray that God doesn’t let anyone else experience this.”

This picture taken on May 4, 2020 during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan shows an aerial view of members of the displaced Syrian family of Tariq Abu Ziad, from the town of Ariha in the southern countryside of the Idlib province, breaking their fast together for the sunset "iftar" meal, in the midst of the rubble of their destroyed home upon their return to the town after fleeing during the previous military assault on the town by Syrian government forces and their allies.  / AFP / Aaref WATAD
Members of a displaced family break their fast together on May 4, 2020, in Idlib. AFP

He and his family fled Ariha last year when Syrian government troops backed by air strikes launched an offensive against the town, controlled at the time by rebel groups.

Within a few weeks, about a million civilians fled the assault on the wider Idlib region, the last stronghold of opposition to the government of President Bashar Al Assad after nine years of war.

Ariha’s entire population headed north as much of the town was razed.

But as a ceasefire held, some of the destitute have since opted to return and look for cheap accommodation amid the ruins.

Mr Abu Ziad came back last month and found a place to stay.

But he wanted to share at least one iftar where his home used to be.

“Every year we used to spend Ramadan here and we wanted to spend one day of this Ramadan here,” Mr Abu Ziad said.

All around them and as far as the eye could see, there was not a soul, only row after row of destroyed homes etching out a scraggly skyline in the twilight.

The home’s kitchen is long gone but Mr Abu Ziad’s mother said they came prepared.

“We brought ready meals from outside,” she explains. “The most important thing is that we relive our memories and eat in our home.”