In the alleys of Homs in Western Syria, my camera looks for what’s left of the city and struggles to find any remnants. On the sidewalk lies a stray cat that does not let out a sound. It drags its memories of destruction and hides behind one of the buildings reduced to rubble. The smell of war and the deafening silence of its aftermath pervade.
Homs was one of Syria’s most important industrial centers before the civil war. But in the spring of 2011, demonstrators took to the streets in many neighborhoods across the city demanding the change of a one-party regime that has been ruling Syria for more than four decades. Homs was dubbed by the regime’s dissidents as the “Capital of the Revolution”, and became an opposition stronghold in the Syrian Civil War. After a series of escalations, violent clashes, blockades, and large-scale shelling, the regime consolidated its grip on most of the city in 2014. In September 2016, the remaining rebels and their families evacuated Al-Wa’er, the last neighborhood under rebel control in the city, resulting in a government takeover.
I roam the old district of the city trying to capture the massive destruction. In spite of limited attempts to restore the area, all signs of normal life are absent. Whilst walking on the streets for hours, I encounter a handful of people, one of whom rides a bicycle, trying to navigate the rubble. In a square that witnessed the beginnings of the uprising against the Syrian regime, I stand up and look around. A clock tower catches my attention. But the clock is idle, perhaps to mourn the death and exodus of those who used to inhabit the surrounding neighborhoods.