Transcript

For Sama

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Tonight’s program contains graphic imagery of war. Viewer discretion is advised.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Speaking Arabic]

That’s me, Waad, 10 years ago. I was 18 years old. That year I left my family home to study at Aleppo University.

My parents told me to be careful; they always said I was headstrong, even reckless.

I never understood what they meant until I had a daughter.

You.

Sama. Mama. Mama?

[Singing in Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Mama. Sama?

Sama!

MALE HOSPITAL STAFF:

Another one's coming!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I'm coming. Can someone take Sama, please?

Was it an airstrike?

MALE CAMERAMAN:

A tank shell.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

This is insane. We’re getting this every day.

Quick, we've got to go downstairs.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Who’s got Sama? Sama! It hit behind us. Where’s my girl? Who’s got my girl?

FEMALE SPEAKER:

Not us.

MALE MEDIC:

Get the children out.

MALE MEDIC 2:

Come on, guys, we need to pump the ventilators by hand.

MALE MEDIC 3:

Come on, quick, quick!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Where’s my girl?

MALE MEDIC 3:

Nurse, nurse!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Oh God! Oh God! Sama.

MALE SPEAKER:

Your daughter’s there.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m coming, my love. Where is she?

FEMALE SPEAKER 2:

Here she is. She's feeding. I had the mask on her face.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

She was asleep when—

FEMALE SPEAKER 2:

Now she’s feeding.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We’ve had enough fun for one day.

FEMALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

Not to worry, doctor. We’re strong. We’re resilient.

HAMZA:

We’re well-fortified—

FEMALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

Oh, shut up, for God’s sake!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

By the way, ever since you said the hospital can’t be bombed—

FEMALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

It’s been bombed constantly!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Exactly!

HAMZA:

She’s saying, “Mom, why did you give birth to me? It’s been nothing but war since the day I was born.”

Sama!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Sama. You’re the most beautiful thing in our life. But what a life I’ve brought you into.

You didn’t choose this. Will you ever forgive me?

July 2016

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The Syrian regime and its allies have put us under siege.

Aleppo. My city.

We never thought the world would let this happen.

I keep filming; it gives me a reason to be here. It makes the nightmares feel worthwhile.

MALE MEDIC:

[Untranslated Arabic]

INJURED BOY:

[Untranslated Arabic, crying]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

When I hear the Russian warplanes in the sky, it cuts through me.

Yes, I’m scared of dying. But what scares me the most is losing you.

Sama, I’ve made this film for you. I need you to understand why your father and I made the choices we did, what we were fighting for.

4 years earlier

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I was an economics student in Aleppo in the early days of the revolution.

It’s the morning of April 29, 2012. Aleppo, science department. This is the great wall of the university.

Good morning.

MALE GRAFFITI ARTIST:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What are you doing?

MALE GRAFFITI ARTIST:

We’re overthrowing President Bashar, even if only on the walls. We’re the free students of Aleppo University.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The dictatorship of the Assad family had ruled Syria for more than 40 years. We’d seen so much corruption, injustice and oppression.

FEMALE PROTESTER:

Free students in Aleppo University! University of the revolution! Our revolution is peaceful! Muslims and Christians together!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

At first the regime denied protests were even happening. Filming on mobile phones was the only way to show the world we were fighting for our freedom.

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

Traitors, traitors, traitors! The Syrian army betray the people! Traitors, traitors, traitors!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Let me past, let me past! Let me past, let me past!

MALE PROTESTER:

The soldiers, behind you!

FEMALE PROTESTER:

Look behind us, the soldiers!

MALE PROTESTER:

Allahu akbar. There they are. Look, look! Use your eyes!

FEMALE PROTESTER:

Don’t tell me you can’t see them!

MALE PROTESTER:

Lock the door, lock the door!

FEMALE PROTESTER:

[Untranslated Arabic]

MALE PROTESTER:

Look, look! Don't you see? Are they not security forces?

MALE PROTESTER 2:

Open the window!

FEMALE PROTESTER:

Don’t do it, they’ll arrest us!

MALE PROTESTER:

They’ll beat us!

MALE PROTESTER 2:

Go, go, they'll arrest us!

FEMALE PROTESTER:

Keep it shut. Scum!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Sama, at that time, the only thing we cared about was the revolution.

Hey, Hamza. You guys are so late.

HAMZA:

Stop nagging. Stop nagging.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m just excited.

HAMZA:

Excited?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Let’s go.

Hamza was one of my close friends; he’d graduated as a doctor.

Hello, Dr. Hamza.

He helped people injured in the protests.

The first aid team is on its way to the Friday demonstration. We’re rushing because we’re late.

Hamza had a constant smile on his face; he put me at ease no matter what was happening.

Because he was one of the few doctors who was also an activist, I was always filming him.

HAMZA:

Am I looking good? How's the sound? [Sound check in Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

He was in a long-term relationship at the time.

HAMZA:

[Singing in Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We're filming!

None of us had any idea how our old lives would soon be swept away.

It’s January 29, 2013. East Aleppo. We’ve heard bodies have been found in the river.

MALE SPEAKER [on megaphone]:

Everyone, please. Please. If you’ve seen the bodies, go outside. No reason to rush. The new bodies won’t be buried today.

FEMALE BYSTANDER:

Are you here to film this?

MALE CAMERAMAN:

Of course.

HAMZA:

Today Aleppo woke up to a massacre, and that’s putting it mildly. The initial forensic examination shows clear marks of torture on most of the bodies. All the bodies were civilians with their hands bound; most were executed with a bullet to the head.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What are they doing?

MALE BYSTANDER:

They're trying to fish the bodies out.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Most of these people lived in areas that opposed the regime and had last been seen at a regime checkpoint.

We felt it was a message.

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

Our dead have gone to paradise. Bashar has killed our people, that son of a killer. Our dead have gone to paradise.

BOY PROTESTER [on megaphone]:

[Untranslated Arabic]

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

Allahu akbar!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We were shocked at what the regime was willing to do to stay in power.

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

Allahu akbar!

BOY PROTESTER [on megaphone]:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Your grandparents were scared for me, Sama.

Listen. They told me to come home, but I’m not going to. No. There’s no way they’d let me return here, and there’s so much I could contribute.

But I was headstrong back then. So of course I decided to stay.

Hamza was now married, and his wife was pushing him to leave Syria.

He had to decide between the revolution and his marriage.

He chose to stay.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

When armed rebels freed the east of the city, the regime’s violence grew ever more extreme.

Is Hamza there?

Hamza was one of 32 doctors who stayed in east Aleppo.

How many are in there?

HAMZA:

We pulled the woman from here. She said she has a five-month-old baby. We’re going to keep digging until we find him. There's a five-month-old baby down there!

MALE RESCUE WORKER:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Without the regime, we had to do everything for ourselves. There were no schools, emergency or medical services. So Hamza and our friends set up a hospital.

WAAD AL-KATEA:

We have to thank Bashar Assad for forcing us to do everything from scratch. We get to be our own cleaners, pharmacists, plumbers.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Are you happy, doctor? You’re the manager of the hospital, but you’re mucking around with your staff like this? Is this why you wanted freedom?

No, that’s not nice.

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

Yes, it is.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

How are you feeling?

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

It’s beautiful to have the word "freedom" painted across my forehead.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The regime made us pay a heavy price for our dreams.

MALE BYSTANDER:

Dear God, it's Ahmad. Dear God, it's Ahmad!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

One day at the hospital I was filming a boy they were trying to save. It made me cry.

Hamza came and told me angrily, “You can’t cry here. Get out of here!”

I ran upstairs. He followed me and said, “What’s wrong? I can’t bear to see you break down. Don’t you realize I'm in love with you? Will you marry me?”

I couldn’t believe it.

WEDDING GUESTS [chanting in unison]:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Our wedding was small but beautiful, Sama. The sound of our songs was louder than the bombs falling outside.

MALE WEDDING GUEST:

Turn the light off for them. It’s the Pink Panther!

HAMZA:

I did think that for a minute.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

It’s the last song! All of you, leave us alone.

Hamza was someone who took me by the hand and told me, "This is the road we’re taking. It's a long road, full of danger and fear, but freedom waits for us at the end. Come, let’s walk it together."

September 2016

3rd month under siege

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hey, Sama. Sama! Good morning, sweetheart! There are lots of airstrikes today, right? But we haven’t been hit, yay! My love! Sama! No? No? No?

Sama, things have gotten so bad now. Your dad can't leave the hospital, so we live here now.

This is our room. Behind those pictures are sandbags to protect from shelling.

Yes, I'm coming.

SAMA:

Mama! Mama?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We do our best to make it feel like home.

Is it starting again?

MALE VOICE ON RADIO:

Helicopter approaching the front line armed with a barrel bomb.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

There’s an emergency. I’ve got to go downstairs.

MALE MEDIC:

Just wait out here, boys.

MALE MEDIC 2:

Is he your brother?

BOY:

Yes.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Where was the strike?

BOY:

I was at the window telling my brother to come inside, and suddenly it struck—the missile hit the house.

FEMALE MEDIC:

No pulse?

BOY:

He’s our brother.

FEMALE MEDIC:

There's nothing.

BOY:

He was just outside the house—

MALE MEDIC:

May he rest in peace, pray for him.

MOTHER:

Was my son Mohammad brought here?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What’s his last name?

MOTHER:

Mohammad, Mohammad.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What’s his last name?

MOTHER:

It’s my son! It’s Mohammad!

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

Is he your son?

MOTHER:

Yes! Of course, he is!

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

Let me help you.

MOTHER:

He’s my son. This is my love. Why wouldn’t I carry him?

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

Mother, mother!

MOTHER:

He’s my son.

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

Let me carry him for you.

MOTHER:

No, no, don’t take him from me!

MALE HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER:

I’ll carry him for you.

MOTHER:

I wouldn’t forgive you. I wouldn’t forgive you if you do. This is my son. This is my son. Mohammad Ameen is dead. Mohammad Ameen is dead. My darling is dead. He’s dead.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What's wrong?

MALE HOSPITAL COLLEAGUE:

Nothing.

Children have nothing to do with this, nothing.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I feel I’m suffocating, Sama. I keep seeing you down there like that boy, and me like his mother.

I can’t tell Hamza; I can’t even bear to tell myself.

One year earlier

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

Here is Aleppo, here is Aleppo!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Aleppo, March 18, 2015.

For such a long time, we were sure we would win. In rebel Aleppo we lived in a free country. Finally we felt like we had a home we were ready to die for.

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We were ready to put roots into the ground.

This is the guest room.

HAMZA:

Why’s the light on?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Untranslated Arabic]

HAMZA:

Hi. Turn it off. The wiring’s sketchy.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

OK, sorry.

Today is a very special day for me. We finally got the house and cleaned it. We had many problems, but now we can enjoy living in this beautiful house.

I love you.

HAMZA:

Congratulations on the house.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We found our first home together. It had a garden just like the house where I grew up.

God created this beauty and you just want to cut it back?

At that time, everything in the city looked beautiful to me.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Speaking English]

Surprise!

HAMZA:

[Speaking Arabic]

Look at the table!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Look how pretty this looks. It looks beautiful.

HAMZA:

Aren’t you scared?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hm?

HAMZA:

Aren’t you scared?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hm?

HAMZA:

Aren’t you scared?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hand it over.

HAMZA:

Seriously?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

My camera!

I love you so much. Even more than the snow.

[Hamza writes in the snow]

"I love you."

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m pregnant! Oh my God. Hamza, I’m pregnant. Hamza, I’m pregnant.

FEMALE ULTRASOUND NURSE:

Can you see the hand?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Even before you were born we knew you were special, Sama.

FEMALE ULTRASOUND NURSE:

This is the hand. It’s a naughty one.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I love you.

The happiness you brought was laced with fear. Our new life with you felt so fragile, as fragile as the freedom we felt in Aleppo.

Islamic extremists were trying to take over the rebellion. But it was the Assad regime that was trying to kill us.

FEMALE BYSTANDER:

It’s there! It’s there, it’s there!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Has it bombed?

MALE BYSTANDER:

Not yet.

MALE BYSTANDER 2:

It’s coming back!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

In the name of God. Oh God.

HAMZA:

It didn’t hit our building, but the ones behind us.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Poor plants.

HAMZA:

Bloody Assad.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Be careful, darling.

What’s wrong?

HAMZA:

I mean, we created something. We planted them, we watered them and they grew, only to be destroyed by a shell. I hope they’re not all dead.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I don’t want to die. I do not want to die. I want to live, I want to give birth, I want Hamza to be with me. I want all those things. I don’t want to die; I want to live.

Please God. Please God, don’t let anything happen to my baby or to Hamza. I can handle everything else. Please God.

Everyone who stayed in the city had to deal with the same fear, Sama.

Wow, it looks delicious.

Afraa and her husband, Salem, have three children—Wisam, Zain and Naya. The family were our best friends.

SALEM:

We’ve arrived, get down.

ZAIN:

Get down, Naya, it's my turn!

AFRAA:

Children take after their parents, and we’re optimistic.

They don't care if there's a siege; they don't even know what a siege is.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hello.

WISAM:

Hi.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

How are you?

WISAM:

I’m OK.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Do you want to leave Aleppo?

WISAM:

They said there’ll be invasion, but I want to stay.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What if your parents want to leave?

WISAM:

I'll stay on my own.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

On your own where?

WISAM:

I’m just staying.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Where are you going to stay?

WISAM:

I don’t know.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What about your parents? Are they leaving, or staying?

WISAM:

I don't know.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Why are you crying? Come on, don’t cry.

FEMALE FAMILY FRIEND:

We won’t make you leave, I promise.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

No one’s leaving, come on.

FEMALE FAMILY FRIEND:

He’s upset because his friend didn't show up today. He fled with his family.

AFRAA:

Even the children don’t want to leave, so how can we go?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I respected this family so much. They were trying to be brave in the face of an impossible choice. To leave the city would set the worst example to the children: that it’s better to be selfish, to run and save yourself.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

WISAM:

I want to be an architect so I can rebuild Aleppo.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

But to stay meant putting them through hell.

NAYA:

Auntie Waad.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Yes?

NAYA:

What are you doing?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m filming you.

I didn’t know what we'd do when you were born.

Hello? Listen, I’m going to the hospital very soon. I’m giving birth today.

FEMALE SPEAKER [on phone]:

Are you serious?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

How do you feel? I'll bring you a monkey just like me.

We went to the hospital your father set up.

GROUP OF DELIVERY ROOM STAFF:

[Singing in Arabic]

WASEEM:

She looks just like Waad.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

When I saw you, I remembered all we had suffered, all the people we lost. Yet you gave me hope to start anew.

HAMZA:

Don’t make her cry.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Enough already!

October 2016

4th month under siege

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Tonight, after the daily bombing, a friend brings you down to us. We're in the emergency room.

Is he your relative?

MALE BOMBING SURVIVOR:

My nephew.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

You were at home asleep? Where's his parents?

MALE BOMBING SURVIVOR:

What?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

His parents?

MALE BOMBING SURVIVOR:

Killed, I think.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I hate to admit it, but I envy this boy’s mother. At least she died before she had to bury her child.

In the quiet that follows a massacre, when I feel I’m suffocating, I take you out of the hospital and bring my camera along. I just need to see people alive. To try and live a normal life in this place is to stand against the regime.

MALE CHESS SPECTATOR:

If the king dies, the game’s over. If Bashar Assad dies, the war’s over.

MALE CHESS SPECTATOR 2:

That bastard has a long neck, a sure sign of long life.

MALE CHESS SPECTATOR:

He's a bloody giraffe.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Today, Salem organized a party for you and all the other kids.

SALEM:

We’re a team, one bucket and brush between two. Paint all around the bus, make your part beautiful.

FEMALE TEENAGER:

Cool.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We try to give you what childhood we can.

GIRL PAINTING BUS:

Paint, paint! Paint, Sama!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Good girl!

Naya, how did this bus burn?

NAYA:

It was bombed.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Do you know what hit this bus?

NAYA:

A cluster bomb.

WISAM:

Beep, beep! Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep!

GIRL:

Driver, we made it to school.

WISAM:

Yes, we've arrived. Get off.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

But under siege, there’s no way we can keep you all safe.

PBS

FRONTLINE

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

There’s been a strike.

MALE PEDESTRIAN:

A second airstrike is coming! Don’t gather together! Disperse!

FEMALE PEDESTRIAN:

Please God, please God. Amir! Amir!

MALE PEDESTRIAN 2:

Go inside! Get inside!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

They bring a woman to the hospital. She’s nine months' pregnant.

FEMALE MEDIC:

It’s cut very deep.

MALE MEDIC:

Yes, it might have hit the artery.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

They have to do an emergency cesarean.

MALE MEDIC 2:

Does he have a pulse?

MALE MEDIC:

Nothing.

HAMZA:

Oh God.

MALE MEDIC 3:

God be praised.

MALE MEDIC 4:

He cried?

MALE MEDIC 5:

That’s it, cry!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

They’re both OK. It’s a miracle. It gives us the strength to stay in the struggle.

Just like you, Sama.

8 months earlier

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Speaking English]

Seventh February, 2016.

My first baby, Sama. Her name is meaning "the sky." Sky we love, sky we want. Without air forces; without bombing. Sky with sun, with clouds, with birds.

Sama! Sama! Are you hearing me? Sama! Sama! Sama! Sama. She’s laughing! Sama!

[Speaking Arabic]

Oh God.

My happiness would vanish every time I heard Russian warplanes.

MALE VOICE ON RADIO:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

They unleashed a blitz on Aleppo to save the regime.

MALE SPEAKER ON ROOFTOP:

Allahu akbar.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

One night we were away from the hospital. Suddenly our phones went crazy.

MALE SPEAKER [on phone]:

The hospital has been bombed! The hospital's been bombed! There's dead! There's injured!

HAMZA:

Please, can anyone give me details? What's the situation?

MALE SPEAKER 2 [on phone]:

Doctor, Ismail the maintenance guy's killed—

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The regime and its allies killed 53 people. Dr. Waseem was one of them, the one who checked your first vital signs, Sama.

Targeting hospitals breaks people’s spirits. The airstrike had damaged our hospital beyond repair.

In Aleppo, there is no time to grieve. By a miracle, Hamza found a building designed to be a hospital.

MALE SPEAKER:

The architect said that the walls are quite strong. The weak points are the windows.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

It was not on any map, so the Russians and the regime wouldn’t know where to bomb.

In July, we went to Turkey to see your grandfather, who was ill. Suddenly the regime launched an offensive backed by Russian airpower. Within days, we heard they had almost seized the last road back to Aleppo.

In one glance, I knew Hamza was thinking the same as me.

HAMZA:

Here we go, in the name of God.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

No one understood. Hamza’s parents said, “It’s too dangerous. At least leave Sama behind.”

MALE VOICE ON RADIO:

Russian planes are heading to the northern region.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

With our heads, we knew they were right. But in our hearts, we felt we had to go back and bring you with us. We didn’t know why. The truth is I can’t believe we did it, even now.

MALE GUIDE:

Let’s go, guys.

MALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

Is this it, bro?

MALE GUIDE:

Yes, we’re here.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Three friends from the hospital came with us.

Oh God.

The only way back was a narrow path through the front lines.

MALE GUIDE:

Stay back here for a moment. We’ll walk ahead of you to scout.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Dr. Hamza, why are you going in today?

HAMZA:

We’re going to Aleppo because we’re five years in this struggle, since the days of peaceful protests. Every single one of us has a huge role in supporting justice against oppression. Even this one has a role in deciding the outcome.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Where to now?

MALE GUIDE:

Walk straight ahead.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m right here.

HAMZA:

If you hear anything, get down.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Is she OK?

HAMZA:

Yes.

MALE GUIDE:

Go, go, go!

HAMZA:

Follow them.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I’m coming, I’m coming!

HAMZA:

We’re past the—

What’s wrong, sweetheart? Why, love? Sama! Sama! Almost there, Sama. Almost there, love.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

No one knew how close the regime soldiers were.

HAMZA:

Talk to her.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Sama, Sama, Sama! Sama!

HAMZA:

Sama.

HAMZA AND WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Singing in Arabic]

These little chicks, they’re very pretty, happily wandering around their mom. They drank their water! They said, “Ah!” They happily thanked God.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Aleppo!

Somehow, we made it.

MALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

Glad you're safe, doctor! Where's that girl?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

People seemed happier to see you than us, Sama.

MALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE 2:

Waad, Waad! How do you feel?

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I'm relieved! I can die happy now.

It was as if you were the daughter of the whole hospital. It was our destiny to be here together.

Happy siege!

FEMALE MEDIC:

We are the besieged!

AFRAA:

I was asleep, and I felt some something warm on my back. I was like, "Has someone spilled their tea or coffee on me? Could it be my husband treating me to coffee in bed?" I realized that when my daughter got scared of the airstrike, she got in bed and peed on me! What a poetic morning. I think this lousy morning was a sign we were getting besieged.

November 2016

5th month under siege

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

People are burning tires so the Russians can’t see where to bomb.

CROWD [chanting in unison]:

[Untranslated Arabic]

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Hail Aleppo of the uprising! Shake the president's palace!

Supplies are running low. There are no vegetables or fruit. It’s hard to find diapers and milk for you.

The siege is no place to raise a child.

How're you?

AFRAA:

I’m all right.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What are you cooking today?

AFRAA:

It’s all I have. In the end we have to eat, but I won’t mention it to the children or their father so they don’t get upset; it would put them off and they wouldn’t eat. They're not used to food like this.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What are these?

WISAM:

My friends who have left.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

How's the siege affecting you?

WISAM:

It’s cool, but we miss our friends. They’re all gone. Some people stayed, but they’re getting killed one after another. They get trapped under rubble or hit by a rocket or they die.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

What would like to say to your friends who left?

WISAM:

May God forgive you for leaving me here alone.

SALEM:

Come here. I’ve got a surprise for you; you’ll never believe it!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Come into the light.

SALEM:

It’s not a tomato, I promise.

AFRAA:

A persimmon fruit! How did you get it?

SALEM:

For you and Waad.

SALEM:

You have to wait till it’s ripe. There’s only one tree, unfortunately.

Will it ripen by itself? It’s like I got her a rose or something!

AFRAA:

[Speaking English]

Thank you!

[Speaking Arabic]

I was telling him, “Let the siege end so I can eat persimmons.”

SALEM:

There’s no need for the siege to be over now!

AFRAA:

No, not now, I have a persimmon.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

I feel sick. I think it's the stress of the siege.

I’m pregnant again. My God.

I can hardly find healthy food for myself or for you, Sama. I don’t know if your sister or brother will ever open their eyes.

The regime and its allies destroyed eight of nine hospitals in east Aleppo. We’re the last one left.

Oh no, his hand.

MALE MEDIC:

Take them farther inside.

MALE MEDIC 2:

He’s had it.

MALE MEDIC 3:

He’s alive, boys, he’s alive!

MALE MEDIC 4:

He’s alive, he’s alive!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

There are almost 300 patients each day.

HAMZA:

Bring fluids!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Your dad is in charge of it all.

Even the water is cut off.

I keep filming, trying to capture it all. I'm not sure I can handle it.

FATHER OF VICTIM:

Oh God, please! Oh God, please!

FEMALE MOURNER:

Stop it, she's dead. Leave her. There's no pulse; she's dead.

FATHER OF VICTIM:

Where have you gone, my daughter? We only tried to escape for you, only for you!

FEMALE MOURNER:

We never made it. We never made it out!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Even when I close my eyes I see the color red. Blood everywhere. On walls, floors, our clothes. Sometimes we cry blood.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Off you go. Sama!

It’s the first time in four days your father and I have been together. Either he’s in the emergency room or I’m out filming. We’ve no time even for you. No time to feel anything.

SAMA:

Mama! Mama!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Sama!

SAMA:

Mama! Mama!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

You want to film us?

Regime forces are advancing into the rebel area. They’re squeezing us into a small pocket, just a few square kilometers.

Sama, I know you understand what’s happening; I can see it in your eyes. You never cry like a normal baby would. That’s what breaks my heart.

They're even using chlorine gas on us.

We’re crying out to the world: "Help us."

Your dad talks to news channels all the time.

HAMZA:

Of course, the situation is very scary. The neighborhoods of Aleppo are hit with all sorts of weapons—bombs, cluster bombs, even chlorine gas, barrel bombs and airstrikes. It’s terrifying, and yet we see the international community—

FEMALE REPORTER [on phone]:

Yet you keep on working and sending these messages to the world. Thanks a lot, Dr. Hamza Al-Kataeb, speaking by Skype from Aleppo.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Millions of people watch my reports. But no one does anything to stop the regime.

This is it. The regime forces are only one street away.

Your father holds me. He says, “Look into my eyes. We’re not going to make it. Abandon Sama. She has a better chance of surviving if they don’t know we're her parents.”

I can’t do it, Sama. Your only crime is that your mom’s a journalist and your dad’s a doctor.

Now I wish I hadn’t given birth to you. I wish I’d never met Hamza. I wish I’d never left home.

HAMZA:

Hello?

FEMALE SPEAKER [on phone]:

Hello?

HAMZA:

Can you hear me OK?

FEMALE SPEAKER [on phone]:

OK, God willing.

I want to speak to someone in charge. We don’t have much time. We hear from the Russians that time is tight.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The U.N. called Hamza with a message from the Russians: "Surrender and we’ll spare your lives. But you must go into exile."

HAMZA:

It’s the Russians’ plan. Up until now, they’ve been bombing and killing us. Then they say, “This is your only option.” We have no choice.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

No one can believe it’s over.

MALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

So, can we make it to the end of negotiations, or are they just stalling until they finish us?

HAMZA:

They’re stalling, of course. You don’t really trust the Russians, do you?

MALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE 2:

We must hold on for a couple of days, on one front line, at least.

HAMZA:

People are fed up with holding on. They’ll say, “Stop being so unrealistic; we have no electricity or food.”

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We know this is our only chance to survive—to protect you, Sama, and all the children. But it also means all our sacrifices were for nothing.

Our future is no longer in our hands.

NAYA:

Aleppo is gone.

December 2016

6th month under siege

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Everyone’s packing for their exile. Saying goodbye is worse than death.

[Graffiti in Arabic]

"We will return."

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

The wounded and their families must go first. The regime can't be trusted, but there’s only one way out. The buses are here now to take everyone away.

We’re going to stay until the end, to make sure all the wounded get out OK.

This is the last time I’ll see the hospital—your whole world for the first year of your life.

There's just time for a nurse to check the baby. Thank God, she seems fine.

How do you feel now that you're being forced to leave this place?

HAMZA:

In this hospital over 20 days, we performed 890 operations and we received more than 6,000 wounded people.

This is not about the place; places are about their people, like the hospital—

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

[Speaking English]

Here, it’s my lovely house where I lived. I can’t believe that I couldn’t come again. No words can describe what I’m feeling now. We don’t want to force to flee out of our city.

I got this plants. It will grow out of Aleppo.

[Speaking Arabic]

The silence makes you feel the city is dead.

Sama, will you remember Aleppo? Will you blame me for staying here? Or blame me for leaving now?

It’s been eight days since the evacuation began. Now it’s our turn.

[Speaking English]

It’s 9 a.m. It's snowing. We are still waiting for evacuation.

FEMALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

[Speaking Arabic]

We will return, I promise you.

AFRAA:

This is really it.

FEMALE MEDICAL COLLEAGUE:

We will return, we will.

AFRAA:

I’ve stopped feeling anything.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We’ve been waiting more than 50 hours. No one knows why. But we’re keeping each other warm.

Then the order comes through. No one knows my face, but your dad has been all over the news.

Hamza, are you scared of regime checkpoints?

HAMZA:

Yes, of course. Anything can happen. They might have a list of names of certain people that must not leave.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

My heart is beating really fast.

[Speaking English]

The next checkpoint is the most dangerous. There is the checkpoint of the regime.

[Speaking Arabic]

Hamza! Hamza! We made it! I’m glad you’re safe.

I'm glad you're safe!

SALEM:

You, too. Thanks to God. Allahu akbar!

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

Here's Mommy! We made it, you silly thing.

HAMZA:

Get in.

WAAD AL-KATEAB:

We made it, Sama. I can’t think about all that’s happened right now, only thank God we’re alive.

I thought we lost everything when we lost Aleppo. But we did not.

We have Taima now. I can smell Aleppo on her skin.

I have my footage, too. The people I filmed will never leave me. If I could rewind the days, I would do exactly the same. Even if I never recover from the trauma, I don’t regret anything.

I can’t wait for you to grow up, Sama, to tell me how you feel. I want you to know that we fought for the most important cause of all: So that you and all our children would not have to live as we lived.

Everything we did was for you.

It was all for you, Sama.

Eight years since the revolution began, the war in Syria still rages.

In 2018, Waad, Hamza and the girls were granted asylum in the U.K.

33:25
Isabel dos Santos Luanda Leaks
The Luanda Leaks
January 21, 2020