Homs activists - pigeons to communicate

2012-02-14 21:05

Beirut - Cut off by a relentless barrage of government shelling, activists in the besieged Syrian city of Homs have reverted to the age-old practice of using carrier pigeons to communicate with each other.

"From the activists in Old Homs [district] to those in Baba Amr, please tell us what you need in terms of supplies, medicine and food," reads one message attached to a pigeon's leg.

"God willing, we will deliver them to you," says the message, as seen in a video the opposition activists recently uploaded to YouTube.

The central city has been under a relentless barrage of heavy machine gun fire, tank shells, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades since February 4.

The onslaught has cost the lives of at least 300 people, according to the United Nations, and has left the city isolated from the outside world, with telecommunications and electricity severed.

Activists say that given the heavy shelling and restricted movements, they have turned to carrier pigeons to get messages through enemy lines.

"We thank Bashar for taking us back to the Middle Ages," says Omar, an activist in the Bab Sbaa neighbourhood of the city, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Omar is seen standing among pigeons on the rooftop of a building in Bab Sbaa in one of the YouTube videos uploaded to the internet via a satellite feed.

Pro-government thugs

He carefully scrawls a message on a small piece of paper to his counterparts who are little more than two kilometres away in Baba Amr, which has suffered some of the heaviest shelling.

Despite only being a short distance apart, the activists say they are unable to venture very far because of checkpoints between them manned by security forces and the Shabiha, or pro-government thugs.

The activists launched their uprising last March using social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to rally support.

They say they are now forced to use pigeons to communicate with each other in certain neighbourhoods of Homs out of the reach of their walkie-talkies.

"They have transformed Homs into a big prison. People don't dare venture outside and they can't do anything. The Shabiha are everywhere," says Omar.

He says there were reports out of Baba Amr of parents being forced to feed their children a diet of stale bread and water.

Apart from enquiring about what supplies are needed, Omar also jots down the names of people from the city killed in the latest fighting of the 11-month uprising.

Defiant message

He then rolls up the message and attaches it with a string to the leg of a pigeon before releasing the bird.

"May God be with you," he shouts as the pigeon flies off amid the sound of heavy gunfire and shelling. "May God guide you to Baba Amr."

The answer comes back the same day, bearing an appeal for aid but also a defiant message.

"We need medical assistance and food," the message reads, according to a separate video posted on YouTube. "The news you sent has reached us.

"Long live Syria. Down with Bashar Assad."

Syrians were among the first people to use pigeons as messengers and this was often the sole source of communication in the region.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.