And how the ‘release’ of over 5000 women and children was negotiated and secured by a team led by Mother Agnes Mariam.
While Western media have been talking of the siege of Moadamiya – of a siege imposed on suffering civilians by the ruthless Syrian army – and of the urgent need for intervention to prevent starvation, Mother Agnes has been working steadily with ALL parties to the conflict to negotiate a way out of this deadly confrontation for the innocent civilian population trapped in the suburb of Damascus.
On Tuesday, 29th October, the final stage of the plan was achieved, and all those civilians wishing to leave were able to reach the safety of a government ‘guest house’ in Damascus, where they will stay until new plans can be made when the Syrian army ‘liberates’ Moadamiya from the remaining ‘rebel’ fighters.
The following document, sent by Mother Agnes today, explains what has been happening for the last couple of weeks, as well as showing how a remarkably committed and brave single person can change the course of an intractable conflict.
( the final part of this document is the most important…)
A MUSALAHA INITIATIVE
EVACUATING CIVILIANS FROM MOADDAMIYAH
A BESIEGED REBEL CITY IN DAMASCUS WESTERN GHOUTA
Damascus – 15 to 10 ( KUNA ) – The official Syrian news agency ( SANA ) reported the
evacuation of five thousand four hundred women and children from the town of El -Sham
Mouadamieh , besieged for months, and who suffers daily violent clashes between the Syrian
opposition and government forces .
The agency said that the Ministry of Social Affairs , in collaboration with the province of
Damascus and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent has transferred during three days five thousand
four hundred women and children belonging to al- Sham Mouadamieh to transfer to a center
temporary accommodation in the province of Damascus.
The Minister of Social Affairs Kinda Chammat assured in a press release sillicitude the
government to provide decent living conditions for women and children who have suffered
Mother Fadia Laham (in religion Agnès -Mariam of the Cross) , general coordinator of the
initiative, drew attention that the plan is carried out whereby the evacuation of children ,
women and the elderly who need emergency care will continue in other areas through
communication with local stakeholders and coordination with the relevant authorities.
Mother Agnes Mariam said that the success of this initiative gives an indication of the need to
seek a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis with Syrian actors.
Standing before the military barricade of the chemical plant in Moaddamiyya. It is closed by a
mound of earth since eight months.
2 (photo Mother Agnes, entrance to Moadamiya)
The bulldozer opens a breach in the fence for the first time since eight months
No man’s land between the fence and the entrance arch West Moaddamiya
The coordinating team will wait for an hour to no avail. The rebels refuse, by force of arms,
that civilians leave the city.
Despite the entreaties of her team, Agnès-Mariam is producing a white flag and adventure
beyond the entrance arch, in rebel territory, a no man’s land known for hiding 12 snipers
among the deadliest.
Members of the team are watching anxiously for her.
Her team follows her
Joined by Sister Carmel and two members of her team, Mother Agnès-Mariam is welcomed by
the men of the revolution that came without their weapons.
Out of the factory they find themselves with women from Mouaddamiyya waiting for their
4 (photo MAM with some women and children)
Mother Agnes is wiping after seeing the condition of this woman that has been starving.
After a brief course through the destroyed and damaged town, the rebels take the team to the
headquarters of the Military Council: an apartment on the first floor of a building.
Arriving there every fighter will ask to listen personally to the explanations of the sisters.
Mistrust gives way to confidence, even to relax.
With a young militiaman wearing on his forehead the flag of the revolution
The present militia men represent various rebel factions: The Free Syrian Army but also
Jubhat Al Nosra recognizable to the Islamic banner on the front. A wounded shows his
Suddenly, turmoil and shooting in the air. The “independent revolutionnaries” arrive: they
wanted to arrest two members of Mother Agnes-Mariam team because they were accused to
have links with the government. They were opposed by the other factions. A battle occurred
with rifles and wristle.
Finally a proeminent leader arrives. He asks his men to hide the warranted people and he
secure a safe exit to Mother Agnes-Mariam and to Sister Carmel.
Eating together olives (the unique vegetable available in the besieged city) as a sign of peace
Sister Carmel shares Olives with rebel leader.
In the destroyed streets of Moadamiyyah there is a “feast”, a friendly encounter…
The trust has been built. It will allow the evacuation of 5000 civilians before sabotages
occurred and prevent the continuation of this initiative
The impressive humanitarian armada waiting for the evacuation of the civilians
A unique photo: rebels and pro-government militiamen are together like…brothers !
Finally the arrival to the guest house in New Damascus
Volunteers and Governorate personnel welcome the evacuated civilians in Qoudsiyya guest
We wanted to evacuate everybody the third day but it was impossible. A lot of critics from the
part of the Popular Committees, they were saying “you are helping the families of the
militiamen that are killing our families”.
But we kept negotiating and bypassed the critics. We appointed three days later another day to
finish the evacuation. This day begun with an impressive presence of International Red Cross
and Red Crescent ambulances, mobile clinics and volunteers and more than 30 buses. Alas the
warlords did not accept the evacuation. We could not open the gate and some undisciplined
militiamen opened the fire on the army hurting seven men among them three were in a critical
condition. The army, despite the cease fire answered with bombing.
The media said that there were many killed and injured people. Nobody knows the reality
because the videos issued from Moaddamiya do not show injured people. We knew afterwards
that one woman received a shrapnels that crossed from her back to her stomach without
killing her or paralyzing her. One Palestinian boy was killed…
We knew that this day the warlords did not want any more civilians to go out: they need them
as human shields and they were not happy that the prices dropped down by the half because of
the exit of 5000 citizens.
In all cases this day we suffered a lot.
Al Jazeera reported falsely that Mother Agnes-Mariam declared that the “terrorists” breached
the cease fire and this was a provocation for the militiamen. In reality Mother Agnes-Mariam
declared that “undisciplined men breached the cease fire”.
But the Syrian opposition military Council was angry and showed how she entered to their
stronghold in Moadamiya along with sister Carmel and ate olives with them as a sign of
friendship: how could she call us terrorists? Rumors circulated on the web that the Free Syrian
Army decided to slaughter Mother Agnes Mariam as a betrayer. Nobody could explain why
the fact of evacuating civilians and serve them with love and respect could deserve such a
Then the battle of Moadamiya ignited.
We think about the women and children that are still there.
We think about the women and children that are still in Daraya.
All those people asked us to intervene and evacuate them.
But the warlords prefer not.
Nevertheless we are proud to have been able to put in a safe place 5000 civilians.
We believe that despite the obstacles mediation in Syria is possible. Reconciliation in Syria is
possible. Peace in Syria is possible
Help Syria with Mediation, Reconciliation and PEACE.
Thank you !
Impressive humanitarian armada for the evacuation of Moadamiya !
Last release: Yesterday the 29
th of October we could, thanks to the Lord, finish the evacuation
of 2300 more women and children while 550 men, civilians and militiamen, decided to render
themselves to the Army.
Greeting the men that decided without any negotiation to leave Moadamiya and surrender to
the Syrian Army
One of them spoiled the atmosphere: he presented a false ID and the soldiers discovered four
other false ID. This could favor a spirit of retaliation but the ISTEAMS could establish an
atmosphere of respect and friendship.
The 550 men were taken by our team to a rest house and were served with dignity. Then each
50 were taken to the frightening Air Force Intelligence headquarters for two hours of
discussion and registration. They will spend one more night in the rest house and then the
majority will be able to go back to normal civilian life. Those who have perpetrated crimes
will be kept in this rest house for a rehabilitation period.
It is the FIRST time that we see such a thing in Syria.
These matters of facts are UNIQUE in the history of the Syrian conflict. No one entered at the
air force security services and went out in two hours unless to the grave! A transformation is
ongoing. Let us hope that mercy and forgiveness will prevail among all parties.
We hope that the media will transmit this story in a credible, positive way, helpful for all
parties and concerned by reconciliation and peace.
Agnes-Mariam of the Cross
Head of the International Support Team for Musalaha (Reconciliation) in Syria