Doha Hassan

On the road to the grave

A look at just a few of the scores of deaths that take place every day in Syria

On the road to the grave.
On the road to the grave.

[Editor’s note: The following is an account of two cases of recently deceased in Syria. The information is based on multiple interviews with their relatives.]


A few days ago, someone’s father died of a heart attack as shelling was heard on the outskirts of Damascus. Others, meanwhile, died during these indiscriminate mortar attacks.


9:30 p.m. – At the grave


The young son of the deceased man and his friends look for a grave to bury their father. It’s not easy because their IDs list their ancestral homelands as being in the Damascus province. Because they’ve been arrested before, they must find a grave in a cemetery located before the checkpoint.


After searching for hours, they find a suitable grave for 1,000,000 SYP (circa $6,800 at current exchange rates). One of the youths disapproves, though: “We used to buy a house for such a sum.”  


“Son, demand for graves is much higher than demand for houses these days,” the man in charge of the burial grounds responds.


9:30 p.m. – Aleppo


News: The local coordination committees, the on-the-ground network of opposition activists in Syria, report that the Assad regime is shelling Aleppo’s northern neighborhood. 88 civilians have died so far from at least 33 barrel bombs.


8:30 a.m. – Washing the dead  


The son and his friends take a deep breath and carry the coffin on their shoulders. They walk around Damascus, which is overcrowded due to security checkpoints, from Baghdad Street to Bab Sharqi, in order to wash their deceased father. They journey on foot in order to avoid the hassle of checkpoints.


8:30 a.m. – Eastern Ghouta


News: Shaam News Network reports that more than 150 civilians and servicemen, who were leaving the Eastern Ghouta area in the Damascus province, have become victims of a Syrian regime and Hezbollah ambush.


10:15 a.m – The funeral


She reads Quranic verses in a soft voice. He shuffles his feet nervously as he looks around. Three young men stand beside the wife and son, all of them staring at the grave as security personnel surround them demanding that they finish the funeral and leave the cemetery.




10:15 a.m. – Damascus


News: Local coordination committees report that two civilians are killed in a mortar attack on the Opera House near the Umayyad Square.


A few days ago, the regime shelled Qudsiya, forcing an old man to flee his car and run toward the Qudsiya suburbs. The following morning, he decides to get his car back and skip town. But his hands start shaking and he falls to the ground.


11 a.m. – Death


The roads to and from Qudsiya are closed. The old man remains lying on the ground for some time before dying of a heart attack.


11 a.m. – Daraa


News: Local coordination committees report that one person is killed and several more wounded by helicopter shelling from a position near Tibat al-Imam in Hama.


11:15 a.m. – Daraa


News: Shaam News Network reports that violent clashes are taking place between opposition and regime forces in Daraa’s Menshiyeh neighborhood.


11:45 a.m. – Civil servant


The municipality civil servant carries the body to the town’s Omar Mosque. He takes the old man’s phone, dials the most recent number on the call list, and tells the wife that her husband is dead.


12:30 p.m. – Homs


News: Local coordination committees report that Father Francis Van der Lugt is killed by an unknown armed man in the Jesuit Church in Old Homs’ Bustan al-Diwan neighborhood.


12:35 p.m. – The body  


Relatives of the deceased obtain a security approval to enter Qudsiya and take out the body. They arrive in the Omar Mosque and put the body in the trunk as the permit states. As they exit the mosque and near the checkpoint, clashes erupt between opposition fighters and security personnel, but they still manage to take the man to the Al-Bassel Hospital in the Doummar compound to bury the body the following morning.


1 p.m. – Prayer for the dead


Relatives and friends of the old man gather at a mosque in the Sheikh Muhieddine area for the prayer. Security forces enter the mosque and ask them for the security permit to go on with the funeral. The deceased man’s brother asks them to wait while he goes to obtain a security approval from the Arbaiin Branch, known as “the anti-terrorism branch,” which lies in downtown Damascus’ Jisr al-Abyad area.


He enters the office of the security official at the Branch and files a request for approval of “a prayer for the dead.” The security official asks: “Can you guarantee that nothing will happen?”


“The youngest one among us shall be aged 50,” he answers. This got him a permit to conduct the prayer for the dead.


1 p.m. – Al-Raqqa


News: Shaam News Network reports that ISIS has executed a young man charged with robbery and homicide on the Al-Raqqa Square.


1:45 p.m. – The road


Mourners walk behind the mortician’s vehicle toward the Muhajireen area in order to bury the old man. Everyone is searched, including the dead man’s body. Before they reach the cemetery, they stop again at a Popular Committees' checkpoint. Members examine the mourners’ IDs and that of the dead man, in addition to uncovering the body.


1:45 p.m. – The death toll for the day


By noon on Monday, local coordination committees reported that 100 people were killed by regime forces that day, the majority of them being in Aleppo.


This article is a translation of the original Arabic. 

On the road to the grave. (illustrations by: Zaina Salem)

"The son and his friends take a deep breath and carry the coffin on their shoulders. They walk around Damascus, which is overcrowded due to security checkpoints, from Baghdad Street to Bab Sharqi, in order to wash the deceased father."