Last Call From Allepo: She Rang Me As Bombs Fell… Then She Vanished


By Mike Thomson
BBC Magazine  (8/3/17)

Late last year, the BBC’s Mike Thomson received a desperate call from a bomb shelter in the Syrian city of Aleppo. It came from head teacher and mother of three Om Mudar, who pleaded for help getting her terrified family out of the rebel-held part of the city. When Thomson was unable to make contact again, he feared the worst – but, as he explains here, months later a text message arrived that revealed Om’s fate.

“The worse thing is the night, it’s so long,” Om tells me, speaking after an especially heavy air attack last October.

“All the time there are rockets, helicopters, bombs. I’m so afraid for my children. I can’t sleep until 5am. Before then, I just pray.”

The oldest of her three children, 12-year-old Wissam, then reveals his own technique for getting through the night.

“I sometimes manage to sleep when there is bombing at night by putting my fingers in my ears. When that doesn’t work I place a pillow over my head,” he tells me.

“Me and my family and my neighbour… we are terrified… please help us.”

But soon, as pro-government forces close in and the bombing raids get heavier, neither pillows over heads nor fingers in ears are a passport to sleep any more. What remains of rebel-held territory in East Aleppo is being pounded with unparalleled ferocity.

Just before 8pm on Tuesday 18 December, my mobile phone pings. It is a voicemail message from Om.

“Please, please help us get out of Aleppo by safe corridor,” she pleads.

“Me and my family and my neighbour… we are terrified… please help us.”

Om is a dedicated supporter of the anti-Assad revolution who has sworn to never leave Aleppo, so I know things must now be really bad.

I call Om’s number, hoping she will be able to hear her phone amid the ear-shattering explosions. There is no response. I try again and again.

Finally, after several more attempts I get through. A distressing cacophony of crying children and babies comes on the line. Then I hear Om’s clearly petrified voice. She is speaking from an overcrowded basement bomb shelter, packed with distraught people, many of them children. We manage to have the following very brief and harrowing conversation.

“More than 100 people, more than 50 of them children… orphans… orphans. Their parents were killed by bombing while they were out buying food and they are all alone here.”…

Read the Rest and See Photos of Om’s Family