Shamel al-Ahmad was a 35-year-old Syrian photographer and activist. He was based in Aleppo.
At the beginning of September, the Facebook page Humans of Aleppo shared a message from Ahmad.
In the post, Ahmad explains why he chose to remain in Syria throughout the war. "Aleppo is part of me, I can’t leave it alone. I feel sorry that Aleppo is facing all this horror, but I can still breathe its freedom," he said.
“It is not possible to risk my two children’s lives at this deadly point, they are all I have in this world,” Shamel once said.
My name is Shamel Al-Ahmad. I am 35 years old married and have two children.
My life changed when I saw a video of the Syrian regime’s security forces while they were humiliating my people and treading on their heads in Bayda, Banias.
In July 2012, the freedom fighters entered my city, Aleppo. I became obsessed by the idea of being arrested and detained by regime forces. We were out of the regime control, and I didn't have to hide my identity anymore.
The risk of being detained is over, but my city turned into an open space for the regime to target all its opponents. Artillery, fighter jets, barrel bombs and even scud missiles. We experienced all those lethal weapons that I documented with my lens. I thought these pictures would tell the story and push the international community to act or at least help the civilians, but lately I've realized that was hopeless.
ISIS took over parts of my country. I immediately knew that our battle for freedom would be endless and that Assad is not our only problem.
I joined the “life makers” team, working on social development and acclimating them with the new reality, the war-time reality.
I sometimes get depressed and disappointed, and sometimes lose hope. I spend time with my friends and brothers in revolution, who are my hope and source of strength, to overcome my depression.
Months ago, somebody offered me to join on a boat trip to Europe. We talked about it many times and I was about to accept it, but eventually I said no…
Syria is my country and my cause. However, it is not possible to risk my two children’s lives at this deadly point, they are all I have in this world.
My friend made it to Germany in late 2015. He seemed happy. We Skype every week and he keeps encouraging me to follow his steps. I just keep refusing.
Despite all the reasons, which increase every day and push me to leave, I am the kind of person who can’t survive away from their streets. Aleppo is part of me, I can’t leave it alone. I feel sorry that Aleppo is facing all this horror, but I can still breathe its freedom.
I was saddened by friends who I lost and who I'm still losing, especially those who are close and brothers in revolution. Many of them lost hope and are not able to carry on. I don’t blame them, but I just feel sorry for not having them around me.
I am not against those who decide to leave and seek asylum, because many were forced to do that. I am just against the idea of being there to enjoy life without work or purpose, or without an aim to serve their homeland. I don’t want them to be a burden on the host communities.
Finally, it’s not easy to stay in Syria anymore, since nobody knows how their complicated story is going to end, but there is still hope to continue the fight.
At the bottom of the post, the moderator of Humans of Aleppo explained that Ahmad died on the day the post was published, succumbing to injuries from a recent air raid that had also killed his wife. They are survived by their 5-year-old, their 2-year-old, and their newborn.
On the day of Ahmad's death, a march was held in his honor.
Ahmad was founder of East Aleppo's media center and was a significant figure in the opposition. His death prompted a wave of tributes from colleagues and friends.
Ahmad's funeral took place on Sept. 4. His coffin was covered with the flag of the Syrian Opposition.
Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Rachael Krishna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.