Bearing witness: The destruction of Homs, the third largest city in Syria. The mosque of Khalid Ibn Al Walid is under attack

Map of Syria, Homs is north west of Damascus

Map of Syria, Homs is towards the north of Damascus

Khalid Ibn Al Walid Mosque, the beating heart of Homs The Syrian regime has been systematically, ruthlessly, methodically erasing Homs and its rebelling inhabitants since the onslaught on Baba Amr in the spring of 1912. The  devastation of Baba Amr, and adjacent  neighbourhoods, made me think then that  that was the paradigm and epitome  of all destruction,  that the last word in annihilation was said and finished with, that  nothing more could possibly top the landscapes of torn concrete, mounds of debris and shattered, broken decimated districts, forming fantastic sacrilegious  silhouettes of wrongness against the dead skies. How naive I was, how short sighted! https://alisariram.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/flash-back-homs-revisited-lest-we-forget-how-the-syrian-regime-destroyed-baba-amr-thus-changing-the-course-of-the-revolution/ That was before Aleppo, and before the terrible gradual wiping out of Syria’s history and heritage. That was before Daraa, deir Ezzor and the Ghouta of Damascus. Lastly, that was before the second cataclysm of Homs. In the annals of decivilization, some of which most infamous chapters are being perfected to inimitable  fine art by the Syrian army, the reign of President Assad stands unique; its thoroughness leading to nothing short of utter irrevocable damnation.

The Mosque of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid in Homs

The Mosque of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid in Homs

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque overlooking its park

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque overlooking its park

Taking a part recently in  the debate at the comment section in the Guardian, in the wake of an open letter sent to the Guardian by my friend, the dissident writer Yassin Al Haj Saleh,  has led me to discover how much egoism, naked self interest, cold hearted calculated statements, misinformation, even bigotry and viciousness the comments revealed, but how  little understanding, insight, wisdom, compassion and  generosity  they were able to muster in order to embrace the tragedy of a dying country and its people.  Is it a sign of our times that people genuinely do not care. Is it out of fatigue, indifference, fear, or downright ambivalent callousness? I do not know, but I would not be exaggerating if I consider the disintegration and destruction of Syria as one of the great achievements of the twenty first century. At the altar of geopolitics and regional interests, the human sacrifice of Syria’s children is being offered as an example of the inability to humanize politics enough in order to save a nation.

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque, looking like an abstract geometric painting
Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque before the onslaught on Homs

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque before the onslaught on Homs

Like I did before with Aleppo, I am going to attempt documenting humanity’s cultural losses in Homs, the third largest city in Syria, Homs whose epic struggle against the Syrian regime has become well known throughout the world.  As for the loss of so many good-natured, funny, witty and resilient Homsis, I leave this to the God of us all to document and register.   Homs (Arabic: حمص‎ / ALA-LCḤimṣ), previously known as Emesa (Greek: Ἔμεσα / Emesa),[3] is a city in western Syriaand the capital of the Homs Governorate. It is 501 metres (1,644 ft) above sea level and is located 162 kilometres (101 mi) north of Damascus.[4] Located on the Orontes River, Homs is also the central link between the interior cities and the Mediterranean coast. Homs is a major industrial center, and with a population of at least 652,609 people,[5] it is the third largest city in Syria after Aleppo to the north and the capital Damascus to the south. Its population reflects Syria’s general religious diversity, composed mostly of Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims and Alawite and Christian minorities. The city boasts a number of historic mosques and churches and is close to the Krak des Chevaliers, a world heritage site.

Khalid Ibn Al Walid Mosque, a beautiful monument sentenced to destruction

Khalid Ibn Al Walid Mosque, a beautiful monument sentenced to destruction

Homs did not emerge into the historical record until the 1st century BCE at the time of the Seleucids. It later became the capital of a kingdom ruled by the Emesani dynasty who gave the city its name. Originally a center of worship for the sun god El-Gabal, it later gained importance in Christianity under the Byzantines. Homs was conquered by the Muslims in the 7th-century and made capital of a district that bore its current name. Throughout the Islamic era, Muslim dynasties contending for control of Syria sought after Homs due to the city’s strategic position in the area. Homs began to decline under the Ottomans and only in the 19th century did the city regain its economic importance when its cotton industry boomed. During French Mandate rule, the city became a center of insurrection and, after independence in 1946, a center ofBaathist resistance to the first Syrian governments. Homs has played a central role in the ongoing Syrian civil war against the Baathist government and since May 2011 has suffered from the conflict. Wikipedia

Khaled Ibn Al-Walid Mosqu: elegance in polychrome masonry and metal plated domes.

Khaled Ibn Al-Walid Mosqu: elegance in polychrome masonry and metal plated domes.

For more, please use the Wikipedia link above. I am dreading to go through that whivh has become death’s dominion, but, Homs, I shall not rest until I have named our cultural losses which lie under your heaps of broken life and history. I shall start with the Mosque and Shrine of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid, the great Arab hero and military genius, not to forget, a companion of the Prophet. Homs is identified with this great hero and is sometimes called the City of Khaled ibn Al-Walid.  Therefore the regime thinks that in destroying the shrine and the Mosque, it is also destroying the epicenter of the Revolution and the spirit of the Homsis. 

The Mosque of Khaled Ibn Al-Walid

 Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque (Arabic: مسجد خالد ابن الوليد‎) is a mosque in HomsSyria, located in a park along Hama Street in ash-Shuhada Square. Noted for its Ottoman-Turkish architectural style, the mosque is dedicated to Khalid ibn al-Walid, an Arabmilitary commander who led the Muslim conquest of Syria in the 7th century following the decisive Battle of Yarmouk, which put an end to Byzantine rule in Syria. His dome-topped mausoleum is located in a corner of the prayer hall and has served as a pilgrimage center. Two tall minarets with narrow galleries constructed of alternating horizontal rows of white and black stone are situated at the building’s northwestern and northeastern comers and reflect the traditional Islamic architecture style of the Levant.

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque’resting majestically in its park before the Assadi armies turned into a architectural nightmare

The mosque is located in Homs, the third largest city in Syria. It is situated in a park inHama Street about 500 metres (1,600 ft) north of Shoukri al-Quwatli Street, 400 metres (1,300 ft) southwest of the National Hospital, and 300 metres (980 ft) from the souk at ash-Shouhada Square.[2][3][4] Grounds Mamluk ablaq-style stonework is used in the courtyard. The old cemetery, which at one time surrounded the mosque, was moved and in its place a large garden has been created. History A small mosque was supposedly built adjacent to the mausoleum of Khalid ibn al-Walidin the 7th century.[5] The current interior shrine that contains Khalid’s tomb dates to the 11th century,[6] and is considered to be a “significant pilgrimage center.”[7]

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque: sanctuary for bitfd and human

Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque: sanctuary for bitfd and human

Several sources state that the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque was originally built around Khalid’s mausoleum during the reign ofMamluk sultan al-Zahir Baybars in 1265.[5][8][9] The building was later restored during the reign of Mamluk sultan al-Ashraf Khalil in 1291.[5] According to local tradition, when Tamerlane invaded Syria in the early 15th century, he spared Homs from destruction because it contained the mosque and the mausoleum of Khalid ibn al-Walid, whom he held in great regard in light of Ibn al-Walid’s role as a companion of Islamic prophet Muhammad and a commander of the Muslim Arab army that conquered the city ofDamascus and Byzantine Syria.[5]

The monument facing the Mosque with inscriptions quoting  Khalid as he lay dying:Ther isn't an inch in my body but that bears the scar of sword and arrow wounds, yet here I am dying in my bed like cowards.

The monument facing the Mosque with inscriptions quoting Khalid as he lay dying: There isn’t an inch in my body but that bears the scars of sword and arrow wounds, yet here I am lay dying in my bed. May cowards never close their eyes.

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, during Ottoman rule, the Dandan family, the most prominent clan of the Arab Bani Khalidtribe, held a stake in the extended revenue shares of the mausoleum and the mosque. The Bani Khalid claimed descent from Ibn al-Walid and the accompanying tribes that participated in the conquest of Syria under his command. However, their claim of ancestry had been previously refuted by the Mamluk-era historian al-Qalqashandi.[10]

The moucelleum of Khaled Ibn Al-Walid

The mausoleum of Khaled Ibn Al-Walid

The present-day mosque was built in the early 20th century,[5][11] although some sources claim it dates to the late 19th century.[12][13] Nazim Hussein Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Syria between 1895 and 1909, during the reign of Sultan Abd al-Hamid I,[5][13] ordered the demolition of the Mamluk-era mosque for renovation.[5] The renovation was completed in 1912,[5][8] after Hussein Pasha’s term as governor ended. Thus, the current Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque is of relatively recent construction and is noted for its Ottoman architectural style.[5][13][8][11] According to historian David Nicolle, the mosque’s construction by the Ottoman government was an attempt to maintain the allegiance of the increasingly restive Arab inhabitants of Syria. In later years Khalid was adopted as a hero and symbol of Arab nationalism.

The sacrofagus of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid

The sacrofagus of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid

The metal screen adorning the windows surrounding the tomb of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid

The metal grills adorning the windows surrounding the tomb of Khalid Ibn Al-Walid

Modern era[edit]

As of 2007, activities in the mosque were organized by shaykhs Haytham al-Sa’id and Ahmad Mithqan.[14] Stamps depicting the mosque have been issued in several denominations.[15] Since July 2011, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque has served as a focal point for demonstrators protesting against the government of Bashar al-Assad as part of the Syrian civil war.[1] According to The New York Times, Syrian security forces killed 10 protesters participating in a funeral procession as they were leaving the mosque on 18 July 2011.[16] In February 2012, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque was reportedly shelled by the Syrian Army, causing damage to the domes, minarets and other areas of the mosque.[1]

The beautiful mihrab and gilded minbar of the Mosque

The beautiful mihrab and gilded minbar of the Mosque

The marble gilded Mihrab of the Mosque

Another veined marble gilded Mihrab in the Mosque. The Mosque has three Mihrabs

The marble gilded minbar of the mosque, decorated with geometric patterns and pierced ornamentation

The gilded veined marble  minbar of the mosque, decorated with geometric and pierced patterns 

Architecture[edit]

The mosque is Ottoman in style: it contains a large courtyard, and the “walls are decorated in alternating bands of black and white stone”, i.e.Ablaq.[11][3] It is distinguished by its two tall, white stone minarets, which have narrow galleries constructed of white and black stone, laid in alternate horizontal rows.[17] Situated at the building’s northwestern and northeastern comers,[18] they reflect a traditional Islamic architecture style of the Levant. The minarets and the window frames are made of white limestone. The building’s metal central dome is silver in color[19] and reflects sunlight.[2][5] It is supported by four massive columns, built in Mamluk ablaq style. In addition to the large central dome, there are nine smaller domes.

The facade of the Mauselum

The ornate facade of the Mauselum

A large prayer hall forms much of the interior. The walls are made of basalt stone, a building material which is widely available in Homs. The mausoleum of Khalid ibn al-Walid is in one corner.[11][20][3] Khalid’s tomb contains an ornate dome and interiors that depict over 50 victorious battles that he commanded.[21][13][22] The body of Khalid ibn al-Walid was stored in a wooden sarcophagus carved with Kufic inscriptions and quoting the Quran.[23] During renovation, the sarcophagus was moved to the National Museum in Damascus.[5]   Wikipedia To this I would like to add, that the Mosque, which in its architecture displays Mamluk, Ottoman and late Ottoman characteristics, also embodies the local architectural spirit and craftsmanship. It has a special Homsi falvour. What is noticeable in the architectural decoration of the Mosque is the gilded marble decorations above the mihrabs, the minbar and the windows of the mausoleum, creating panels and bands of floral ornaments which contrast beautifully with the solemn refined  architectural space. The ornate style of these decorations is what I like to describe as the Syrian and Ottoman rococo. It is also found in the decorations of the old houses of Damascus  Aleppo and Homs.

Ewegance and beauty destroyed: legacy of the Syrian army

Elegance and beauty destroyed: legacy of the Syrian army

يعود بناء جامع خالد بن الوليد إلى القرن 7 هجري (القرن: 13 ميلادي)،  ميلادي)، والبناء الحالي إلى العهد العثماني في القرن 19 الميلادي أيام السلطان عبد الحميد الثاني. حيث أقيم المسجد الجامع على أنقاض المسجد القديم الذي كان قائمًا في  كان قائمًا في نفس المكان في مدينة حمص ومبني وفق الطراز المملوكي أيام السلطان الظاهر بيبرس في القرن السابع الهجري. ويتميز الجامع الحالي ببناء على الطراز العثماني المتصف بالتناوب بين اللونين الأبيض والأسود في حجارته ممزوجًا بطراز سوري جميل. مصدر الافلام والصور والمعلومات : مواقع وصفحات فيس بوك متعددة. ————————————————————————— A l’origine, c’était une petite mosquée avoisinant un tombeau appartenant, sans être sûr, soit à Khalid Ibn al-Walid (خالد بن الوليد), soit à Khalid Ibn Yazid (خالد بن يزيد). En 1265 (664 Hégire), le Sultan al-Zhahir Mamlouk, Baybars al-Bunduqdari (السلطان الظاهر بيبرس البندقداري) édifia un mausolée (تربة) afin d’abriter ce tombeau supposé être à Khalid Ibn al-Walid. Ce Mausolée (ou cénotaphe) fut restauré en 1291 (691 Hégire) sous le règne du sultan al-Achraf Salah al-Din Khalil Ibn Qalawoun (السلطان الأشرف صلاح الدين خليل بن قلاوون). Sous le règne du Sultan Ottoman ‘Abd al-Hamid II (السلطان عبد الحميد الثاني), le gouverneur de la Syrie (والي الشام) Hussein Nazim Bacha (حسين ناظم باشا ـ 1895 ـ 1909), donna l’ordre de détruire l’ancienne mosquée afin d’édifier une nouvelle mosquée incluant le mausolée de Khalid Ibn al-Walid ; la construction de cette mosquée s’acheva en 1912 (1331 Hégire). Il s’agit de la mosquée actuelle, elle est construite selon le style architectural ottoman, caractérisé par l’édification de deux minarets fines et hautes, une immense coupole centrale entourée par neuf coupoles plus petites. Le matériau utilisé pour construire les murs de cette mosquée fut de la pierre noire basaltique répandue à Homs, mais les cadres des fenêtres et les deux minarets sont en calcaire blanc. La mosquée de Khalid Ibn al-Walid était entourée de plusieurs côtés par un ancien cimetière qui fut transféré en 1960 pour être remplacé par un vaste parc public Le sarcophage en bois gravé par des inscriptions coraniques qui fut utilisé pour contenir l’ossement de Khalid Ibn al-Walid lors de la dernière restauration de son mausolée (au XIIIe siècle), est actuellement exposé au Musée National à Damas. La tradition veut que Tamerlan, lors de son raid en Syrie au début du XVe siècle, ait épargné la ville de Homs pour honorer le Qoraïchite (القريشي) Khalid Ibn al-Walid (خالد بن الوليد), le compagnon du prophète Muhammad et le valeureux guerrier, commandant de l’armée arabo-musulmane qui conquit Damas et la Syrie byzantine. Khalid Ibn al-Walid qui mourut en 642 ap. J.-C. dans son lit à Homs, exprima son profond regret de ne pas mourir sur le champs de bataille. Sources : Sites et pages internet variés.   Protect Syrian Arachaeology

The art of annihilation by army jets and mortar shelling

The art of annihilation by army jets and mortar shelling

The Mosque during July 2013, in the last week in particular, has become the target of intensive bombing from the Syria air force and relentless mortar shelling.  This has resulted in sever damage to the metal coated domes and to the smaller domes, to the minarets, the structure of the mosque and to the elegant porticoes encircling  the inlaid courtyard in black and white stone. Worst of all, the mausoleum of Khaled was severely damaged. The outer coffin, as the pictures show, was broken exposing the smaller one, while the beautiful grills adorning the windows of the shrine  and the ornamental panels are also badly damaged. We do not know what happened to the minbar of the Mosque, the marble miharabs  with their  calligraphic bands and  floral panels of gilded decorations, which offer very elegant examples of local Homsi craftsmanship.

The mausoleum damaged

The partly mausoleum damaged. Note that one of the chandelier is down with debris scattered around it, which suggests impact from above

The mausoleum desecrated

The mausoleum desecrated

The outer sarcophagus destroyed

The outer sarcophagus destroyed

The interior of the Mosque ruined: light and shade shelled to devastation

The interior of the Mosque ruined: light and shade shelled to devastation

Death of a Mosque

Death of a Mosque

Death of a mosque 2

Death of a mosque 2

Death of a Mosque 3

Death of a Mosque

The Curtain falls

The Curtain falls

Damage updated 22 July, 2013 Today, 22 July, I am updating the damage to the Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque. Further sever bombardment of the site by air and artillery, courtesy of the army of Bashat Al-Assad, has resulted in additional structural damage to the Mosque, almost annihilating the mausoleum of the Arab epic hero Khalid. In my opinion  the shrine was targeted, with the intention of total destruction. A historical monument became the object of the hatred of the Iranians, Hizbullah and their ally the President of Syria. The Iranians it seems have never forgotten that Khalid played a major part in defeating the Persian Empire during the Rashidoun conquests, in the seventh century.  The excuse is that sacred places should not be centers of resistance.  How is it possible to prevent people from using a mosque where they pray 5 times a day and where people made homeless take shelter? In addition, the armed rebels, many of them the sons of Homs and former civilians who took up arms to defend their families,  think they are protecting the mosque from occupation and destruction by the regular army and its hostile allies. The sentence of death was passed on a mosque which was venerated for for centuries. To crush Homs, the mosque had to be crushed and the conflict had to turn into a sectarian conflict and a war of shrines in order to put the final ugly touches to the death of a great monument and the desecration  of one of the greatest Arab heroes. My source for recent  images is ©Protect Syrian Archaeology whose link is listed below. Note the damaged windows which suggests shelling from outside targeting the shrine. As usual, the Syrian government is lying about its devastating role in wiping out Syria’s history. They claim that the shrine was destroyed from within at the hands of some extremists, maeaning some of the rebels, but a careful examination of the images and videos tells another story

The mausoleum of Khalid must have been targeted with shelling from the direction of the damaged window, from outside

The mausoleum of Khalid must have been targeted with shelling from the direction of the damaged window, from outside

The condemned to annihilation Mosque of Khaled Ibn Al-Walid ( the latest)

The grand finale: the mausoleum destroyed, the tomb in ruins, the dome of the shrine down

The grand finale: the mausoleum destroyed, the tomb in ruins, the dome of the shrine down (latest update)

The remains of the remains of the Arab hero Khaled Ibn Al Walid. The question is: will it satisfy the hatred of the Iranians and Hizbullah, plus Bashar Al-Assad?

The remains of the remains of the Arab hero Khaled Ibn Al Walid, exposed. The question is: will it satisfy the hatred of the Iranians and Hizbullah, plus Bashar Al-Assad?

Victory is claimed by the Syrian army over the Mosque. With it , a barrage of fabrications are started in order to blame the damage of the Mosque and the shrine of Khaled on the rebels

Victory is claimed by the Syrian army over the Mosque. With it , a barrage of fabrications are started in order to blame the damage of the Mosque and the shrine of Khaled on the rebels

Protect Syrian Archaeology حماية الآثار السورية http://www.apsa2011.com/index.php/ar/provinces-ar/homs/monuments http://www.apsa2011.com/index.php/en/provinces/homs/monuments/634-homs-state-of-the-bombing-of-khalid-ibn-al-walid-mosque-29-06-2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nB_IJLzs_4 Homs Bombing of Khalid ibn al Walid mosque حمص – قصف عنيق جامع خالد بن الوليد 09.07.2013 – YouTube http://youtu.be/4o5SU-ZyerE Below the Mausoleum of khalid before it was damaged http://youtu.be/48w4lLFjujI 29 July, 2013, on the eve of occupying the Mosque. Please watch how monuments are treated by the Syrian army, how history and heritage are set on fire. http://youtu.be/8nB_IJLzs_4

29 July, 2013. the Mosque is heavily bombarded by the Syrian army

29 July, 2013. the Mosque is heavily bombarded by the Syrian army

Parts of the Mosque of Khalid are set on fire as aresult od intensive bombardment by the Syrian army

Parts of the Mosque of Khalid are set on fire as aresult od intensive bombardment by the Syrian army

Credits For most of the images and videos which appear in this post, I am indebted to: Wikipedia images, Facebook and You Tube Syrian Revolution activists and citizen journalists,,in addition to  ©Protect Syrian Archaeology, please see the link above * Please note that the texts in italics are mine. Alisar Iram

About alisariram

I am an artist, a writer and a researcher. I know Arabic and English . I am interested in music and art of every description. I like to describe myself as the embodiment of a harmonious marriage between two cultures which I value and treasure.
This entry was posted in Alisar's notes and aerticles, Art, Homs, Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosoue, Syria, Syrian Heritage, Syrian regime, Video and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bearing witness: The destruction of Homs, the third largest city in Syria. The mosque of Khalid Ibn Al Walid is under attack

  1. Nader Mahrous says:

    مروع حجم الدمار لدرجة اني أعجز عن التعليق ..نجاح الثورة السورية لن يعادل أبداً حجم الخسارة – مجهود كبيرر من فنانة كبيررة أحييكي علي هذا المجهود الرائع وأتمني وضع قريباً جدا لهذه المأساة

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