Recently, I have been going through files from Syria in 2012. I came across this picture and it brought back so many memories.
I had gone on yet another trip inside; I was planning on 1-2 days in Aleppo after Idlib, this was at the beginning of the troubles in Aleppo, before it went to mainstream media, when it was still very much in the hands of the regime and not the opposition. I decided to go into the centre, things were very different at the time upon going into the centre, I won’t go into much detail of it, but, there were no Free Syrian Army groups going back and forth at the time, everything was silent of this, everything was with regime checkpoints in the centre, not FSA checkpoints.
About 8 days later, after no communication with those few on the outside who knew what I was working on inside, no emails, no phones, nothing, let’s just say I had landed in a far from safe situation, I was out to Idlib border again, back to being able to breathe, feel safe for that time frame. I won’t go into great details of everything day to day.
I let kids use my camera when resting, in family homes and so forth, it brings them a moment of joy from the boredom the poor children have to suffer through with no schools, no real freedom for play time and these things kids need. What I didn’t realise was this kid had listened to me speaking about what had happened and was paying close attention to the chats with the adults in the group. He took this snap, this was the moment I had phone communication again and relieved a lot of very worried people on the outside who were starting to think the worst. It was such a joyous moment and this brought me smiles as I reminisce over that trip. It then brings me great sadness.
During that trip, I had witnessed some of the most horrific scenes to date in Syria for me. Things that still haunt me, still shock me, things that I would wish no-one to see or experience.
It started with a 12-year-old girl who had been raped horrendously by what is known as the Shabiha, a militia group loyal to the Syrian regime. The Free Syrian Army had rescued her, she had witnessed her family murdered in front of her own eyes. They took her and continuously raped her, they used mice as part of shaming her, and prodded her with a hot rod type of item. Now, I won’t go into the tragic details of this crime, but you may find it hard to believe. How could anyone do this to a little girl I thought as she shared her horror with me, myself in the moment even in so much shock trying to believe her story. With just her and I in the room, she was being treated for her wounds, she was crying, wishing for death as what man would ever want her, she called herself a monster now, she could never have children, her family are all gone, what did she have to live for she questioned me, the tragedy that was before me was beyond comprehension. I tried to comfort her, I tried to calm her, she lifted her gown and blankets from the hospital bed she lay on and shouted at me to look at her disfigurement.
I had lost any right to question her story she shared with me in that moment as I fought to hold back my every emotion in front of her.
Rape is not something spoken about openly in the Muslim culture; it’s difficult for someone to speak about from any culture, but no culture as difficult as the Arab nations.
Rape is happening more frequently than can ever be documented in Syria currently, including men suffering sexual abuses.
Continuing that trip, there was tragedy after tragedy in all the regions I travelled to. Everyone not without their tragic story to share, places of terror, fear, the unknown that could happen at any moment with the fear of helicopters at the time circling as we would await them dropping out rockets. Descriptions I could never put into words, nor could anyone of what the situation is like inside.
These scenes are only worsening inside now. These tragedies are worsening daily, yet we are approaching 2 years of the troubles in Syria and it only continues to deteriorate while it seems humanity is lost in the world.
I only share this tiny glimpse into one of my trips into Syria as looking back at this file, seeing this picture, and remembering it all, as I do every trip I have made inside, I never forget everyone who helps me, everyone I meet, I just don’t share much publically about it, but I spoke to this little boy this morning and asked him if he remembered the pictures he took on my camera, he said yes of course, he loves my camera he said, and he asked me if I am happier now. I asked him why he asks me this, he said because when he met me I was very sad even though I was laughing and playing with his family. That saddened me even more that this boy, this family that I have not seen again since that trip remembers me, and that little boy takes the time to ask me how I am and if I am happy while his family are in great suffering, lacking food, further lives lost in their family while they lack clothing, blankets and so forth for winter.
I could share a thousand stories and more, as can anyone who has been inside, or any Syrian first and foremost who has suffered – each story is just as important as the other, every human life counts, this is not a statistic; yet this is how most know Syria and it’s tragedy as statistics.
This same trip one of the many families I had met with, a family who took me in for shelter for a short time and fed me, I had given a little girl bracelets as a gift, I always try to carry some small items I could give as gifts to children, I had 2 bracelets she liked, nothing special but she adored them, she asked me what they said, one was peace, one was love, (If you know me, it’s my motto through life and any jewellery I am wearing frequently has this written on it in some way…), so I say to her, Salam (Peace) and Hubb (Love). She said it was so beautiful, and we laughed as I ate with her and her family. I put them around her wrist and she asked me to promise to come and she her again, Inshallah (God willing incase you are not familiar with Arabic terms) I said, and I looked to her family and asked them why are they not leaving as they were in a very dangerous area and it was only a matter of time before it would be hit, I feared for them. This little girl was so precious, so smart, so loving, there was something about her that stuck with me, I think it was because she reminded me of myself when I was her age, she was so beautiful. She came running to me in tears as I was leaving, she was scared I would not visit her again and missed me already she said, and she gave me back the bracelets I gave her. We all were so surprised as the kids love to get gifts and she adored the little bracelets. She said she wanted me to wear them because she wants me to keep the Peace and Love with me as I travelled in Syria to be safe and wanted me to always remember her. After a lot of bickering and giggles, I put the bracelets on and she made me promise her I would never take them off. I never took them off since then. 2 days later I was in a different region and was told that the village was hit badly and there are many injured and killed including many children. Of course my first instinct was to think of Alaa, that little girl, that family who took me in. I requested to go back to that village to see what had happened, my heart sank as I returned to a now destroyed village. I went to the house that was where I sat days previously and laughed with a family, that house was rubble now. We asked around what happened, tried to find information, most fled to refugee camps so I presumed they had left there too. A man in the village remembered me, he was a neighbour of the family and had sat in for dinner with us, he told me to come with him, he took me to a graveyard, to Alaa’s grave. That little girl, just days prior I laughed with was killed as she was buried in rubble in her home. To this day I can’t believe it, but I don’t look at those bracelets the same anymore and I certainly never did take them off, until recently as they were getting badly damaged so I wanted to protect them to make sure I always had them, I replaced them with a small peace & love bracelet I can always wear to remember her.
This is a frequent story in Syria sadly. It just hurts more as it would any human I would like to think when you meet the people personally, it adds a different level of upset to the situation.
The beauty in the hearts of the Syrian people is one that I cannot ever falter. It is not one that anyone will ever understand unless they have travelled to Syria, or lived in Syria or been working inside. Being any outside to the religion, yet being brought in and welcomed and assisted is something that is lacking great understanding to the outside world. Muslim’s get put under one big title in the world by those who lack education on the religion or live in little bubbles of Fox watching news turning a blind eye to the real world.
Right now there are millions of humans suffering across our world, from many countries, cultures, religions. Right now though, Syria is suffering the worst humanitarian crisis possible.
No-one can imagine the suffering the people are going through, the tragedy that has happened and is happening. You see about 10% if you are lucky through the media. A lot more needs done.
We are here on this earth for humanity, to help one another in need. It is not about religion, not about race or anything alike, this is about humanity.
I am asking you for humanity, to please help in any humanitarian way you can. Please open your eyes, please donate what you can – financially, clothing, blankets, anything else to a local group that you trust is doing great work inside and / or in the refugee camps surrounding Syria. If you need advice on trusted groups in your country please get in touch I will be happy to guide you as there are sadly many who are profiting from war as always happens and cannot be trusted too, so please be sure to verify donations carefully. As some of you may know, I am starting my own organisation, and have received many donations of medical supplies, clothing and so forth to get through to those in need. I will not be ready to launch my organisation official until March roughly, but if you do wish to pass anything through I can direct it through me if this helps for those who know me. My organisation will be a different way of involving the world in bring aid to those in need, it will not be limited to Syria, it will be a worldwide organisation, however in the first year the prediction is we will only be aiding Syria through it.
Be thankful for all you have, for that phone call you were able to make today, for that cup of coffee you made yourself that you must have every morning or else you will have a conniption. Be thankful for life, for your children, your wife and your husband if you are lucky to have found love in this form. Be thankful for that bowl of cereal you had, for that lunch date you are going to have, for that vacation you are going on. Be thankful for the water running freely from your tap, for the joy of being able to sit in comfort and read this right now without worry.
Please don’t use the excuse well it’s not my country, they are not my family, they are not my people. This is disgusting to say and sadly I have heard this too many times for my liking. We are one in this world; we should always be reaching out a helping hand to another.
We live blessed lives, even your worst day is your best day, believe me. You are alive, that is enough to be thankful for, and with that, being alive means you are a human in this world and our duty as human’s are to help one another in need.
I cannot fathom on any level what it would feel like to lose my child, to lose my father, my mother, my loved ones through horrors of war, and in such horrific and painful circumstances. I cannot nearly imagine how I would feel if my child was raped, tortured, beaten to death and worse. I am sure you cannot either. I have seen what it feels like for others first hand to face this, others who once had a normal life, a husband they would kiss goodbye to as they left to work, kids they would open the door to as they came home excited and playful after a day at school begging to go play before dinner, your everyday life, taken away from you, and if you are lucky to be alive still, you get to go and live in a dirty refugee camp, lacking all forms of aid. Think about it, open your eyes.
Live a good honest life, please be more than what the world is conforming to be, cheating, lies, destruction and so forth. Please be more. Stand up for humanity; stand up as a human being. Spread Peace & Love, this starts in your heart and spreads one little bit at a time.
I share little glimpses here and there of small stories just to give a glimpse into a humanised side of things in Syria. If you are on my mailing list I share a lot more, but will from now on try to blog a lot more…
Be Truth, Be Peace, Be Love, Be Inspiring.
With Peace & Love,