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Syria: “Death is everywhere”

The northern part of Lebanon is exceptionally beautiful. Trails wind round hills covered by lofty trees: the area may be poor, but is so rich in beauty. For a moment you forget how tense it is in this part of the country, just a few kilometres away from a war-torn Syria.

This serene image alters when we start to see Syrian families taking shelter in tents, shops and abandoned buildings along the road we’re travelling. In a village where Save the Children is working, we enter a cellar and find, behind a closed door, a wounded Syrian man who arrived a week ago, fleeing the fierce fighting in Syria.

A Syrian boy at a refugee settlement near the Syrian border

His injured foot is covered with a bandage and rests on a chair next to him.  There are two other men in the room chatting; one has come from the same area. The young man tells us he is in his early thirties; he has a distant look in his eyes, barely concentrating on what his friends are telling him.  We want to hear his story but he is reluctant to talk to us.

Then his friend, who is about the same age, breaks the silence. “You all know what is happening in Syria. The media has been covering it, what do you want me to say?

“Hundreds of children were murdered, their bodies torn apart, women were killed, corpses fill the streets; this is hell on earth. You talk about human rights, you talk about humanity. This has proved to be a joke.  The world is watching, and what they see is not a joke.  This is real; that’s how bad it is, how inhumane it is.”

Bitter words

His anger is understandable. We all remain silent, reflecting on the suffering of the Syrian people. We feel unwelcome but we can’t leave – it seems he has more to say. “Death became the only choice as there are no others available.

Everyone is simply observing a nation in pain, houses destroyed, families scattered, children and women killed. Words can never describe what we saw there. Death is everywhere”.  There is a lot of blame in his tone – he has lost hope and obviously does not expect the situation to change.

We thank him for his time and leave. I wanted to be able to tell him that I understand his suffering but I can’t: I can barely even imagine the atrocities he has seen. I feel guilty for opening his wounds again and asking him to relive painful memories.

I also feel helpless. I know we listen to their stories to share their pain and sadness with the world; I know Save the Children’s work improves families’ lives on a day-to-day basis; and I know we are working to mobilise the international community to act, to stop the fighting and allow access to families in Syria.  But today, it still just seems too far too little.

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By Mona Monzer and Rakan Diab, Save the Children in Lebanon


 

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