“After we finished (breakfast), they dropped the barrel on us and the house fell down.”
A freshly released aftermath video of two 10-year-old Syrian kids mourning the death of their friend is unsettling. Hamza and Qayn had lost their friend and mourned right as the camera recorded them for a well-known tabloid. The reporter asks them,
“How do you feel after Hasan’s death?”
Hardly animated and quite impenetrable, the boy replied, “We really don’t feel anything.”
It has been close to 5 years that the West Asian country of Syria has been embroiled in a convoluted mess of sociopolitical and religious turmoil, which has transformed into a turbulent incursion to humanity.
Gross human rights violations, including murders, rapes, abduction, assassinations are reported as I write comfortably numb in my studio apartment far away from the mess that replays on loop in the backdrop of Syria.
For us commoners with safe spatial distance from the crucible of violence, we require occasional images to tweak our disturbance threshold, shuffle a bit in our seats and quip,
“I pray for the children of Syria.”
Aylan Kurdi and Omraan Daqneesh aged 3 and 5 respectively were stark images of the world we live in today. Our lackadaisical attitude in perceiving and comprehending the threat that our race faces, the delay and procrastination resulting from farcical discussions in the United Nations, and the seemingly perpetuating distress that the Syrians face has resulted in a mess with dim solutions at disposal.
Searching more about the going scenario of Syria, I came across two web pages where maps depicted the very areas of Syria under siege, being bombed, averting a suicide bombing, being air-raided by Russia and more. The tab on your right would update you on what is going on by the minute; a demonstration, a crumbling assault on a small town, with civilian casualties or without it.
Going by statistics from the “Save the Children” website, war afflictions on 7.5 million children have been reported, with 2 million children missing out on education. With an average of 100 Syrians fleeing the inferno each hour, the exodus of Syrian population has cumulated up to 50% of the population since 2011.
These refugees are mostly concentrated in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, with migration trends seen in European countries too that have agreed to accept specified number of migrants.
Living in Germany for the past six months, I have noticed this influx and also the rising concerns of native residents and work permit holders from other countries of how “unsafe” the environment is slowly turning into.
Rehabilitating organisations perform seminal engagement activities to integrate them socially and culturally.
In Ulm, a small initiative namely “Before I die” constantly conducts activities involving Syrian immigrants, through musical shows and cultural events.
But the consciousness and sense of alienation are burgeoning with each passing day.
I wonder how innately the children are affected during this entire conundrum instigated by a huge population of warring adults. Apart from fleeing their homeland, they are compelled to abandon their houses often in the case of bombardment and airstrikes.
Displacement of Syrian people within their own country sums up to 6.5 million with a sporadic blockade in different regions restricting the basic supply of amenities, resulting in undernourishment and lack of medical aid.
What began as a dissent to the Bashar Al-Asad regime turned into a bloodied massacre over the years; a convoluted intersection of social, ethnic and religious clashes, all muddled into one, one bombing the other and turning the country into an expanse of dusty run-downs and howling masses.
All we see are few children here and there, much with the help of photojournalists who happen to come across them, reporting them and letting the world know that they are representative of something ghastly and diabolic happening to the humankind. Yet, in the backdrop of this tumult, one cannot completely ignore the psychological effect on the refugee population; more so, the children.
I was curious to dive deeper into refugee rehabilitation measures taken in the countries who have offered to provide them interim shelter.
Going through an article describing the situation in Lebanon, it doesn’t come as a surprise that children are being driven to suicide as an option of escape.
As Lebanon won’t offer permanent camp establishments, makeshift ones with questionable standards of hygiene are housing refugees.
Syrian women have been forced into prostitution. Refugees have been refused jobs and also, charged exorbitantly to rent a place in the camps.
A 12-year-old consumed rat poison to “relieve” her mother of the burden of fending for 7 children; another little girl tried to slit her wrist when her father attempted to stab her in a fit of rage.
Several NGOs work to support these children to provide them with a safer and healthier haven where the stigma of their descent can be stopped from moulding their psyche.
The story doesn’t end here. Purportedly, the NGOs are finding it difficult to survive with funding cuts from the United Nations. With the UN choosing to involve the Lebanese government more into active rehabilitation associated participation, the alternate political insinuation dissuades NGOs from continuing their base-work with children who require regular attention, education and activities fit for their age, their mind and their nurturing.
The War delves deep into the child’s mind and sculpts indiscriminately leaving a venerating trauma. Undoing this effect involves engaging the children that the NGOs strive to do. Workers and representatives speak of the dismal state of mind that these children arrive in, drawing weapons, bombs and colouring them black when asked to draw on sheets. The uncertainty of having such support, existent lack of a dignified living in these foreign countries and the apt proverb “idle mind is the devil’s workshop” would enact itself in the foremost glory giving rise to a vicious cycle of criminal tendencies.
Next, I came across the most heart-wrenching bit of my research on Syrian children. A project by Magnus Wennman for “Aftonbladet“, a Swedish newspaper gives us the trenchant image of what the world is doing to innocent children.
As series of photographs depicting the conditions in which the children sleep hits one hard. Along the closed borders of Hungary, freezing pavements and forests of Serbia, children as young as 2-year-old sleep with an excruciating listlessness in their eyes. There was the picture of a boy with a blood disease, lying faced sideways on a mucky mattress.
His mother cannot afford to treat him, with long distances to be covered and the lingering nightmare of his sister’s death, the kid lies outside the central station of Belgrade, shrouded in hopelessness and impassivity.
Such horror in innocent eyes would be seldom seen unless witnessed in these few photographs – where a 2 year old born in such circumstances haven’t spoken, where a little girl lies mum with a broken jaw after surviving a severe head trauma, where cardboard and grasses have replaced the comforts of their modest homes back in Syria, where toys have been replaced by shrapnel lodged in their spines and head.
For the children of Syria, we are still largely ignorant of how it has befallen them; and how survival also has turned into a depraved luxury.
I wonder what it would take to stop the war in Syria. A video shows the impact of 5 years, which is also often half or even the entire lifetime for so many children.
Liam Neeson and Mia Farrow requests in yet another attention garnering attempt to appeal to a dissolution of the atrocities prevailing in Syria. They also show two children, a boy of 10 and a girl of 5. The girl moved me to the core of my ethos which is not enough to empathise or actively do anything to save them. That is how weak we are; powerless, weak and futile.
The girl smiled as the video was shot.
“Five years, that’s all my life.”