last Friday of August Salma was sitting
in the basement of building where she lives in Dariya in the suburbs of
Damascus. What might have been running
though the head of this eight year girl?
We know that Salma turned to her mother and said, "The sound of the
shelling is getting louder." She
had been hiding in the basement of her apartment building with everyone of her neighbors
most of the day. Soon enough, Salma, her
little brother and her mother, among dozens of her neighbors, were either dead
or wounded. Salma was not dead but had shrapnel
in her belly. She did not need to
die. When the surviving neighbors tried to
get medical help, they could not leave their basement. For twelve hours they sat watching the wounded
dying one by one. Twelve hours later Salma
turned her eyes to the sky and added one more number to the victims of the
genocide that the Syrian regime is committing.
She joined the 670 dead girls and 1623 dead boys, whose deaths are officially
documented since March 2011. The real
number is far beyond these statistics.
Each one of these children has a unique story. and each story is at least as tragic as
Salma's. Salma's tragedy did not stop there. Her mother and her little brother, both of
them wounded with the same shell had to remain another 16 hours with Salma's
dead body before they succeed to get some help.
Salma's funeral was not what one
might think. Nether Salma's neighbors
nor members of her large family could
make it to the funeral. Salma's eight year
old body was carried to the grave by only her grandmother and her old
uncle. On the road to the nearby
cemetery a group of the regime's soldiers stopped them. The grandmother shouted to the soldier, "Just
let us bury our baby." The head of
the group ordered them to be shot and left.
Salma's grandmother and her uncle turned their backs to the soldiers and
wondered if they were going to get shot before getting to the tomb. No one knows why the soldiers did not shoot
them. One may only speculate. Is it because they were tired of all the slaughter
they committed that week-end? The total
number of fallen civilian that week-end surpassed 1250 civilians in Daraiya
alone. None of them belonged to the Free
the border of Syria, I met in person other types of children. Muhammad just turned 20 years old. He got arrested the first time for attempting
to defect from his military service when he was not yet fully 18. He was, or should I say, he is still, a
child. When I talked to him, I feel he
is still 11 years old. He joyfully shows
you the traces on his body of five months of torture by electricity in Assad's
jail. He will tell you, as if nothing
happened, how he was wounded three times.
Every time he gets better, he goes back to the fight.
his 11 year old innocence he tells you, "I had not yet turned 18 when I
was drafted. Either I had to kill innocent civilians or the soldiers would shoot
me. I choose to take my chances. Now, either
I wait for them to get to my house and slaughter me, or I have to stand and
defend my people, from the first child in the first house of my city. I had to choose the latter. I had wanted to finish with the military
service and leave it behind me as soon as possible. Now, it looks like I have to live with its terrors
and memories all my life. But all what I can do? I cannot let children get
is another child/man, 21 years old. He
said, "We are dying here happily so no child gets threatened and no woman
gets raped. We do not want anyone to die
with us. All what we want is that you help
us with your prayers, your weapons and your money."
It is undeniable that what happens
daily in Syria is genocide. But what is
relevant, is that we cannot face genocide half-heartedly. We are facing a crises that might be prolonged
and the human race is watching it silently.
Salma, 670 girls and 1623 boys are watching us from heaven. They tell us Muhammad and Karim could not get
to their neighborhood early enough. Their
fear is that we do not help Muhammad and Karim to get to other neighborhoods
before it is too late.