Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Salma's Fear

               The 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 Syrian Army. 
               On 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. 
               With 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 slaughtered."   
               Karim 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.