My daughter is absolutely depressed. Hearing any loud noise, she puts her fingers in her ears in order not to hear. She always thinks of loud noises as if they were shelling and military aeroplanes. Fear has not stopped perusing us yet.
"One woman's powerful account off loss, perseverance and her enduring love for her family, amidst the brutality of the Syrian war"
“I am Sara Hashim*, I am 30 years old. I have three kids, two girls and a son. My oldest daughter is 14, my other daughter is 12, and my son is only 9. My husband died at the start of the revolution six years ago after suffering from a lung disease.
“I am an internally displaced person from the al-Mash’had quarter in Aleppo. I moved from there with my family to al-Aamiriyeh, and then to Salahiddeen, in central Aleppo. There I stayed with my husband’s family. When they were all displaced, I couldn’t stay there any longer. I could manage to live, moving from here to there, staying with neighbours and relatives. They all knew that I was providing for my children on my own. I thank God that they didn’t stop supporting me. That was in addition to the aid that I used to receive.
“Living began to get harder and harder, and we suffered from the lack of water and power supply, as well as the costs of renting a house and schooling for the children. All the schools soon closed because of the non-stop shelling by the regime air force planes which targeted schools, mosques, and hospitals. My children studied in an underground cell as a school. The teacher of that school and her daughter were killed on their way to school one day.
“In the beginning, we considered it so natural that we, to some extent, coexisted with the situation. However, living a besieged life in Aleppo started to get harder and harder with the constant shelling and all forms of bombardment. We weren’t safe in our homes. We all gathered in an internal room of the house and the shrapnel of bombs spread everywhere in the house. My mother was living with my brother in the opposite building.
“One day, I went to see and check on them. I told my kids not to leave the house. As soon as I reached my mother’s building, a rocket hit it. My mother was bleeding. At that time I didn’t know whom to worry about more – my mother or my kids. We waited and waited for an ambulance. But it was in vain. So I myself rescued her and began to give her first aid as much as I could. I stopped the bleeding with bandages, using all the knowledge I had from a one day first aid training I had received.
“I left my mother to go to my children. After I had mentally prepared myself for leaving them, I went out to wait in the street until a passing by 3-wheel vehicle picked myself, my brother, and my mother up. At the hospital and on our way, death was everywhere. We were stepping into pools of blood in the streets. My brother couldn’t stop crying and shouting “we will die, we will die”. Finally, we arrived at the hospital. There were dead people on the platforms and on the floor of the hospital. Doctors managed to take the shrapnel out of my mother’s body. They succeeded in re-connecting her cut off arteries and veins.
“Two days later, we came back home. I was shocked to see that our building had been shelled and my children had hid in the elevator crying while a dead person was lying in front of them. My daughter told me that the building had been shelled with cluster bombs and they had stayed in the elevator. The person who advised them not to leave the lift was the dead man drowned in blood.
“It is true that we were foodless, but what we worried about most was how to get out of that area. We kept patient, hoping that heaven’s care would help us to get out of that terrible situation. The regime, after the failure of all international meetings and summits, continued to escalate their shelling and bombarding.
“The worst moments were when the regime army and the Iranian militias started progressing until they reached Jisr al-Hajj. That day we were hopeless and realized that it was impossible to get out of Aleppo. At that time, people stopped going out. Shelling was non-stop – and everywhere. We watched the military aeroplanes shell four or five rockets at one time. Before the fighter aeroplanes leave, helicopters arrive to complete the shelling mission.
“Shaking bombs knocked down complete buildings until destroyed buildings were piled above each other. That barbaric shelling was a preparation tactic to enable the army to break into Aleppo City. Finally a truce and a cease fire was called. At that time we started waiting for the buses to take us out of town. It was a really horrible period of suffering. Thousands and thousands of people were crowded into the area. We were evacuated out in the second stage of the evacuation process. We were in a small bus carrying 75 people. Of course, people were not in seats, but piled up in the bus. Everyone only wanted to go out. Seven guys and a pregnant woman in the group that followed us were killed. People were robbed of all their possessions and money by the Iranian militias. Russian officers were only watching without taking any action. We left town, owning nothing and penniless, with only our clothes on.
“We thanked God we were safe.
“We, my kids, my mother and my brother, came here to Qurqania town in the northern countryside of Idlib and rented a house. We received the aid distributed by GOAL ($100). This meant we could buy food and some clothes for my kids and pay for the house. GOAL also provided us with food kits and non-food items, such as sponge mats. However, we prefer cash aid since that enables us buy things that we really need. Such big support gave us the chance to start new lives in this town as we hope to go back to Aleppo again.
“Life is so hard here; we are displaced people who can’t go back to our original home. We wish we could go back home one day so that my children can continue their life and study without war. I feel like I let my children down. I feel like I am unable to take care of their study, their needs, everything. Unfortunately, that is all that I can do.
“I want to keep them away of the atmosphere of war. They have lost the feeling of childhood. They are psychologically depressed. They are still young children. Nevertheless, all they talk about is war, killing, shooting, bombarding, shelling and the like. My daughter is absolutely depressed. Hearing any loud noise, she puts her fingers in her ears in order not to hear. She always thinks of loud noises as if they were shelling and military aeroplanes. Fear has not stopped perusing us yet.
“My real fear is to miss any of my kids or to experience again what we did in Aleppo.”
**The names of beneficiaries in this story have been changed.