Wednesday 22 November 2017

Desperate plight of war's forgotten sons and daughters

Benedict brogan

MORE than one million people have escaped Syria since the civil war began two years ago.

Many go to Lebanon, a country of just four million people with vast problems of its own. Up to 10,000 arrive in a day.

I spent an hour last week at the Masna'a border crossing, watching a bumper-to-bumper procession of vehicles pour slowly out of Syria.

We were taken to a Bekaa village to what was once one of Yasser Arafat's prisons. What were once cells now house several families who sleep on mats around a kerosene stove.

Only a few have windows, and cardboard partitions provide little privacy. A single tap is shared. There is still snow on the mountains and it is bitingly cold.

Horrieh (9) lives in one room with her extended family. She used to live in Damascus, enjoying playing run-catch with other children.

School became too frightening because of the bombing raids.

The sound of the explosions would make children wet themselves in terror.

Five months ago her father was arrested and she hasn't seen him since: "I miss him very much."

She wrings her hands silently and furiously as she speaks, a common habit among traumatised children.

Her brother Thaer (12) is happy for me to touch the spot on his head where a piece of shrapnel from a rocket cracked his skull and left him unconscious.

His friend Ouran was killed by a sniper. They were working in a shop; he saw Ouran coming towards him, turned and heard a shot.

Ouran was on the ground. At first he thought his friend was joking because there was no blood.

"I tried to wake him. Then we took off his shirt and saw the bullet hole. There was only a drop of blood."

Horrieh wants to be a doctor to help the war's victims. But for all of Syria's capacity to surprise us with its violence and suffering, there is no sign it will allow her to fulfil that dream.

Irish Independent

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