Dr Shahrazad al-Jundi
3 December 2012
I met him, a young man in his twenties lying on bed or leaning over with his head on a pillow. His smile attracted me. I asked him how he got injured. “A gunshot in the neck” he replied before adding in a low voice with a smile shining on his face: “I’m from the Free Syrian Army and I was wounded during the battle in Homs. I was shot in the neck and I’m totally paralyzed now. I can’t sit up or move or even raise my head. He was still smiling as he thanked God. I asked him how he managed to reach Amman, he answered: “After we arrived in Daraa, four people carried me for eight hours until we got here”. I asked him if he needs anything or if I can do anything to help him; he replied “I just want freedom. Although I will be a prisoner of my own body forever, but I want freedom for Syria”.
Those heroes! His facial features and his smile never depart my memory. The angle face that shall live in my soul forever“.
A wonderful young and handsome man of strong personality (and he’s well aware of that) from the defiant city of Homs. He was shot in the spine and is no longer able to walk. There was something about him that strongly attracted me. I liked him at first glance. Perhaps it was that glimpse of intelligence gleaming out of his eyes, or maybe the pain he was trying to hide. You can sense rage from his agitated tone of voice. When I talked to him, he admitted he was angry. Yes. Angry from those people who would just come, take photos with them, promise them treatment and support, and then suddenly disappear.
He has lost faith in everyone and believes that donations paid for them are plentiful but somebody is exploiting their condition to collect money. They see nothing of those donations which simply disappear. He was a natural leader and spoke on behalf of the group around him. They don’t want anybody to beg on their behalf, they don’t want anybody to feel pity for them, nor do they want to be taken advantage of. Yes, they are the wounded of the Syrian war, people with new disabilities, but they want to carry on with their lives for the sake of Syria. They want to learn new skills to help Syria. Pity they don’t want. That was their message to everyone, including myself, and I pretty much understood it as I have been through the same feelings before.
Great heroic stories. A young man, married with two kids, was shot by a sniper during a demonstration. He lost walking ability and became completely paralyzed. Every time I speak with him I ask him about his disability and he would answer “My wife is young and I have two small kids”. After being shot, he was transferred to a house, then from one house to another, and finally to the hospital where he was denied admission. His wounds were remediable but nobody was able to treat him. He was sent to a field hospital of very limited capabilities, not even able to perform surgeries. The bullet remained lodged in his body. I ask him again about his needs. He answers: “I have two small children, how will they live, how will I be able to work, and what sort of work can I do, how will I earn money to support my family, how will they survive without me, how, how and plenty more hows”. I didn’t know what to say. I told him we won’t forget them and that everybody would help. He replied: “I don’t want no body’s pity”.
Are we going to have a future program to provide the families of those disabled victims with social protection to help them feel secure? A question directed towards the National Coalition [of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces]. Will we be having social security policies to ensure coverage for the families of the martyrs, wounded and disabled?
I was attracted by his smile, beard and white teeth. An angelic face, probably around nineteen of age, from Saqba. When I naively asked him where Saqba was located he looked me with admonishment and said: “You really don’t know where Saqba is? Are you Syrian?” I answered: “Yes, I’m from Homs”. He laughed and said “Homsi”… I said: “Yes, a Homsi, what can I do?” So he described to me where Saqba is and how significant it is to the Syrian Revolution. I asked him whether he is from the Free Syrian Army, he looked at me with suspicion and said: “I think”. He doesn’t trust me… I told him: “Don’t be afraid, I am here to help. I even mentioned to you that I’m a Homsiya [from Homs]” doing the Homsi accent which I don’t master. He positively admitted that yes he is. I asked him if his parents know that he is in Amman. He said they only found out yesterday. “They believed I was fighting, with a gunshot in the back and complete state of paralysis”. I told him, as I laid my hand on his leg, which he quickly pulls away being a devout and prefers not to be touched by a woman; “Forgive me, I didn’t know that”. We then went on talking, he talked about the heroic battle and how he was hit and later saved, and how no paramedics were available and the inadequate medical capabilities as well as fields hospitals’ inability to perform surgical operations and the lack of rescue means and how he was transferred from one house to another until he reached Daraa and how he was smuggled out being carried over his friends’ shoulders. We talked a lot… I asked him what he wants. He said: “I’m worried about my mother… I’m her only son, and I fear she could die of grief”.
A hero from Daraa who got injured in a quality operation, which was filmed and documented as I was told, was joking and laughing a lot. He had a wool cap on his head (he wanted to give me his) and told me this was the “disability cap” that someone brought them all as a present. They were like ten people in the room, all having the same cap, and they went laughing out loud. I started laughing with them. They were trying to laugh and make jokes in order to hide what they really felt. They could have been initially annoyed by my presence as they thought I’m one of those who would come for watching and taking photos with them. I felt a strong urge to cry, but I held my tears back, “swallowing” the cry as we used to tell our children when they were about to start weeping. Yes I swallowed my cries and pretended to be strong. Then I felt I needed to introduce myself to them.
I told them about our work, our objectives and plans (Association for The Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Syria).They looked at me with suspicion. I told them if you don’t want help that’s your right but you cannot deny it to other disabled whom we want to help and I want you with me to help them as well. I want you to join the association and become its real owners and decision-makers because you know better than anybody else the needs and means of support. They laughed. They didn’t believe me. But two days later they sent me a letter apologizing and asking me to visit them again.
A little child… He was just crossing the street in Homs to buy bread when he was hit by a sniper’s gunshot in his back (he asked me not to take photos with him as to not to upset his parents). He got paralyzed.
He was sitting with a group of young men with a notebook on his lap pretending not to hear the conversation. The house manager arrived, a courageous man from Baba Amr (who has lost his parents – they got killed). He was joking with me saying: “I’m not disabled, I’m an orphan”! He was helping the others to feed and clean up; he will even take them by car and drive them around the streets of Jordan. He spoke to the kid: “Enough with the laptop and pay attention to the doctor.” I asked him to leave him do whatever he liked (I think he still feared the regime even though he is now in Jordan. His parents urged him not to talk politics). A wonderful young lad who does not comprehend what is going on around him but nevertheless he is the spoiled one in the house.
“He didn’t speak with me… I sat next to him on the bed; there was no place else to sit. He had a cold and was sneezing heavily. I told him you have to go see a doctor. They said he was the first young man in Homs to defect from the army and that his bravery is significant because defection at the time was not common amongst the youth and did require a big deal of courage at the beginning of the revolution. Anyhow, he defected and fought with the Free Syrian Army being through all the wars in Homs and Baba Amr .He is one of those prominent heroes of the revolution.
He was looking at me and even gazing with discomfort; I think he was annoyed with me sitting on his bed (but there wasn’t any other vacant place). I stood up… I talked with him…He was looking at me in frustration…I still remember his looks… He didn’t reply back, he ignored me and then left the room walking away. Although he makes great effort to walk using wooden crutches, yet he chose to leave the room. Later, his friends explained to me that he gets disturbed by guests and their questions and that he’s tired from visitors; especially from their jokes and laughter. He still lives the revolution, the war of liberation and the heroism of Baba Amr.
An elderly woman, her house was demolished and all of her family, relatives and neighbors were crushed under; she was the only one to be rescued (yet rescued without her legs, as they were amputated above the knee). I saw her a while ago. She was screaming and screaming and screaming as if she has lost her mind… Screaming again and again searching for her legs… Screaming and looking for her family… Looking for her children, for her friends… Screaming and looking for her neighbors…She couldn’t find anyone… As she goes screaming she only finds half a body… She screams again in disbelief. The days passed by and I visited her again, she was still screaming not believing what had happened, but her screams were different this time as she cried: “God, take revenge on you O Bashar”, repeating that all day long with a voice that went echoing throughout the entire hospital and reaching all its patients”.
I try to write down their stories. There are lots and lots of them. In Jordan only there are 500 people with disabilities, maybe even a lot more; these are the figures we know about and will try to document their cases and provide help to them. But the international organization informed us that there are between two to three hundred thousand people with permanent disabilities for life as a result of the war in Syria. What to do and who is going to help this new “army” of disabled people? The official in charge at the international organization stated that “Disability issue is still a confidential subject that no one talks about. A concealed topic that needs to be brought out to public”. The world needs to know what is going on in Syria, how our youth get killed while the world just watches. Our youngsters are roses and each and every one of them could be your son. Help us bring this issue out from the dark to daylight.