Um Khaled lived in the outskirts of Aleppo, one of the areas worst affected by Syria’s protracted conflict. Though her house has been destroyed and her family faces acute hardship, she maintains her faith and hope that one day she can return home.
“We were farming the land,” said Um Khaled, recalling her life in Abu Adh Dhuhur, Rif-Halab. “We didn’t need anyone to support or provide for us. We used to rely on ourselves. We used to provide education for our children, drive cars and each of us had their own room.”
Then the fighting reached their village.
“Life was normal until shooting came randomly from all directions. We fled and hid in our houses. We didn’t know who was shooting at whom. After the situation calmed down, we found out that some people had been killed and many of our neighbours and their children had lost limbs.”
Um Khaled and her family fled as the shelling of their village continued.
“We were unable to get anything out of the houses due to the continuous shelling. We left everything behind us, with nothing but the clothes we wore.”
“We sometimes sleep with empty stomachs”
Now living in one of Syria’s many camps, they depend on organisations such as Islamic Relief, which provides them with assistance including regular distributions of bread.
“We get fed by kind people. We sometimes sleep with empty stomachs; many nights we had no food or water. We have no source of income except from God, then you [Islamic Relief] and some kind people. We feel frightened and ashamed because we are reliant on the community. We are now asking for money to live, instead of giving money.
“Kind people give us some of what they have, such as clothes, blankets and carpets so that we may carry on with our tough life. May God provide us with relief.”
“Our tent does not protect us”
Um Khaled and her family are struggling to cope with the harsh conditions of camp life.
“Our tent does not protect us from the rain nor does it resist the cold wind or humidity, which causes a bad smell. Inside, you can see the sky due to the large number of holes at the top of the tent. This causes my grandchildren to fall ill.
“When we need money sometimes to buy medicine or necessary items, we send my grandchildren to look for aluminum and copper to sell. After a lot of hard work, we can buy the necessary items.
“Some of the children wake up terrified”
“We are worried if things continue as they are; our children will lose their right to education and health which will contribute to the destruction of their future.
“Some of the children wake up terrified of their nightmares, to what they have witnessed. This is worsened by the shocking stories that they hear from their friends and relatives.”
The grandmother said that her grandchildren have psychosocial issues. The family have been unable to help them, and it is getting worse each day.
“I wish I could find somebody to help us by solving their problems, as well as the problems of most of this generation who suffer from war trauma and fear.”
Access to safe water is a particular problem in the camp, she told us, pointing out that the huge number of displaced people and large number of camps make it difficult to provide water for everybody. Some 7.6 million people are now thought to be internally displaced within Syria.
“God will provide”
Though the people of Syria reflect on four years of fighting, with no end yet in sight, hope is not gone.
“We had nice memories, but we have now lost everything. I hope I can return back to my house and village so that I may recall the memories – even for one day of my life. I wish I could see my village for one hour before I depart this life. This is my biggest wish,” said Um Khaled, though she has heard that most houses in her neighbourhood, including her own, have been reduced to rubble.
“God will sort things out and provide a solution for us.”
Islamic Relief is working deep inside Syria to assist people who, like Um Khaled, have lost everything in the brutal conflict. We also help refugees seeking safety in nearby countries, such as Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
As the crisis enters its fifth year, Islamic Relief is calling for continued support for its life-saving programmes. It is not too late to help: donate to our Syria Crisis Appeal and join in the conversation at #4Syria now.Donate