Crossing the border from Turkey to Syria requires a great deal of patience and trust in a few people that I can hardly communicate with. Imagine the amount of stress I experience in this part of the trip into Syria and yet, I hold steadfast to the aspirations of my heart. I should express my gratitude to one particular man, the manager of the Turkish border who is aware of my work inside of Syria and though he questions my safety (rightfully so), he willingly obliges in getting me in and out. This is no easy task by ANY means. Not to mention, crossing the border requires going through Atmeh Camp which is currently home to approximately 22,000 refugee men, women and children who fled their homes to escape the Assad regime cruelties. From what I have seen, there is no UN relief convoys in the camp nor do they have running water, sewage systems, electricity or heat. There is only ONE medical tent in the whole camp. Below are some photos I took discreetly of the children surrounding me while I waited in Atmeh for the car to arrive and drive into Syria:
Waking up on the roof has its advantages and disadvantages. The dawn wake up call from the suns strong rays doesn’t give any room for sleeping in, though the sunrise is breathtaking and worth seeing. If you look closely, you will see the bombing that took place a couple months ago in one corner of the roof.
The escape of the flies and mosquitos is a big highlight as a foreigner. The lack of itching allows space for discomfort in other ways. And there isn’t much sleeping while in Syria anyway. The battle between Assad regime and the Free Syrian Army continues in the distance reaffirming the rapidity of my own heartbeat. The constant sounds of the missiles, rockets, and bombs being sent back and forth are beyond frustrating. I stare off in the distance seeing with my own eyes the damage this war is having on this country and its people. I stare and I wonder how this war will end… and mostly, I question when.
The night before, as I’m surrounded by Syrian men who have committed their lives to their country and people, I ask the question that has been the number one asked question in the world throughout the past two weeks. Should the US strike against the Assad regime? The men went around one by one each giving their own answer which was “yes”. The only concern was that in result of such strikes, the well being and safety of the Free Syrian Army soldiers and surrounding civilians would be at risk. Of course, they started to ask me as the only American in the group what my opinion was of MY president and what he will do (and specifically what I want him to do). This was a challenging moment because as much as I wanted to agree with them and provide an answer I knew they would want to hear, I had to be true to myself. I told them as a humanitarian, I didn’t want to see more people dying. I said that I wasn’t sure what the answer/solution would bring about but I did emphasize on the importance on the war ending. I said clearly how much I desired to see Syria free of this cruelty and violence. I said that I was tired for them especially as I have first hand witnessed the extreme amount of change that has taken place within the village I visit in such a small amount of time. I said that I worry for them every single day when I am not with them. I said that I wish I could do more for them and hope that one day, I will.
My words didn’t make a difference nor do I think it offered any solace. They began to tell me how much more help is needed: food, baby-milk, medical supplies, teaching centers for the children, ways to improve their economy and agriculture, etc etc etc. It is so hard to hear this, while having the bombs landing in the distance and feeling powerless.
So I write this to you now, to all my readers, dear friends and even strangers… that we must stand up and stand together. That we must unite and help one another. That we can not abandon this fallen country in their time of need and suffering. That we must act and do something, ANYTHING to help. Send this blog link to a friend, post it on your FaceBook or Twitter, talk about it amongst your co-workers and do not allow these people to go UNSEEN.