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Who burned Sondos and her children?

An aerial view of a refugee camp flooded after heavy rain on December 27, 2018 in Idlib, Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees residing in camps near the Turkish border are struggling to survive harsh winter conditions [Eşref Musa / Anadolu Agency]
An aerial view of a refugee camp flooded after heavy rain on December 27, 2018 in Idlib, Syria [Eşref Musa / Anadolu Agency]

What was Sondos thinking as she huddled with her three children in their tent and set it on fire? Did the tears of her children not move her? Didn't the screams of her one-month-old baby make her change her mind? It is true that they had not had food for three days. It is true they did not have sufficient heating to combat the freezing weather. Two girls had died two days earlier due to the cold, joining the 20 or so refugees who died this year for the same reason and a lack of proper healthcare. It is also true that neither Sondos' husband nor any of her close relatives were around. She was a 28-years-young lady, living in a cramped refugee camp.

What on earth was she thinking about? Did she think that they will all die eventually anyway, so why prolong their suffering and misery? Or, maybe, she thought God is more merciful than the UN, the Syrian government, the Russians, the Americans, the Iranians and the Jordanians, who surrounded this miserable refugee camp in southern Syria with their armies and military bases? Something must have crossed her mind, that feeling that keeps nagging, like an electric drill in your brain that makes your life worse than hell. Was it that she said to herself – "If I lose my dignity and honour then life will not be worth living?"

May be she was insane. Yet how sane can one be in this region, which floats on a sea of blood? What does it take for someone to stay rational in the middle of all this madness? Why should anyone blame her and not the UN agencies who are supposed to provide refugees with food, fuel, shelter and medical treatment? Why don't we blame the Syrian government forces that surrounded the camp and caused the price of food and fuel to reach four times their price elsewhere in Syria? Why don't we blame the US military, which is ready to spend trillions of dollars on wars but, when it comes to human life, turns a blind eye?

READ: Qatar to donate $50 million for Syrian people

What does it take us, as human beings, to realise that we have to share the blame for this catastrophe? Did not all of these people commit moral suicide by leaving Sondos Fathullah and her children to reach this level of despair? At least Sondos intended to kill her body to maintain her soul, but the rest of us killed her body and our own souls. In this sense, all those who stood by, watching her suffering, are accomplices or perhaps even instigators – they are the ones who deserve condemnation.

Just last weekend, thousands of Syrian refugees were caught in the Lebanese mountains amidst a freezing snowstorm. Roads were blocked with snow, their tents and huts were covered with a white shroud, as if they were waiting for someone to recite a death prayer for their souls. Deir Ballut refugee camp, near the Efrin River in northern Syria, witnessed yet another tragedy. Due to melting snow and heavy rain, the level of the river rose and flooded parts of the refugee camp. The water was so strong that it pulled people away and destroyed their shelters. An old man and a child were killed.

A view of a snow-covered refugee camp in Arsal, Lebanon on 10 January 2019 [Jihad Muhammad Behlok/Anadolu Agency]

A view of a snow-covered refugee camp in Arsal, Lebanon on 10 January 2019 [Jihad Muhammad Behlok/Anadolu Agency]

Why doesn't someone stop this suffering that has continued for long enough? Fifteen million human beings are either refugees or displaced, more than half a million have lost their lives. Everything is razed to the ground. What more do the Syrian people have to pay for their freedom? Please don't send aid, although it much needed, just STOP THE WAR. Allow people to go to a safe environment, to rebuild their homes and raise their children and lead a decent life.

The UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) renders relief for Syrians. Ironically, many of these displaced people in Syria are Palestinian refugees, who are already under the jurisdiction of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). There are ten Palestinian refugee camps in Syria under UNRWA's patronage. Yet, none of these agencies can help the refugees go home.

READ: Syria refugees in Lebanon continue to suffer extreme winter

From my own experience as a Palestinian, being a refugee in the Middle East is not necessarily a temporary state. My father left Palestine in 1948, when he was just 9 years old. I was born in Jordan with the label refugee, as were my children. Since then, more than 70 years have passed and we are still waiting for the UN and the international community to restore us to our homes. Today, there are no Palestinians in our home town, Baysan (Beit She'an), near Nazareth. It is completely Judaized.

Since then, Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have joined Palestinians in their plight as refugees. Some of them have spent more than a decade in temporary shelters, save those who migrated to different continents altogether and lost their culture and identity. Is there really a global conspiracy to destroy this area and terminate its people and culture? What does all this mean? Why is the world watching this annihilation go on, without real intervention? Would this be permitted to happen in Western Europe or America?

How many people like Sondos need to burn themselves? How many young men and women have to drown in the Mediterranean seeking a safe life in Europe? How many people have to lose their lives in battlefields and under rubble of their homes? The Syrian people do not consist of criminals and terrorists – they all, like Sondos, want to live in dignity or die seeking justice.

READ: PLO calls on donors to fulfil pledges for refugee camp reconstruction

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleInternational OrganisationsLebanonMiddle EastOpinionPalestineSyriaUN
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