On December 28, 2015 Syrian government troops and the armed opposition honored the previously reached agreement and evacuated the people held as hostages by both sides in the encircled areas. About 130 sick and wounded people from the city of Zabadani were able to cross the border to Lebanon. Some of them will follow on to Turkey for treatment. At the same time 350 supporters of the ruling regime were released from the villages of Foy and Kefraya.
The rebels who broke out from the encircled Zabadani were greeted as heroes on the border with Lebanon – the video.
There are reports coming from the blockaded area that a humanitarian crisis is deteriorating rapidly, but only the wounded fighters left, most part of the rebels who are able to fight decided to stay there and defend their city as long as they are alive.
A young man from Zabadani said in an interview, he was glad that at least some of his compatriots were still alive, but the devastation of the hometown and the demise of the people made him cry. “All those men killed, it was all in vain!” – he said. “All those butchers still hold the power. When the bombs fell on Zabadani, we were forsaken, nobody helped, the city was left alone to face a huge, well-equipped army.” Reporter asks: “Now that you see the rebels coming out alive and unharmed, what do you feel?” The young man (he is from Zabadani, stayed all this time in Lebanon, helping to inform the world about the situation as much as he could) answers: “I do not have the right words. We wanted to have this joy in other circumstances, we wanted a different sort of victory, we wanted our men to come in another way. We’ve all been betrayed and left to fend for ourselves, our small town suffered through hell, we were bombed and killed with all the means imaginable. What has happened now, someone will call a victory, someone will call a defeat. For us, activists and revolutionaries, this is both victory and defeat. We survived a terrible unequal battle, rifles against war planes, moreover there were and still are civilians deliberately starved to death. Nobody is spared, nobody made any distinction. So many wounded, so many disfigured, so many orphans! This is not the victory we wanted. We wanted to get rid of this terrible government, this bloody regime. We just wanted to build a normal state. How many wounded with purulent wounds, how many of them lost their arms and legs! So much pain…”
Casualty evacuation is a positive development, hopefully this will be the first step towards a political resolution of the situation, based on agreement between the sides.
At the same time, the situation of the people left behind in the blockaded territory surrounded by minefields remains catastrophic.
The featured video contains interviews with women from the occupied village. It shows only clothes and hands, but even the body language reveals the pain that these people carry inside. The transcript:
– Good afternoon. Tell us how you are living here in Madaya and Bukkein? (Note: Bukkein – is a village adjacent to Madaya, it is also blockaded).
– It is very hard, you cannot call it life, we have nothing to eat or drink, we have nothing. We had 3 houses – nothing is left. A kilo of rice costs 18,000 liras (1USD = 500 liras), no one has any money to buy it. Nobody gives us anything without money. You have money – pay and take, no money – go away.
– What do you eat to keep you going?
– We have almost nothing to eat. The day before yesterday I found a nut on the street, that is everything I had to eat for 3 days. Only the population of Zabadani is treated so – scarcity, humiliation, killing, war. Look at the sores on my hands.
– What is with the skin on your hands?
– I had a cardiac operation, so I can not go hungry like this, that’s why my skin began to burst.
– Did you use any medicines?
– Where can I get medicines? There is nothing here for us.
– What would you like to tell people that can hear you?
– May God prolong their years and protect them, and let no person suffer through what happened to us.
– What are you cutting up?
– Some thorns.
– Is there nothing else?
– No, nothing else grows.
– Is this the sheep feed?
– No, sheep are not eating these, they are very bitter, but we salt and soak them, then boil, then you can put them in your mouth.
– Really, nothing else grows?
– No, nothing else grows. We are also collecting dry leaves to burn them and keep warm somehow. Hunger, cold and humiliation…
Reports coming from various sources indicate that there are now from 20 to 40 thousand people in Madaya and about one thousand in Zabadani. Only through last month 3 adults and 8 children died of starvation, 12 people have lost limbs to land mines.
We received several audio recordings, here are their transcripts:
- Despite such inhuman conditions, we keep the schools working, but the situation is very hard both for teachers and students. We used to have classes from 8 am to 2 pm, now it is from 9:30 to 12:30. Every day, children are fainting because of hunger right in the classroom. Teachers faint too. It is very difficult to go school because of the poor state of health of both students and teachers. The situation is almost unbearable, but people are still trying to somehow keep the education for the children going. We survive. – Audio
- The medical situation in Madaya is very tough. There are no drugs, no serums, every day we have 20 to 30 cases of deep hungry fainting. Chronic diseases are pandemic, and there is nothing to treat them with. – Audio
- The army, which blockades us – is a real militarized gang. Anyone who tries to smuggle a little food into Madaya is gunned down by a sniper or gets killed by land mines. In Madaya, there are 10-15 people who are spying for Assad’s authorities, they inform on those who are trying to smuggle in food, and such people get killed on the spot. Things worth 1,000 liras outside Madaya, cost 30,000 liras inside. – Audio
- There are only 8 medics for 40,000 people here, and there is an acute shortage of drugs, we are at a loss how to treat all those people. – Audio
- There are currently about 40,000 civilians in Madaya. And there is about one thousand in Zabadani. Eight children and three elderly men starved to death. Twelve people tripped land mines or were killed by snipers trying to smuggle food. Twelve more people lost limbs in land mine blasts. – Audio
- Good day to all. I used to have stall in the markete in Madaya. The market in Madaya now is 10 people installed by the regime and Hezbollah to sell. Only they are are allowed to sell food, they set prices at will and increase them every day. – Audio
There is another video that reached us from the blockaded village of Madaya. The boy is asked:
– Tell me, what would you like to drink and eat?
– Milk and bread.
– You have no milk at all?
The conversation turns to his mother:
– What do you feed your son?
– We have nothing but water and salt, he is fainting from hunger all the time. Rice in Madaya costs 38,000 liras, but we have less than 500. Everything is very expensive in Madaya and Bukkein, sellers are using this situation for their own gain. Despite it all, we send children to school hungry, somehow this gives us a sense to live. My son fainted in the street on the way, they carried him home.
– How do you treat children? Do you have any kind of medicines?
– We have nothing at all, my son got jaundice. He was asking for something sweet, I found only a small jar of jam on sale, it cost 30,000 liras. We are not working, where will I get so much money?
The boy’s father is joining the conversation:
– What do you do to get children food?
– I am sneaking down down into the gardens, looking for some herbs and we eat them.
– There have been several cases of poisoning with herbs, are you not afraid of poisoning your children with these herbs?
– Yes, there were many cases of poisoning, but what else can we do? We have no choice. It’s cold, we have nothing to keep us warm, no firewood, no twigs. It is even dangerous to collect herbs, those who go out often trip land mines.
This morning, a person died of hunger in Madaya as a result of this blockade. His name is Jamel Ahmed Alouche, the photograph shows a famished and exhausted person. I am not posting the photograph of the deceased, but I am ready to provide it at the request of international organizations dealing with the Syrian problem.
Photo of the devastated Zabadani:
The catastrophic situation of the people in the blockaded village of Madaya has been documented by photos, videos and audio records, which were sent to us from the scene with a great difficulty.
I believe that global civil society actors, the media, NGO’s, charitable foundations, human rights organizations shall do all possible to provide the necessary humanitarian relief to the people of Zabadani and Madaya as soon as possible. I also hope for an adequate international media coverage for this act of genocide in progress of the Syrian people, which is carried out by the criminal Assad regime with the support of the air force of the Russian Federation.