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Syrian refugees living in distress
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 04 - 2012


Saudi Gazette
Everyone in general is aware of the agony taking place in Syria, however, witnessing the atrocities in real is all the more heart-rending. Dr. Walid Fitaihi, CEO of the International Medical Center, known as a proponent of patients' and human rights visited the Lebanese/Syrian border to treat the wounded and injured refugees from Syria. He was accompanied by Saudi football player Nawaf Al-Tumyat and comedian Omar Hussain.
Fitaihi was invited by Layan, a non-profit organization stationed at the Northern Lebanese/Syrian border. The organization was named after a seven-month-old baby, Layan, who died at a refugee camp due to lack of medical services. It comprises Arab and Gulf journalists who are voluntarily out there to help, and provide media coverage as they want the world to know the inhuman suffering being endured by those innocents who have been compelled to drive away from home.
The Saudi team flew from Jeddah to Amman early Thursday morning and then from there they went to Beirut. They drove to Tripoli, where they met volunteers, male and female, from all walks of life. A team was made and a schedule was formed; they were to visit and provide aid to Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps. Their main destination was Wadi Khalid, a small village where Syrians were crossing over into Lebanon in large numbers each day.
And, the sight witnessed at those refugee camps was extremely distressing. “In 48 hours that I was there I witnessed a lifetime's worth of adversities, tribulations, and suffering. I learned lessons from these resilient Syrian families that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said Fitaihi.
The living conditions were absolutely deplorable. Hundreds of modestly wealthy families seemingly overnight had become poor and needy. They were not only enduring physical and material damage, but their pride and respect was also crushed and humiliated. Most families lived in dark alleys where they had small chambers to themselves separated by a simple wall of cardboard or thin aluminum. It is very evident that they lacked all basic necessities of survival.
“The lucky ones found homes and by home I mean a single small room housing two families on an average. In one such house that I visited lived two women and nine children. Their husbands are fighting with the Free Syrian Army to protect the innocent civilians from Al-Assad's murderous army. The women do not know if they will ever see their husbands again, yet they managed to smile and hang on to their faith and hope,” he said.
“Another woman living in a tiny apartment with her 12-year-old son had lost her husband and three sons at the hands of Al-Assad's ruthless army. The sorrowful mother and widow had patience, indescribable strength, and unconditional acceptance of the fate that Allah had decreed. She insisted on serving us something to eat and drink even though she had practically nothing in her apartment,” said Fitaihi.
He further said, “I met a blind man who was beaten by thugs for refusing to prostrate in front of Bashar Al-Assad's picture. I saw such tragic scenes that will haunt me forever. We treated children under the age of 12 with bullet wounds from snipers that left some of them with distorted limbs, some partially paralyzed, and others handicapped. Shrapnel had torn into the flesh of young men who were trying to get first aid treatment.”
Fitaihi while talking to the Saudi Gazette tells another mournful story of a 15-year-old child who survived an open fire from military tanks. The young lad with his five other friends were leading a peaceful protest unarmed when the military tanks mercilessly attacked them. “When the families came to collect their children's bodies, they were astonished to find this young kid alive and breathing. His relatives transported him to Wadi Khalid for treatment. His courage amazed me as he said that his only regret was that he was not killed that day with his friends as he would have become a martyr too,”he said.
His eyes twinkled with glee when Fitaihi told him,“You are a hero. Allah has chosen you to win two rewards, one in this life to tell your story to the world so that they know what is really going on in Syria and the other in the Hereafter.”
Bullets and arms used in attacking innocent civilians were ruthless and have been banned by the international community as they are known for piercing deep into the flesh, burn surrounding tissues and then erupt in the body part where the bullet has originally lodged in. He also witnessed the effects of contaminated bullets, that is if the person doesn't die immediately, he would however soon die from the spread of infections.
Other stories reported were of random capture, torture in prisons, and rape. The audacity of Al-Assad's troops reached to the unforgiveable act of chopping up a dead person's body and placing the pieces in a garbage bag to be dumped at the doorstep of the martyr's family.
“The humanitarian and medical aid that we provided is equivalent to only a drop in a sea of suffering. There are more than 23,000 Syrian refugees in Tripoli and many more in Turkey and Jordan. In Tripoli alone, there are a 1,000 cases of wounded and injured refugees that need immediate medical attention. The fully equipped hospitals of Tripoli are two hours away from Wadi Khalid and there is only one ambulance that drives out of the small village twice a week,” Fitaihi explains.
With no end to the Syrian conflict in sight, a devastating humanitarian crisis can be expected as there is an extreme shortage of nutritional supplies, clothing, medical equipment, medications, and adequate shelters.
“I agree with our esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal that we cannot permit the continuance of the slaughtering of the Syrian people by their government. The Syrian people whose only demands were freedom and dignity have the right to defend themselves from an army that knows no reason or mercy. I believe that all people of conscience and all countries should support arming the Syrian people because their government comprehends no language except the language of force,” he concluded. __


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