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The will of survival!


Two years after her injury, Um Mohammed started to recover, but as soon as her health began to improve, her husband got injured in an airstrike which led to losing his ability to walk normally.

Um Mohammed’s tale began with the siege that prevented her from seeing her children who live outside the besieged area of Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital Damascus, to her attempt to bring bread to her grandson from the nearby checkpoints those belong to the Syrian regime when the siege intensified in 2014, where she was shot in the abdomen by the Syrian government's Sniper, which was forced a tight siege that banned people from getting out or into the area. In addition to that, they blocked the entry of the simplest items of life such as food, water, medication and fuel.

Um Mohammed, 62 years old, she is originally from Aleppo but she lives with her husband in Eastern Ghouta for more than 30 years, she is a very special person who has a very sweet heart.

Um Mohammed started a new chapter of her life, where she has to perform rehabilitation exercises to her injured husband alongside with shouldering the responsibility to provide the house’s needs, their destroyed house that lacks to the minimum ingredients to be called a house.

Despite all that, she did not give up to those tough circumstances, but she dedicated a room at her house and started farming chickens as a source of food and income.

In spite of her age, Um Mohammed attends a literacy class to learn reading and writing Arabic with a group of other women who are trying to overcome that harsh situation. Even, the teaching center got shelled many times as well.

During my inherent to Um Mohammed which intermittently extended for almost a month, I saw her as a good example of the sincere wife, she was paying a close attention to look after her husband despite the difficulty of getting his health requirements in such a situation, she truly loves him.

I still remember what Abu Mohammed told me once describing the sincerity of his wife:

“Um Mohammed is the diamond that I got during my entire life”

Syria is not just Black or White, it is not either the Syrian regime or fighters. There are also civilians who stuck in the middle, suffering silently the effects of this dreadful war and still doing their best to resist its bitterness.

The resistance of Um Mohammed and her devotion, determination, and desire to live and learn represents the real Syrians from my perspective.

 
 Syrian Umm Mohammed, feeds her chickens at her home in the rebel-held town of Douma.

Syrian Umm Mohammed, feeds her chickens at her home in the rebel-held town of Douma.

 Syrian Umm Mohammed, performs rehabilitation exercises with her war-injured husband at their home.

Syrian Umm Mohammed, performs rehabilitation exercises with her war-injured husband at their home.

 
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Life has a different taste in the besiegement! 

The word "Siege" might not mean the same for any individual as it means for someone who experienced it.

In Eastern Ghouta, life has become so daunting and unbearable as the siege was getting tighter. Back in late 2012, the whole area has become liberated by Opposition Fighters and it officially became out of the government’s control.

The Syrian government forces imposed a severe siege on the area as a kind of punishment and in order to get back the control, by starving and bombing the people there. Primarily, the regime began restricting the movement of the civilians, confiscating food and arbitrarily depriving civilians of electricity and water.

The siege of Eastern Ghouta has passed by many stages and levels, it was loosening and tightening and continued for more than 5 years until the Syrian regime invaded the area after a brutal military campaign supported by a heavy shelling by the Russian forces earlier in 2018.

The most difficult period of siege started in late 2013, when the Syrian regime, and its allies, imposed a complete siege on Eastern Ghouta. In August 2013, the regime launched a massive chemical attack on the area. More than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

Alongside this brutal campaign, and as the first experiment with such a tight siege, people did not plan things out. So, they were not prepared well to deal with that situation. They have not farmed their lands and did not store a big amount of food as well. Everything accelerated suddenly. Instantly, they found themselves face to face with that harsh condition and realized that there were no food items in the whole area. So, they started looking for alternatives that could help them to keep going.

Unfortunately, there were no enough surrogates. People started using Animals’ fodder to make bread instead of wheat, even it was a luxury to get the animals’ fodder, only wealthy people were able to get it and of course for a high price and afterhours of waiting on the line.

They used Saccharine instead of Sugar, one of the main sources of Sugar was a traditional sun-dried apricot paste, known as (Kamruddin). It was an extremely tragic situation, as a further consequence of this was, children and elderlies began to die because of starvation.

On the other hand, away from foodstuff, and due to the long period of siege, people started devising some alternatives to cope with this deteriorating situation.

They started cutting trees to use wood as a surrogate of fuel to make fire for cooking and heating. Because of the huge dependence on the firewood, they started producing stoves that made specially to work on the wood instead of fuel. They started producing fuel and gas from plastic waste materials, but it's so expensive and not as good as the original one.

People depended on local internet providers who, in turn, depended on satellite internet. Sometimes people manage to receive signal from the cell towers in regime-controlled areas nearby Ghouta, and use the cellular network for internet.

People of Ghouta have devised a lot of daily life's alternatives in order to resist the horrors of war and survive in such a bitter situation, hoping for a better future.

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Syrians work at a factory producing wood-burning stoves,
known locally as a "sobia", in the city of Douma.

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A man puts the internet Modem at a high altitude in order to try to get some signal from nearby regime areas.

 
 

The world's decision can change the reality of war!

From teardrop to laughter, smile to weep, joy to sadness, happiness to fear, and from life to death. All these things shift in no particular order within twenty four hours of war.

This has become the reality of daily life for Syrians living in their war torn country, especially children who become the main victims of this conflict. 24 hours of war aims to show the pace with which the war moves in less than a day, from children playing at a playground to children at a morgue. Making the flow of normal life impossible in the rebel-held and Syrian government besieged town of Douma.

February 27, 2016 marks the first day of ceasefire in Syria. It was the first day where people did not hear the usual sounds of shelling and bombing, and have not been subjected to bombardment and shelling. On this day the children of Douma took advantage of the calm and took out to playgrounds in an effort to live the freedom of childhood.

However, this ceasefire was short-lived and the massacres of war restarted soon after. A war which started in twenty-four hours, ended in twenty-four hours and then came back to life again within less than twenty-four hours, throwing civilians into a constant loop of chaos, killing and breaks in between.

 
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Syrian children play on a slide at a park in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern edges of the capital Damascus on February 27, 2016, on the first day of the landmark ceasefire agreement.


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A Syrian boy lies in a hospital bed after he was injured following air strikes by Syrian government forces on the rebel-held area of Douma, east of the capital Damascus, on February 26, 2016.


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Syrian children play on a slide at a park in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern edges of the capital Damascus on February 27, 2016, on the first day of the landmark ceasefire agreement.

 
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Experiencing a new kind of life!

Due to the intensive bombing that was targeting everything, especially buildings on the ground. People of Ghouta shouldered the responsibility of devising new methods to protect themselves in cases of bombardments.

As a safety step, they started to move their life completely to the underground. Firstly, they dug shelters under their houses looking for protection when the shelling intensifying.

Secondly, when the Syrian regime began targeting children's playground which caused the death of many children. This had the effect that, people began to build an underground playground, as a safe space for children to play and experience some of the normal life activities as children.

Even the dead were no safe from the bombing as well as the cemetery workers. As a result of the brutal acts by the Syrian regime, many cemeteries workers have been killed either in Sniper shots or missiles while they were doing their job. A further consequence of this was a layered cemetery was built in order to provide a safer space for workers and to make space for the burial of the increasing number of casualties, due to the air strikes by the Syrian regime.

The local administration and civil society that founded in the liberated areas have also forced to move into the underground for security reasons as well as all the facilities and health care centers.

People of Ghouta forced to deal with such a tough situation to keep going, in light of the non-stop shelling by the Syrian regime. They tried to do their best to devise as much alternatives as they can in order to survive. 

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Syrian children play in an underground playground built to protect them from shelling.

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A picture shows people cast their votes in an underground basement during the election of the local council.

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Syrian men gather to bury the bodies of a family in a layered underground cemetery.

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A Syrian boy climbs into Abu Omar's shelter in the city of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.