The humanitarian crisis in eastern Ghouta has reached alarming proportions. Residents suffer under a relentless and reckless bombing campaign carried out by Rus-sia and the Syrian regime. Outside the Syrian capital of Damascus, some 400,000 civilians are trapped in the eastern Ghouta region while the area suffers under miserable living conditions. The superpowers of the world and Bashar al Assad have en-slaved the country, and Gho-uta in particular, so that it breaks the will of the people.
The area is subject to intense and continuous bombardment by Russian warplanes that know neither pity, nor mercy. This barbaric bombing’s sole purpose is to kill people and destroy buildings. All the residents, young and old, live in a state of horror and fear of everything falling from above, which tear into flesh and often lead to death.
From concussion missiles to blind, treacherous shells, and missiles loaded with choking chlorine gas, which is prohibited under international law – the innocent people of Ghouta are under constant siege. Between 5 January and 9 February 2018, the number of documented raids (includes air strikes, surface to surface missiles, rockets, plastic hoses loaded with TNT, artillery shelling, cluster munitions, and the use of chlorine and napalm) targeting the cities and towns of eastern Ghouta district totalled 932, distributed as follows: Harasta; 600, Arbin; 200, Modira; 50 Mesraba; 20, Al-Marj; 10, Hamouriyah; 11, Douma; 20, Hosh Al-Salihiyah; 5, Zamalka; 10, Ein Tarma; 6. The city of Douma has been hit three times this year by rockets loaded with banned chlorine gas targeting residential neighbourhoods. The attack on January 13 alone resulted in some twenty cases of suffocation, including five women and a child.
After doctors closely studied numerous cases, the Directorate of Health in the countryside of Damascus confirmed that the injured had been exposed to poisonous chlorine gas. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has evacuated several families from the area to protect them from the impact of the toxic gases.
This brutality comes in response to the Assad regime’s inability to defeat Syrian opposition forces, and the frequency of rocket attacks on the city has escalated to about two per week, and at times higher. Activists also documented that the forces of the regime targeted the eastern towns of Ghouta with a number of heavy artillery shells that killed several young children who, since their birth, have been raised amidst the sounds of war.
The only thing the children born here have ever experienced is shelling and destruction. What dreams they might have had, have died with them. As a result of this violent and barbaric bombardment, a large number of people have been killed, resulting in the deaths of more than 351 people in a little over a month, in the towns I mentioned earlier.
Rebels in eastern Ghouta announced that, under the auspices of the Red Crescent, it has carried out an exchange deal with the regime, to release a number of regime prisoners in return for the evacuation of some of the injured civilians, with around twenty nine people being allowed to receive treatment in Damascus, and then having to return to Ghouta.
This is the suffering of all those who live in eastern Ghouta, who fervently wish that they could awake to the sound of birdsong instead of the terrifying sounds of falling rockets. “Will this approaching missile signal our end?” is the question that everyone in our town wakes up to. For the regime, it is not enough to attack from the sky and the ground. An even more frightening and painful method, the blockade of supplies to Ghouta, is used to intensify the pressure on people who continue to def-end the revolution. The blo-ckade aims to increase their suffering and undermine them through starvation.
This is the violent war that grief-stricken Ghouta has to resist with patience and persistence. The conditions are difficult and access to medical services is steadily worsening. A number of doctors were forced to leave the area through fear and intimidation tactics, while several others have been arrested for supporting the revolution. Those that remain, help share the people’s pain and heal their wounds. There are approximately 5,000 disabled people whose needs are compromised by the war. In addition, the difficulty of evacuations for critically ill patients as well as the absence of kidney dialysis equipment threatens the lives of some 250 people.
All the while, warplanes incessantly rain missiles onto hospitals and medical assistance points. Those who have not perished due to a treacherous shell will probably die from a missile, purely because they have the misfortune to be from eastern Ghouta. On the other hand, people are struggling to meet their daily needs of water, food and other essentials for survival.
The simple task of purchasing bread illustrates what is happening. Bread has become one of the most difficult commodities to obtain in the absence of many other basic foodstuffs.
In order to take advantage of everyone in Ghouta, its monopolistic merchants intensified the siege, turning Ghouta into a chess game between two competitors; one of which is the criminal regime and the other the merchants who exploit the needs of innocent people by monopolising basic foodstuff, including children’s milk. As a result, 80 per cent of the more than 9,700 children in Ghouta suffer from severe malnutrition, which primarily affects the youngest children.
In the face of these events, the people of eastern Ghouta stand up daily and denounce the actions of the regime. They appeal to people of conscience everywhere to support them through protest vigils and media and social media campaigns, using the following hashtags: save eastern Ghouta, be with Ghouta, Ghouta is exterminated, Douma is choking
By helping them to get their voices out, they hope that someone will listen and help, albeit in small ways, such as providing for the daily needs of a besieged family.
Let us not forget the continuous daily suffering caused by regular water, heating and electricity cuts since the intensification of the siege. Wells are being used to assist those in need of water.
As you pass through an alley or street, you can see elderly women or small children standing on the water piston to fill their buckets and go home to meet their families’ needs.
As for heating, this has become a luxury unknown to most of the population of eastern Ghouta given the high price of firewood, a commodity that most people are unable to acquire during this cold winter. The wind blows and the rain falls, carrying with it the wishes and dreams of the people who hope that tomorrow will be better, as they try to forget the bitterness of the lives they currently lead.
Yes, this is the suffering of an oppressed people and how they live every day. These are the conditions in Ghouta that have turned its people into the living dead, still alive, yet bereft of almost everything.