SAT 16 - 2 - 2019
Date: Jul 6, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Deraa’s displaced face desperate reality
Gemma Fox| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: After his 2-year-old daughter was wounded in a missile strike near their house, Sharif Alloush ran away with his family to the Jordanian border, where they are now forced to sleep in an open field among scorpions and snakes. The Alloush family is one of the hundreds of thousands who have fled the government’s offensive to retake one of the last remaining opposition-strongholds, and the birthplace of the 2011 revolution. Syrian President Bashar Assad is making swift gains in the strategic territory that extends across Deraa province to the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Previously a media activist from Sayda, east of Deraa city, Alloush escaped with his family after Assad’s forces began to enter the village.

Using flimsy blue tarpaulin, his family has tried to fashion a tent on the side of the road, which is strewn with litter. But they have nothing in the way of mattresses, and have to sleep on the stony ground.

“The hardest thing is not knowing what will happen to me and my family,” he told The Daily Star from the border. “Even now I’m afraid that my children will be stung by a scorpion whilst they sleep, or bit by a snake.”

Alloush is now desperately trying to find an abandoned building that he can clear out so that his two young children will at least have somewhere sheltered to sleep.

The U.N.’s humanitarian office reported that at least 12 children, two women, and one elderly man have died in areas near to the Jordanian border due to scorpion bites, dehydration and diseases from contaminated water.

Anji Muhamid was also forced last week to run away to the border after barrel bombs started to fall near her home in Deraa city. She now sleeps with her family under a tree.

But in the heat of Syria’s summer, her family has little to protect them from exposure to the sun or the insects crawling around them.

“We are exhausted and there is barely any water to drink.”

“We’re living off canned vegetables,” she said.

Out in the open, women have nowhere to shower and nowhere private to go to the bathroom.

Muhamid hopes that one day she can return to her home and continue her work with the HALO trust, for whom she helped locate and dismantle unexploded bombs left from the war.

But a lasting peace in the south appears far off, with a cease-fire deal yet to be agreed.

“I love my work ... but it’s impossible to go back if Assad controls the city,” Muhamid said.

In the country’s southeast, 20-year-old Radwan Amour has been twice displaced. Seven years ago, he ran away from Khirbet Ghazaleh, to the north of Deraa, to Mseifereh. He was then forced to flee again eastwards to Qunaitra, on the border of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

He now sleeps in a car and uses water from the well to shower.

“I don’t know what to do ... I might try and stay here because it’s too dangerous to go to Idlib.”

In Eastern Ghouta and Homs, cease-fire agreements between Assad and opposition groups have seen thousands of civilians and fighters evacuated in buses to Idlib in the northeast, home to several militant factions.

Alloush is placing his last hopes in being accepted as a refugee in Jordan. But already overstretched with over 650,000 refugees from Syria and a weak economy, Jordanian officials say they are unable to open the borders and support more.

“It’s out of my hands,” he said.

“It’s either this or me and family wait to die.”

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