Chapter I: Syria


What is the Syrian war?

The Syrian war is Ahmed, an 8-month-old boy killed by a Syrian tank attack. The Syrian war is Mohamed, a 2-year-old boy who lost his sight in the same attack. The Syrian war is Amina, a 4-year-old girl trying to regain sight in one eye after the same attack.

The Syrian war is Amal, a 5-year-old girl whose leg was amputated after the same attack. Ahmed, Mohamed, Amina and Amal are siblings. Ahmed will not be coming back, but the others are recovering from their wounds in a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Ramtha, Jordan, just over the border. Their names are fictional but everything else is real - everything else is a result of the Syrian war, the most catastrophic conflict of the 21st century.

"We were at home,” recalled their father, Saqer. “I had brought sweets for the family. I went to check what was happening outside and just then the house was attacked. When I entered, one of my sons was already dead. The other children were wounded."


These children were injured by a tank attack in southern Syria. | ANNA Surinyach

After the attack, the family was able to leave the Syrian province of Dara’a and cross into Jordan. There, they were admitted to an MSF-supported hospital that offers surgery for war-wounded patients.

Now, Saqer and his children are trying to start over in Ramtha. They can still see the hills of Syria, just a few kilometres away. They can hear the explosions, too. The bombs are a constant reminder of where they have come from.

Their mother, Maryam (also not her real name), constantly interrupts her husband. She can’t stand it: “We were married five years ago. We have been married the same length of time as the conflict. Since then, I have given birth to one child after another. And we’ve lost so much.” She sighs deeply, while Amina, the 4-year-old girl struggling to regain her sight, plays with a purple balloon nearby.

Mohamed is recovering from his injuries in an MSF hospital in Jordan. | ANNA Surinyach


"All these years," Maryam continues, tears in her eyes, "we have suffered bombings, sniper attacks...They attacked our house. And in the news they said they had killed four terrorists in that attack. But they weren’t terrorists: They were saying that they had killed my children."

It’s a hard story – and the family’s future is anything but secure – but it is a common one. Christine Slagt, MSF’s project coordinator in Ramtha, says that about 20 percent of the war wounded arriving at the hospital are children under the age of 18.

Statistics can illustrate some of the consequences of the Syrian war. But numbers tell only part of the story. At the hospital in Ramtha and in the Syrian refugee camps, you see the human side: the children and adults with amputations, blind, ravaged by war and recovering from their wounds, and still so far away, both mentally and physically, from crossing Europe and reaching Germany or Sweden.

These people are refugees. They embody so many of the reasons millions have fled a life of terror in Syria. They have experienced the most brutal impact of the violence first-hand.

"It’s a massacre," says the father of the injured children.