A personal story update by Dr. Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar

Over the last 48 hours, we have visited many Syrian refugee families living in dire conditions on the Turkish side of the Syrian border in order to assess, assist, and help restore their confidence in humanity. Also, to let them know that we won’t forget them, even if the rest of the world seems to! I’d like you to take a few minutes to imagine life as one of these families…

Imagine THIS.

You live in a beautiful village, greenery, fresh air and a comfortable existence… A loving husband, 5 beautiful children, a warm home, family and a beautiful community network.

One day, a group of men, strangers, barge into your home. Spit on your father’s face. Then proceed to beat your husband and brother-in-law… IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES.

Absolutely traumatising you and your children in the long, horrifying process, then burn your beautiful home? Just devastating…

Life in such a place after such a difficult experience with 5 small children, no husband, regular incursions into the village, makes it difficult to remain there.

Life changes dramatically. You leave that peaceful life you once had – behind. You leave everything that is familiar to you and travel in the middle of the night with 5 small children, all under 11… Fearful of your life, tired, hungry and very uncertain of your future.

You arrive in a host country after crossing the border with great difficulty and end up living in a building site. You share your misery with three other families who also fled their homeland. Your home is now a small enclosure at the bottom of a six-story tower, surrounded by breeze blocks, plastic sheets which are used for windows and blankets used for doors. Your bathroom is a dingy, lift shaft which is yet to be constructed and doubling as a toilet, shared by everyone else too. There’s no door there either, just a tattered blanket with holes in it. There’s very little privacy there. Everyone can hear everyone else. The mice plague the space at night. Life is a cold, dark, damp and gray.

The only colour that brightens your life are your children, although they sleep on flimsy mattresses, their hair is matted (as they can’t have regular baths since there is no hot water and intermittent running water), they cannot go to school because they need to work as a child laborer in order to bring in some additional income for the family, and you can’t provide for them what a mother would love to give their little children.

Yet despite all the trauma that this family has been through… They smile. They play. They write. They hope. They pray. They humble everyone who meets them…. They humble me.

Imagine this life….

This is the Mahmoud family. They are Umm Mahmoud and her 5 beautiful children: Mahmoud (11), Rabea (9), Raed (5), Maryam (3) and Gehad (2). They are Syrian refugees living at the Turkey Syria border. Immigrants in a host community, struggling to survive in this test that has befallen them. Life for them has turned upside down in the blink of an eye…

Help the Mahmoud family and others just like them. We relay their story to you because they’re not just numbers!!

Dr. Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar