Face of Anguish
“I want to tell you the story of how I got here,” the 32 year old woman starts telling me her story with a smile on her face. She likes to call herself Azab, which in Arabic means “anguish.”
“Please refer to me with this name. It describes my life and my journey,” she says. I met Azab in a village nearby Irbid, in the North of Jordan. She lives in a village off the road in a barren apartment that only contains a few mattresses and a TV; her siblings’ only amusement.
Azab’s suffering started a long time ago, long before the crisis in Syria started.
Azab’s mother died back home in Soueida, Syria, when Azab was nine years old. Five years later her father remarried and moved to Beirut. He left his oldest daughter Azab behind, who from then onwards had to take care of her siblings. Four of her siblings are disabled. They cannot speak, they cannot walk, and they cannot even go to the bathroom by themselves.
Azab and her four severely disabled siblings spent over two years displaced inside Syria before they were able to leave to Jordan. “When fighting reached our village my cousin offered to take me in his van and flee with him. I refused as his only condition was for me to leave my siblings behind. That was impossible! Who and what would I leave them to? To face a cruel fate of starving and convulsing to death? He left me saying ‘you stay here with your siblings so you all die’. The moment he started his van and drove off, a bomb hit his car. I saw his car exploding a few meters away from me. I thought to myself ‘God is protecting my siblings and me.’”
Without their family’s help Azab and her siblings stayed in one village for a month or two until fighting escalated there as well. Then they had to leave again. “Sometimes I had to leave my siblings alone for a few hours to seek food for them and myself in a neighboring village.” Azab’s brothers and sisters also suffer from seizures and require medication on a daily basis. “We can go without food for a few days, but I cannot cut down on my siblings’ anti-epilepsy medication.” One of Azab’s brothers had a seizure and died in Syria, because Azab could not get medication for him. “It was only one month before we finally made it to Jordan. The moment I realized that we are in Jordan I threw myself on the ground, kissing it and crying of happiness. I could not believe that we were safe for the first time in more than two years.” In Jordan, Azab has received assistance from organizations such as CARE and from neighbors. But she does not want to rely on help from others.
While telling me her story, Azab has to get up every few minutes to check on her siblings, 29, 27 and 25 years old. I suddenly see her sister crawling on her hands and dragging her lower half on the ground, smiling at us. Azab guides her sister back to another room and offers me something to drink. It always astonishes me how despite their severely difficult circumstances refugees always show enormous generosity and hospitality.
“If our own family – especially my father – does not care about us, why would I expect strangers to do so?” Azab’s life continues to be difficult. Last month, her landlord gave her until the end of the month to move out. “He was very annoyed with my siblings’ constant screaming and crackling,” says Azab. “I do not blame him. I do not think he has to bear with our problems. I am sure he has his own.”
The first payment of rent for her apartment in Jordan Azab could pay with emergency cash assistance she received from CARE. Azab received another emergency cash assistance of approximately 560 US Dollars from CARE. CARE also helped her find a better apartment in the same village. “I think God sends good people like CARE my way because he knows that I do not have anyone to help me take care of my siblings,” says Azab.
According to Handicap International, one in five Syrian refugees is affected by physical, sensory or intellectual impairment. The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Written by Mahmoud Shabeeb, Regional Communications Officer for the Syria Response