One Tent Among Many

One Tent Among Many

Publication info

Johanna Mitscherlich

Ali lies on the ground on a brown pillow with floral print. His eyes are open, but motionless. His skinny arms and legs feebly lie beside him, as if they were not part of his body. His mother Fawsa sits next to him, softly massaging his lower legs and caressing his head. Ali does not move. He does not blink, even though flies are making themselves comfortable on his eyelids. Fawsa’s gaze wanders through the small tent, which became their home a couple of days ago. Apart from a few mattresses and pillows, the room is empty. Fawsa’s other two sons are sitting in another corner of the room. Their lower legs are curled backwards, their upper bodies pressed against them. They are crawling towards their mother, trying to sit up. But their joints are too weak. Three of Fawsa’s five children are suffering from a genetic disease, which hampers them from growing properly. They cannot walk, they can hardly speak. Without Fawsa they cannot survive. Fawsa’s eyes are like a well, into which all the pain and suffering of this world coupled with the indomitable strength of a mother who loves her children more than anything else, seem to have fallen.

Fawsa, her husband Sadr and their children fled Syria six months ago, when their village Hamah in Syria was bombed, their house first looted and then burnt to ashes. Back then, they had six kids. A few days before his 18th birthday, their oldest son died a few meters away from the Jordanian border. He also was born with a disability. “He could not bear the climate, and the stress and strain of being on the run were too much for him. There was nothing we could do for him. We could only watch him die.” Fawsa does not cry. She says that she cannot cry anymore. “Tears cannot express the pain I feel.”

First they sought shelter in Zaatari, a refugee camp in the north of Jordan. But the children suffered from the strong winds, the dust and the heat. Fawsa did not want to lose another child. For a few months they eked out a living in Amman, the capital of Jordan. They spent their last resources on the rent of a small apartment and slept on mattresses they were able to take with them from Zaatari. But the apartment was too expensive and damp. The stairs were too steep to carry the disabled children up and down every day. “In Syria, a physical therapist worked with the children. Here, we cannot afford that anymore,” Fawsa explains. A few weeks ago, her son Ali stopped moving. “He does not get any exercise; his muscles become weaker and weaker.”

In order to have more financial security and space for the children, Fawsa and Sadr borrowed money from a friend and bought a tent. On the outskirts of Amman, their tent is one among many – it seems to disappear in the sea of tarps and cardboard, wood and steel, and clothes hanging to dry.

But inside their modest tent, you see how every family caught in the crisis in Syria has a story of their own. This is a story of a mother and a father who so love their children that they carried them through the desert for days on end to ensure their safety and survival. It’s the story of parents who have endured the pain of losing a child. From the outside, their tent is only one amongst many. However, we cannot allow for their fate to be lost in the crowd.

Fawsa and her husband Sadr fled Syria more than a year ago. They have five children, three of whom have disabilities. One of their sons recently died at the age of 17. He too had a disability and succumbed to heat and exhaustion just a few kilometers from the Jordanian border. Today, the family lives in a tent on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.