The War is Not Only in Syria, The War is Inside Us

The War is Not Only in Syria, The War is Inside Us

Publication info

Johanna Mitscherlich

Healing the scars: CARE's work with Syrian refugees in Egypt

"I wake up crying every morning and there is not a single night I don't have nightmares," says an elderly woman.

"My husband is detained in Syria and I have not heard from him in two months," cries a young mother with two small children on her lap.

"I think about suicide every single second and minute," says an elderly man.

They are all attending a CARE psychosocial session for Syrian refugees in Cairo, Egypt. The psychologist leading the session tells them: "When you fix yourself, everything else will start getting better. We want to help you cross the line, leave the pain behind and find a safe place in your heart so you can heal."

One of the participants, a young woman called Heba, says the shock of what happened still paralyses her. She is wearing a blue head scarf with flowers, jeans and a long blue dress. Looking at her, you would not know that her body bears the scars of a dozen bullet wounds.

Life in Refuge - Syria Crisis

Two years ago, Heba and her seven-year-old daughter Eman were on their way back home from her mother's flat in Aleppo. Heba had said goodbye to her mother, because she, her husband and her daughter wanted to flee the war in Syria to Turkey – together, as a family.

Suddenly there was a barrier, a blockade. Behind it, Heba saw "hell", as she calls it. Burning buses, dead bodies lying on the street. An attack, a cross-fire – Heba does not know what happened exactly. "I panicked and told the taxi driver to turn around immediately. That's when armed groups opened fire on us. I covered my daughter with my body and told the taxi driver to drive us to the hospital."

Four days later she woke up from a coma. Her daughter was lying in the hospital bed next to her. Like her mother, her small body was covered with bullet holes. The bullets had penetrated the shield her mother had provided with her body and made it through to her daughter's.

But surviving the bullets was not the end of Heba's misery. Her husband divorced her, leaving her and Eman behind and fleeing to Turkey by himself. He did not want to be responsible for taking care of a wounded wife and daughter. The hospitals in Syria were not equipped for the treatment Heba and Eman needed. After 22 days, Heba's family had borrowed enough money to buy a plane ticket for mother and daughter so they could be safe in Cairo and receive the treatment they needed.

In the two years since then, life has been hard on her. In Syria, Heba was a driving instructor for women. In Egypt she cooks at home and sells traditional food on the street. Eman does not go to school, but instead to a nursery in one of CARE's partner organisations.

But she does not want to give up. That's why Heba is attending CARE's psychosocial sessions in Cairo. Together with other men and women, she has decided to walk the long path to recovery – step by step.

"The war is not only in Syria, the war is inside us," says Heba. "But I do not want to give up. I don't just want to be alive, I want to live again."