O no, I am not going to warn you and apologize for the painful disturbing pictures of starving children, for I wish you you to gaze at them and keep a place for them in your hearts and perhaps do something about it. I wish to shock you with them until you rage against the slow, agonizing tortuous death of children as the silence of death descends on them, as their flesh, bones, muscles and tissues waste away till nothing remains of them but staring accusing condemning eyes. I wish these eyes to stare into the very depths of your consistence, dispelling your apathy, indifference, cynicism and those heartless ideologies which give immunity to cruelty; gaze at them until nothing remains but compassion, until you decide to be the instruments of grace that will save the others for nothing and nobody can save the children, whose images you will see below at this stage, and even if they are saved by a miracle they will be damaged physically and mentally for life.
Looking deep into these images of the dying children, two things come to me: an extract from Psalm 55:
My heart is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and the horror hath overwhelmed me. And I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest.
and a poem of mine
The death of infants is upon me
The death of children is upon me
The terrible death of the young is upon me.
Be still my soul
Do not tremble so shaking the foundations of the world.
As a small starving child lies dying, staring into the nothingness that was before creation which is claiming him, as this child stares while its chest is rising and falling laboriously, fighting desperately for breath, nature gradually unravels and life on our bounteous rich earth stands shattered as our humanity is shattered too. Who would do this to a human being, big or small, or indeed to an animal even if it is a raving beast? Look and gaze world of indifference, look and gaze world of left and right out of which the centre has fallen, look writers , poets, moralists, thinkers, doctors, politicians and the rest of you. Gaze at a human being tortured and starved to bones. No, not lovely bones but bones that will curse us for as long as we call ourselves civilized. I pray you, let the chemical weapons kill our children instead of this terrible,spectral, gruesome starvation. Sarin is more merciful than a lingering, wasting, withering,all consuming death, for Sarin kills in minutes while this death, this terrible, relentless death destroys by slow motion, by heart -breaking progression into annihilation, stamping its horrors gradually on the tender flesh, the fragile little bodies, the lovely bones; strangling the ringing childish laughter, the joyous dance of life and eventually culminating in the pitiful descent into emaciated skeletal death. Gaze and stare my friends because if I can do it while I am ill, you can do it in the peace and comfort of your lives. I had condemned trading the fate of Syria for the chemical weapons, considering it a prelude for washing their hands off the Syrian blood, mainly by the US and Russia. In my article Syria for Sale, I raised the grave ethical issues and the consequences involved in the abandonment of the Syrian people to the terrible fate their government had methodically executed for them. Looking at these pictures, I believe I was not harsh enough, censorious enough or indignant enough. I do not believe many of you will quarrel with me on this subject.
The areas most affected by the shortage of food leading to starvation are the areas which are constantly bombarded by the Syrian army and those where the fighting between the rebels and the government forces is taking place because aid agencies cannot reach them as they are in most cases prevented by the Syrian government from getting to the areas most in need, in addition to the fact that the Syrian authorities alone are entrusted with the distribution of aid. The International aid organization and the World Food Program only liaise with the Syrian government, thus excluding distributing aid to the rebel areas directly. By the incomprehensible complex protocols and procedures regulating the distribution of aid all around the world, all aid must be channeled through the legitimate authorities, no matter how ruthless and despotic they are. Therefore one might say that the Syrians in the rebel areas ,the liberated besieged areas or the locations not under the control of the government are starving by a presidential decree, supported no matter how unwillingly, by the aid agencies. the suburbs of Damascus and the agricultural land of orchards, the Ghouta of Damascus where land, trees, beasts, means of living were ruthlessly and systematically destroyed and are being destroyed, even as I write these words are among the worst, if not the worst hit by starvation. Four locations come to the forefront, emerging as some of the most badly affected: Midan, Muadhamiya, the Ghouta of Damascus and the Yarmouk Refugee Camp. These locations have been completely sealed off by the Syrian army, allowing nothing and nobody in or out. It is almost obscene and profane to say that infants and children are starving, on the road to Damascus, where some of the richest people of the country, and in the world in some cases, live like the lords of the manor in sumptuous palaces and ranches, lounging by swimming pools, growing fat on plenty and surfeit.
Symptoms of starvation Starvation and malnutrition result from severe loss of nutrients, such as vitamins, calories and minerals. According to the Free Medical Dictionary, the symptoms of starvation can be summarized as follows:
- shrinkage of such vital organs as the heart, lungs, ovaries, or testes, and gradual loss of their functions
- chronic diarrhea
- reduction in muscle mass and consequent weakness
- lowered body temperature combined with extreme sensitivity to cold
- decreased ability to digest food because of lack of digestive acid production
- irritability and difficulty with mental concentration
- immune deficiency
- swelling from fluid under the skin
Normal symptoms of starvation (while duration vary according to the individual) include shrinkage of vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and ovaries or testes, and impotency in their functions. Latter symptoms may also include chronic diarrhea, anemia, reduction in muscle mass and strength, low body temperature, decreased ability to digest food because of lack of digestive acid production, irritability, immune deficiency swelling from fluid under the skin and a diminished sex drive. In children, the effects are longer lasting as there are permanent growth and mental retardation. Moreover, in children, starvation leads to obvious weight loss with muscle wasting. There is little or no fat beneath the skin. The skin folds are thin and the face appears pinched like an old man or monkey. Hair is thin or brittle. Children between between 1 and 2 might undergo hair changing color to a listless red, grey or blonde. Face appears round with swollen abdomen and legs. Adults are also starving in the besieged areas with their families, not to mention the systematic malnutrition imposed on prisoners and the deliberate starvation of detainees as a form of punishment in order to break their will and their desire for survival in the cells of the glorious Syrian security authorities. It is estimated by various sources that from 1.5 – 5 million Syrians inside Syria are going to be victims to starvation, if they are not already are.
Cats and dogs Vocative posted on 13 October: In a development largely unnoticed beyond the outskirts of strife-torn Damascus, a religious decree has given the overwhelmingly Muslim population there permission to eat common household animals as an alternative to starvation. Vocativ has analyzed the “fatwa,” which comes from a leading Sunni Muslim cleric in Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Damascus that many call a district. The fatwa grants permission to eat dogs, cats and donkeys in some of the areas worst affected by Syria’s nearly 3-year-old civil war. Activists say Yarmouk has been suffering under a blockade imposed more than three months ago by Syrian army forces. The fatwa has also spread widely via social media to several rebel-occupied Syrian towns around Damascus that, like Yarmouk, are under siege by the army of President Bashar al-Assad, their supply lines choked by regime soldiers and their electricity cut off. So the Syrians have been reduced to this, to eating dogs, cats and donkies in order to feed their children and avoid starvation. Only I think that no cats and dogs can help the already starving infants and children. The loss of habitats and the mass exodus of the Syrian people internally from one safe location to another meant the loss of their means of survival and their sources of food, not to mention the zealous bombardment of bakeries by the regime’s forces. 2,000,000 houses were destroyed by bombardment and the deployment of missiles while about 3,000,000 houses have been half destroyed. The policy of the scotched land adopted by the regime has devoured productive farmlands and agricultural produce that would have fed the millions. If this is not a crime against humanity, I do not know what is.
Below, I have chosen some extracts from world media to highlight the situation and provide some independent analysis: William lambers- Huffington The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is facing its largest hunger relief mission. WFP is trying to feed three million Syrians this month, but faces extreme difficulty in moving life-saving aid because of the violence… Many people are blocked off from aid by the Syrian government. Save the Children says the numbers of hungry are likely much higher, possibly 10.5 million Syrians in seven governorates alone. Save the Children warns, “As the destruction continues, these numbers will grow: children who once relied on three healthy meals a day will go to bed hungry, afraid, feeling abandoned by the world outside.”.. As the world tries to negotiate an end to the war, we must also press the Syrian government to allow full access to the hungry. In addition, WFP and other aid agencies must have the funding they need to bring relief…. It’s also important to make an impact statement. That’s what needed to keep the focus of leaders in bringing an end to the war and negotiating agreements on humanitarian access. It can help motivate the Congress to pass key legislation like the Global Food Security Act, so hunger remains a top foreign policy priority.
Jihag Yazigi, Executive Magazine In an alarming report published early July, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned of the catastrophic state of the Syrian agricultural sector and of the serious threat that the decline in farming production presents to the population’s food supply. The crisis is so serious that a few days before the beginning of Ramadan, a month when predominantly Muslim countries typically see a peak in food consumption, the Minister of Economy announced that the government would dip into its strategic reserves to provide sufficient food for the population. According to the joint WFP/FAO report, wheat production, which is essential because bread is a staple food of the population, is in freefall. The wheat harvest this year is estimated at 2.4 million tons, 15 percent less than last year and 30 percent less than the average production of 3.5 million tons in the preceding three years. Stocks are also low, officially at 2.9 million tons at the beginning of this year but in reality probably much lower because many storage silos have been destroyed. The report estimates that some 1.4 million tons will need to be imported in order to meet the needs of the population.
The Guardian, Jonathan Jones Millions across Syria have been plunged into severe hunger, not accidentally but deliberately as Assad targets bakeries. Bread is an essential part of most Syrians’ diet. Meanwhile, beyond the UN facts and figures, a whole country is in ragged motion, as shelling destroys homes and forces people into the roughest of temporary accommodation. Jobs vanish, prices soar, and mass starvation looms. Somehow the horrors of Syria have numbed international concern. It has become a story too dire and disturbing for anyone to squeeze into the kind of strident, simple, ideological perspective that seems necessary to get demonstrators on the streets or letters from the great and the good in the papers. It has been relegated to a wretched background hum in the daily news.
Mouadhamiya The story of Muoadhamiya is arguably one of the most tragic of the hungry Syrian towns, not to forget the Yarmouk Refugee Camp and the besieged Eastern Ghouta of Damascus. During a long siege the town was shelled and bombed relentlessly, leaving most of it in ruins. It did not even escape the chemical weapons of the regime. How some of its people survived the wrath of the Syrian army and the regime is a kind of miracle in itself. But the town which is edged by fruitful agricultural land began to starve. Most of the pictures above are those of Moadhamiya children.
The New York Times, Annie Bernard Moadhamiya was sealed off nine months ago by the government’s army which residents and aid workers say has blockaded supplies of food and medicine. The wide-eyed, exhausted-looking people who left over the weekend brought new evidence of desperation in the town, where residents say that several people — children, the sick and the wounded — have died of malnutrition just miles from lavish Damascus restaurants…. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has failed seven times to deliver aid to Moadhamiya, receiving permission to bring in United Nations convoys only to be stopped at government checkpoints. So the Red Crescent’s operations director, Khaled Erksoussi, welcomed the evacuation deal —…
The story at this point is taken up by my Facebook friend, Gerri Dow: After the regime ‘allowed’ a number of sick and injured civilians, almost all women and children, to leave the town two days ago, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers and the local FSA military leadership and Moadamiyeh town council heads had negotiated a deal with regime forces to allow another group of around 2,000 women, children and elderly people to leave today. Early this morning, FSA soldiers and civilian security officials protecting the group accompanied them to the arranged location at a regime checkpoint to await the arrival of the ICRC officials who were supposed to take them to safety or at least to a location outside the besieged town where they could find food and medical treatment. Instead, the group of civilians was betrayed by the regime officials who organised the transfer, with regime troops at the headquarters of the regime’s infamous Fourth Armoured Division shelling the point where the civilians were gathered while the ICRC officials fled, abandoning the women, children and elderly people to their fate. Many among the group of civilians were killed or injured in the regime bombardment. Others among the traumatized and terrified civilians were taken hostage by regime troops at the checkpoint to be used as human shields in the regime’s effort to storm the town. Although the heroes of the FSA fought bravely to attempt to free them, a large number were killed. The civilians are still being held for use as human shields, with the ICRC doing nothing to help save them. It is noticeable that on the whole the the version of events the rebels offer are no different in the essentials from how global media report these events or the stories involved. The version that is always radically different and full of contradictions and distortions is that offered by the regime, yet the world still listens to Assad’s propaganda and lies, even accepts them at face value, allowing the horrendous untruths of the Syrian government to influence pubic opinion, geopolitics and the gullible anti-war activists worldwide.
Micahel Weiss, Now: Assad’s terror-famine Five days ago, locals were able to get around 600 women, children and seniors out of Moadamiyah after a cease-fire was brokered with the regime. They were taken to Qusaya, a Damascus town completely controlled by Assadist forces where the inevitable happened, according to Zakarya: 10 children were kidnapped by intelligence agents and beaten into confessing information about the whereabouts of FSA fighters and activists inside Moadamiyah… Nevertheless, civilians had little choice but to try again the following day when they apparently got 1,000 more civilians out of the town as well as 300 from Daraya. “Our people would rather die on a full stomach than on an empty one,” Zakarya said when I asked him why residents even bothered another migration after the first. The third day of evacuations saw no civilians leave Moadamiyah, but then yesterday, a fourth attempt was violently interrupted. Zakarya told me that a deal was reached with Mother Agnes to allow 2,000 civilians to exit the town. They were gathered on the western side where a convoy of buses was stationed just beyond the regime’s checkpoint to receive them. But before the civilians could reach the buses, mortars, cannons and artillery struck within five to ten meters of their position. Some were wounded. All incoming fire, Zakarya said, was from the Fourth Armored Division in the north, though of course the Syrian Army blamed the rebels for provoking retaliatory fire. .. The problem the ICRC faces in Syria is that there is little to no top-down control of the Red Crescent at either the national or international level. (In this respect, it rather resembles the FSA.) Volunteers are answerable to their own branches and sub-branches, which are geographically determined and thus susceptible to accusations or suspicions of partisan bias. There are 14 branches and 84 sub-branches throughout all of Syria. Whichever side in the conflict the Red Crescent helps automatically makes the other side angry, and it scarcely matters that Red Crescent volunteers have been killed by both rebel and regime weapons since the conflict started. Earlier this month, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kidnapped six IRCS staffers and a Red Crescent volunteer in Idlib province. Only four have been released.
I went to a great length in order to quote several sources from the world media coverage in order to highlight the plight of the hungry and starving Syrian children, not to mention the adults, in order to bring us to the following conclusions and recommendations: 1. The world has failed politically to address the Syrian issue humanely and fairly. 2. The Super powers, driven by narcissism, shameless naked self-interest and regional ambitions have lost a great historical chance to prove that the edicts of Human Rights, universal ethics and humanitarian values exist beyond the boundaries of the Western world, especially in trading the fate of the Syrian people for the regime’s chemical weapons. 3. The International aid and humanitarian agencies and their affiliates, the International Committee of the Red Cross including the Syrian Red Cross have failed in their duty of care towards the Syrian people and have failed the Syrian people in their hour of need, either because they were flagrantly thwarted in their efforts by the Syrian authorities, the Syrian army and, at times, the fighting or fighters on the ground or because they did not have the backing of a coherent binding International policy, allowing them to perform their duties fully, offering them the necessary protection. 4. It is extremely simplistic, almost absurd, to depend on the Syrian authorities to facilitate and organize the distribution of humanitarian aid. The story of Mouadhamiya which I have detailed above proves that the Syrian authorities will not protect its Starving suffering citizens but will use them as a bargaining point, even as human shields if necessary. In addition, the fate of those hungry, sick and and suffering citizens, as soon as they are evacuated from their famine stricken locations and handed over to the Syrian authorities, becomes uncertain, unknown and shrouded in silence, thus open to abuse and the maltreatment of these citizens by the government authorities. 5. The Shabiha ( government militias)and the Syrian army are not only hindering the distribution of aid but are in many cases confiscating food parcels for their own use to the extent that aid food parcels are being sold on the pavements and streets of Damascus. 6. All the above points out to the urgent and dire need for the UN to step in and negotiate the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the distribution of aid and medical help under its direct supervision in Syria, which the Syrian government and the rebels will strictly recognize and respect. Starvation and disease are more lethal to the Syrians than the chemical weapons which the UN applied itself to with the kind of dedication and authority it has not shown yet in the attempts to solve the human tragedy in Syria. Credits All images are extracted from videos taken by Syrian citizen journalists and activists on Facebook with the exception one or two. ©Alisar Iram http://youtu.be/NbfLFgt77cY http://youtu.be/6pjAT2bJbY8 http://youtu.be/KSRdLWl-nd0 http://youtu.be/0UYMIHwIBwg طفل عمره اربع سنوات مصاب بحالة نقص تغذية شديد سغل ) نتيجة الحصار وانعدام حليب الاطفال معضمية الشام 3 – YouTube http://youtu.be/BYNbwV4ML3U http://youtu.be/kGz3AHN9Fe4 http://youtu.be/gKmw6xT2WjU http://youtu.be/Z0EukkeKIsc Mouadhamiya, opening fire on the evacuees. http://youtu.be/DQK-yNCX-Qw The Free Syrian army giving a hand http://youtu.be/yXrIcwajakg