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.
As she lay dying
Looking deep into these images of the dying children , I recollect the following 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.”
Psalm 55 makes rtemeber a poem I wrote for the children of Syria:
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.
Starving to death
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 Ghoutaof 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.
As he lay dying
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
Starved in prison
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.