Terrorism survivors recount details of their painful ordeals

Damascus Countryside, SANA – After surviving the horrors of terrorism, a number of displaced men, women, and children staying at a temporary housing center in Qudsaya in Damascus Countryside opened up to SANA and shared the tales of their harrowing experiences.

Ten-year-old Hussam al-Hallaq, who arrived alone without a family at the housing center a few days ago, said he and his family used to live in the town of Erbin until they were forced to leave it and move to Douma where he helped his father who was eking out a living for the family, but gunmen abducted the young boy and kept him captive for more than ten days.

After being released from captivity, Hussam couldn’t find his family, and he ran through farms to al-Wafidin Camp area and finally arrived in Qudsaya. He still doesn’t know anything about the fate of his family.

Another young boy, eleven-year-old Rami Ballo, said that he and his family fled the town of Hazzeh in the Eastern Ghouta where terrorists were abusing and humiliating them, reducing them to eating weeds, until they managed to leave the town with difficulty and reached the housing center two days ago.

In another corner of the housing center, a man in his thirties – although the ordeals he went through made him look like a man in his fifties – is busy feeding his three children. He told SANA about how he was forced out of his home in Htaitet al-Turkman by gunmen, and how he moved to Hammouriye and then Douma where he and his family suffered from starvation, abuse, and humiliation.

Housing center 2

The man said that the gunmen in Douma wouldn’t let him make a living and tried to force him to join them since his age was suitable for their purposes, explaining that in Douma, the gunmen force youths to join them, and those who refuse are sent to what they call the “repentance jail” where they break their legs.

“I tried to escape to Harasta, but I couldn’t, so I sent two of my kids to the nearest Syrian Arab Army checkpoint in al-Wafidin Camp, and a few hours after nightfall and left with my third kid on a bicycle and managed to reach the checkpoint and was reunited with my kids,” he said.

Safa Saeed and her son also endured a long and perilous journey before arriving at the center. She said her ordeal began when she left al-Mleiha town to Zebdin, then moved to Kafr Batna, al-Kassimiue, and finally arrived at Yarmouk Camp, where they endured constant terror of the gunmen running amok there. She and her son were forced to live out in the open for fifteen days before managing to go to a school where displaced people from the camp where staying, and from there they moved to the center in Qudsaya.

Abu Mustafa al-Halabi related a different sort of story. He was forced to join the terrorism organization calling itself Islam Army, which is active in the Eastern Ghouta region, because his other choices were going to the “repentance jail” or dying of starvation.

Abu Mustafa was tasked with monitoring the movement of the Syrian Arab Army, noting that he underwent several “Islamic Sharia” indoctrination courses in which the gunmen twisted and tailored teachings to suit their purposes.

Housing center 3

“I stayed in Islam Army for around two years… I spend six months of them in the repentance jail because they found out about my secular leanings and that I was against their emirs. I was tortured in various ways, and then I was released and put under observation and they made me attend more religious courses on the hope that I will commit to what they want.”

“But I managed to escape with the help of some honest people in Douma, and I arrived at a Syrian Arab Army checkpoint and they brought me to the center here,” he concluded.

Rania al-Sheikh Omar, a volunteer at the center, said that around 290 families consisting or around 800 people arrived to the center during the past two days, bringing the total number of people staying in it to around 1,200. She asserted that the new arrivals were provided with all necessary services and were given rooms, blankets, and food, in addition to healthcare services which are available around the clock.

Most recently the Army secured the evacuation of 30 families consisting of around 80 people, most of them women and children, from Douma and its farms.

Hazem Sabbagh

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