Tears Of Damascus Pt 8

Syrian refugees’ camp in Cappadocia, Turkey | by Fabio Sola Penna, Flickr Creative Commons

As Harry climbed out of his tent, a large congregation of men formed rows for a funeral prayer, Harry walked to the back to find Polly sobbing and holding Halimah and her brother Hasan. Wes who Harry hadn’t seen for quite a while was shooting a video of the funeral on his phone. Then to Harry’s complete surprise, Paul joined the rows to take part in the prayer.

“Did you know he is Muslim?” he asked Polly, “We all know Simon, is it an issue for you?”retorted Polly. Harry felt embarrassed for even asking and sheepishly replied “No, I’m sorry for asking”

After the prayer finished, Wes approached the Imam and asked if he could take video and pictures of the deceased explaining it was to ‘let the world know what is happening here’. The Imam seemed reluctant pointing out it was a natural death not the result of any kind of violence. In the end he agreed as Wes pointed out how the deceased man needed vital medical treatment which couldn’t be provided due to the nearest hospital being bombed.

Harry came close to take a look at the man who was Halimah and Hasan’s grandfather, he recalled him asking if there might be any kind ladies who would help take care of his grandchildren. There were plenty of women in the camp but most of them were either sick or had their hands full with their own children. Many of the women in the camp had lost their own husbands and there were many more orphaned children like Halimah and Hasan.

As he was about to leave, Harry felt the Imam’s hand on his shoulder “I see you are one of the people of the book” he said smiling “We have so much in common, you and I, I wanted to extend my hand in friendship to you”. Harry accepted the Imam’s warm handshake, everyone respected and admired him in the camp. His face radiated with warmth and compassion, with his long white beard and stick in hand, he was like a father figure to all. Never a harsh word came from his mouth, not to anyone and he spent his entire day tending to the needs of the people in the camp. “Taaba yowmukum (Good day)” smiled the Imam and left to help with the burial.

Harry’s thoughts turned to to Halimah, she was using the little spare time she had to study. A teacher would come and check on her progress from time to time as part of an NGO provided education scheme. Halimah was doing very well, like many of the refugees, her English was excellent and yet the sad thing was that her only hope of escaping this horrible conflict would mean risking her life crossing the Mediterranean sea where she would most likely end up being locked up in a detention centre.

It also dawned on him that Polly and the others hadn’t been completely forthright with him but what did he expect? He came here as a spy , they don’t even know him by his real name and he probably wasn’t the first person to break their trust. He had that feeling, the one where you are bursting to say something, let it all out, just tell the truth. There was a sense of mourning in the camp this evening, a tangible feeling of despair and yet Polly, Paul, Wes and the others would struggle on. This was their life, nothing else mattered to them.

Deciding he needed a break from his incessant barrage of thoughts, Harry went for an evening walk around the camp. Something didn’t feel right though. There was a palpable tension and unease and as Harry passed by a tent he could hear muffled screaming. Before he could do anything three men burst out of the tent and ran shoving Harry to the ground. He got up and rushed to the open tent to find a woman rolled up in the corner weeping, her terrified children stood around her, eyes wide open with fear.

Harry called the others and an enraged Polly and Paul quickly arrived on the scene. Up until now, things had been reasonably peaceful. The various militias poked around but never harmed anyone. But now there was a new problem, yet another weight on the shoulders of the already overburdened relief workers. The realisation kicked in that if this became another problem on top of what they were dealing with, Syrian Hands will need help and it seemed pretty clear who they were going to turn to for help.


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