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White Angels of Death

Mohammad Al-Kasem, writes for The Syrian Observer from the Idleb countryside: Snow should be cause for celebration in Syria. But instead, it's a curse!
White Angels of Death

Snow does fall in Syria, but rarely and almost never heavily. For the past couple of years, Syrians have seen almost none at all. So, when it does snow, it is usually cause for celebration. Syrians invite friends for social gatherings, sit in their gardens, cook big dishes and bake special sweets. Children go to the playgrounds, parks and gardens to play in the snow.


Snow has different meanings for different people these days. Those in opposition consider a snowstorm a curse, while for the regime, it is a blessing.


For the poor Syrians living without homes, separated from their families, with no electricity it is a curse. It is particularly a curse for the seven million Syrians who have fled their homes to neighboring countries, mostly to refugee camps like the Zaatari camp in Jordan, or those on the border in southern Turkey.


Meanwhile, watching Syrian regime television, the snow is described as a blessing from God, as though nothing bad is happening in the country. They act as though blind or schizophrenic. Some Assad militias even gloat at the sight of sick and dying children, claiming it is just deserves for those that do not want Assad in power.


Snow should be cause for celebration. It's the time for waking up with joy at the sight of the land transformed, covered in pure white. People don their winter gloves and heavy clothes to go outside and play, making snowballs and snowmen. Other sit inside, baking sweets and drinking hot tea to stay warm.


But for Syrian people today, this year's Alexa storm presents a dilemma that could end in death. It's hard enough to live while the regime is bombing them with missiles and mortars, but it is even worse to die from the elements. The regime lays siege to cities and limits the humanitarian supplies. Now, children freeze to death.


Little Maryam Ali, just three days old, died from hypothermia in the besieged city of Al-Waer, in central Homs. In Houla, also in Homs province, two men, Mohammad Saleh, 16, and Ahmad Turkmani, 42, tried to flee regime shelling only to die later from the cold.


In the refugee camps in the arid desert, the conditions impose immense suffering. There are no drainage systems, proper health services, fireplaces or heating systems. The mud seeps into everything in the tents that act as homes due to a lack of structured housing or trailers. The wind blows away their tents away. In the summer, Syrians die from stifling heat while in winter they die from the cold. Disease is rife, including cholera, while simple colds and common ailments prove life threatening.


Inside Syria, some one million houses have been destroyed by the regime, so many people have settled in schools with no drainage or heating. Electricity is cut off in many areas, meaning in hospitals, doctors cannot even work their medical equipment. Fuel shortages mean fireplaces can no longer be lit on the cold nights. Water is usually brought from wells, but since the weather is too cold, the well ropes freeze, making it impossible. Syrians are forced to boil the snow for drinking water.


The regime has been housing the hundreds of thousands of detainees everywhere, from stables to hospitals and everything else in between. Many prisoners die in the military prisons due to terrible unhygienic conditions. In Aleppo central prison this week, 10 detainees reportedly died.


Even the animals are dying from the cold. In Idleb countryside, many sheep died due to the cold.There is perhaps one benefit from the snow storm; it killed all the mice.


Two men died riding motorcycles on the Azawiyeh mountain in Idleib this week because the roads were slippery from the ice and snow. Nobody even stopped to help them. They died lying on the ice.


The beautiful snowflakes you see as they fall past your windows from inside your warm room signify misery for the refugee in his tent. Most Syrians say that the snow is a curse, merely disguised as a blessing.


Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer  


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