A Kurdish-Syrian MSF Health Promoter

My name is Mashallah. I am a Kurd from Syria. I’m the mother of four and I’m married. I’m originally from Derek but I grew up in Damascus. My home is Damascus.
My husband was an artist. He was a music teacher. He was doing business trades, too.
We had a very good life in Syria. We were happy. We had our own house. My children were going to school. Each of us had his own job. We were living our life until this war happened.
There was war everywhere. The fighting was about 15 minutes away from us and we could hear the sounds of gunfire and explosions. Some nights, the sound of explosions would wake us up, and the children were frightened. We had to go to the ground floor to calm them down. We made no preparations. I thought we couldn’t get out of Syria.
We didn’t think that one day Syria would be ruined like this. When we used to see news of war in other regions, we felt pity for the people there. We didn’t think that one day others would feel pity for us. We never thought one day we would be trapped in a war.
I remember for a month I was packing our bags. One day there would be less fighting and I would say to myself, ‘We won’t go’. Another day, the war would be intense, and I would say, ‘We have to go. We must leave tomorrow.’
We finally decided to emigrate. We did not know the Syrian war would prolong in this way. We expected things to return to normal in two or three months.We expected to return. We packed only small baggage. I’ll never forget. My youngest child wanted to put her toy in the bag. She said she wanted to take it with her, but I removed it. She had sensed that we would not be back soon. Even now she talks about it. She asks, “Mum, why you did not bring my toy?”
When we left, we didn’t know we would end up at a refugee camp. When we got here, our relief and happiness turned into sadness. I never thought we would stay at a camp without water or food, and in such hot weather. I couldn’t believe it. These things caused my children and I to get sick in the first month we were here. My children got diarrhea and felt ill. They were drenched in sweat. There was no water to bathe them. Sometimes, we had to stand in lines under the hot sun to receive distribution items.
Here in Domiz, sometimes the temperature reaches 50 degrees. It is terribly hot in mid-August.
I remember once I was in line with my son. His cheeks turned red with sunburn. We had to stay there for an hour. There were old people in the line and some of them fainted. We poured water on their faces. We were exhausted. The only thing we could do was console each other. People were so frustrated, they were fighting with each other. It was a very difficult time.
Well, now I am working for Doctors Without Borders as a health promoter within the camp. We speak to people about our free medical services, teach them about different health issues, and help them cope with their problems. Honestly, I’m so happy that I have this job. It has helped me forget many of my bad memories and pain, because it leaves me no time to think about the past.
I work from dawn until dusk. Then I return home and I take care of my children and the housework. I have no time to think. Also, I am making money for my family and can pay for our living expenses. I was happy to get this job. We needed it desperately. We spent all the money we had on the way from Syria to Iraq.
On Fridays, we go out. We take the children to parks, or we go to our friends’ and relatives’ houses and we stay with them the whole day. We do housework if there is any. And, if we have time, we take the children out of the camps to be away from the camp atmosphere for a while.
All the problems in the camp are of the same nature. For example, there was a lady cutting in line and I told her to go back, to wait in line. She said, “Leave me alone, I haven’t earned a living for eight months. My husband is jobless; I will wait here until it’s my turn.” People constantly struggle with the cost of water and essentials. She said she had no water and the power had been cut for ten days. These are the basic needs.
These are the problems in the camp. The people who come to visit us here in the camp notice straightaway the problems of power cuts and water shortages. These are daily issues, our most basic needs. These are the things people around the world never have to think about. We have problems, we have shortages. Is it possible for someone to not have electricity day and night? Can someone go without a shower and live with no water for ten days? I mean, water is so important in life. The people are helpless. What should they do? They have no choice.
Honestly, we have gradually become accustomed to life here. We have no choice. We have to either adapt ourselves or return to Syria. We can’t return to Syria because of our children. Our belongings in Damascus were all stolen. There are no jobs and there’s still war. So we can’t go back. We have to stay here and adapt ourselves.
I wish to have a rather good house where my children can live, to make a good future for them. I wish my four children to continue their studies to a high level and obtain recognized degrees. This is my dream. It is my husband’s dream too. I also wish to see the end of this war so that we can return to Syria. (March 2017)