Archive for November, 2013

Hunger Strike, Day 5: Her Name is Sara…

Posted: November 30, 2013 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized

Today my back pain was severe again. I decided to go to the field hospital and see if they could give me anything to help with the pain. When I walked into the hospital, I heard a girl crying and screaming. I ran towards where the noise was coming from and found a little girl in the emergency room. The minute I saw her, I forgot my own pain.

The girl’s name is Sara. She’s five years old. The doctors were changing the bandages on her burned face. She was burned by one of Assad’s bombs. Two weeks ago, she was asleep in her home when a bomb fell on her house. I grabbed a camera and filmed Sara. I wanted to show the world what Assad was doing to the children of Syria. After seeing Sara, I walked back home in a daze. There were bombardments all around but I didn’t seem to care.

I’ve been meaning to make a video to share on my blog… seeing Sara gave me the energy I needed to get up and get it done. I asked my friend Anas to help me. He followed me around so we could describe the destruction of our town. Damn Assad.

I can’t get Sara’s burned face or her screams out of my head. When will the world ever wake up?

Video: 5 year old burn victim, Sara. Qusai Zakarya narrates:

Hunger Strike, Day 4: The Regime Tries to Make a Deal

Posted: November 29, 2013 by StopTheSiege in Uncategorized
Instead of allowing food to besieged areas, the regime pressures Syrians to evacuate or face starvation, adding to the displacement crisis.

Citizens evacuating Moadamiya last month. Instead of allowing food to besieged areas, the regime pressures Syrians to evacuate or face starvation, adding to the displacement crisis.

Today was another exhausting day. Problems keep piling up. This time the regime sent a committee of five people originally from our town, but now living outside of it, to present a deal to us.

Starving a population is illegal. Food should have no preconditions. The regime proposes a conditional ceasefire with the FSA living in our town, but made ridiculous and illegal preconditions! They want us to raise the regime flag inside Moadamiya and they also want all those who are not originally from Moadamiya to leave the town. That means me too, because I’m originally Palestinian. Even though I grew up in this town, they don’t count me as real citizen of Moadamiya.

Their demands are stupid and meant to strip us of our dignity and displace us. Displaced Syrians suffer unspeakable agonies. I don’t want to become yet another displaced Syrian–adding to my displaced history as a Palestinian.

In return for these ridiculous and racist demands, they agree to consider – only consider – allowing some food back into the town. They may allow just a little bit of food per day, maybe enough for one meal for each person. Basically, they want to keep control of food. Even if they agree to let some food in, they will do it in a way where they are still in control and can cut it off once again whenever they want.

The townspeople have not come to a decision. The regime made the offer in such a way as to cause problems between the people inside. There is heated debate amongst the people. Hunger makes people not think straight anymore. I am afraid that the council will decide to hand the regime our town on a silver platter. Regime forces have been trying to get into the town for months now and we’ve been trying to keep them out. We know if they come in it means all of us will be slaughtered with knives… as this was the fate of several other towns in Syria once the regime was able to break in.

This whole negotiation is simply to add more pressure on the people to kneel to Assad’s will. They know how badly we are in need of food and medicine and they are manipulating our desperation, hoping we will give up on our demand for freedom.

In the midst of this chaos, I hold on to my conviction in protesting against this oppression through my hunger strike.

After a long and tiring day, I lay on my mattress, aware that my weakened body is trapped under siege in Moadamiya, but a strange feeling overcomes me, a feeling that my spirit is free, free to visit all the places I love in Syria, to walk the streets where I used to work and where my friends and I hung out, free to go to Homs where I went for university. This strange feeling leaves me happy.

My body is depleted and exhausted but my spirit is free and happy.

Today, I lost consciousness. I’ve survived many bombings but the last one that fell close to our house three weeks ago

The regime can destroy my town but they will never destroy the will of the people.

Destruction in Moadamiya. The regime is destroying my town but they will never destroy the will of my people.

sent me flying against the wall. I thought I was ok but then I started to have severe back pain. Yesterday, the pain spread from my back down to my left leg. The pain is so bad that it overpowers the hunger.

I went to the doctor in our town. He said there’s nothing he can do to help me without the medical equipment he needs. Someone gave me four pills. Painkiller I think. I took them. I got dizzy and blacked out, probably because I took the pills on an empty stomach. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling lost and distraught. I can’t remember anything. I want to keep track of which media I spoke to but I can’t remember.

Human rights watch called me today. That I remember. I hope they will be able to help.

My head hurts. The world is spinning. I am lying on the floor and I cannot get up. I have asked my friend to write this post for me today.

I hold on...

I hold on…

It’s the second day of my hunger strike. The pain of hunger is with me all day but I’ve gotten used to hunger. Food supplies ran out about four months ago, after being under siege for over a year, and there’s been very little to eat ever since. I wake up to hunger. I sleep with hunger. Hunger is with me all day long. The hunger strike only intensifies the pain and adds exhaustion to the mix.

I talked to many journalists today. I’m so glad the story is getting out there. I hope that I will be able to make a difference. After a dozen calls with bad Internet connection and my stomach rumbling in constant reminder of my mission, I feel depleted.

There are moments when I feel weak. During those times, I remember the children I watched starve to death. I remember little Rana… and I hold on.

Video: Rana Obeid, 18 months, died 9/2013 of malnutrition in Moadamiya.

Today the hunger strike begins

Today the hunger strike begins

I am a 28-year-old Palestinian Syrian who serves the civilian Local Council of Moadamiya, Syria, protecting my family by using the pseudonym Qusai Zakarya. 

Moadamiya, where I grew up and live, has been under siege for over 365 days. There are still 8,000 civilians living here, and our food supplies have run out. As a citizen journalist, I am now documenting my townspeople dying of hunger. Seven children and four women have already died of malnutrition. 

Numerous humanitarian organizations have pleaded to no avail with the Assad regime to break the savage siege against civilians in cities throughout Syria, including Daraya, Yarmouk Camp, eastern Gouta, and Homs. Assad continues to use food and medicine as weapons of war.

I declare a hunger strike beginning on Tuesday, November 26, until the siege against the townsfolk of Moadamiya is lifted. 

I call on people of conscience everywhere to pressure their governments to act to break Assad’s siege and let humanitarian agencies bring food and medicine into besieged areas.

Your support is my only weapon.

My Video Announcement in Arabic, subtitled:  

My Video Announcement in English:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Qusai, in Moadmiya, Syria

Qusai, in Moadamiya, Syria

MOADAMIYA, SYRIA. Nov. 26, 2013:  Qusai Zakarya, spokesperson for the civilian Local Council of Moadamiya, Syria began a hunger strike to build pressure on the Assad regime to let food and medicine into his town and all besieged areas.

“I declare a hunger strike beginning on Tuesday, November 26, until the siege against the townsfolk of Moadamiya is lifted.

I call on people of conscience everywhere to pressure their governments to act to break Assad’s siege and let humanitarian agencies bring food and medicine into besieged areas. Your support is my only weapon,” said Zakarya.

Qusai Zakarya is a Palestinian Syrian born in Damascus who has lived since infancy in the town of Moadamiya, Syria. Moadamiya has been under siege by Assad forces since October, 2012. Zakarya, a 28-year-old who has advocated tirelessly for his hometown, is now witnessing his townspeople starve to death.

Zakarya cannot bring himself to eat cats, as some desperate residents are doing. “Not a chance. I used to raise three beautiful cats,” he says, before regime bombing destroyed his home on top of them.

Women have kept the community alive. Like country women the world over, Moadamiya women yearly pickle and preserve everything they can. When reserves ran out months ago, townswomen squeezed nourishment out of foliage, adding spices to make broth of boiled leaves more appealing, and banding together to take care of neighbors. Zakarya, who in better times enjoyed kickboxing, soccer, and bodybuilding, has lost 37 pounds.

Assad forces are blockading the city of Homs, Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, and most towns in the eastern Ghouta area, where Modamiya is located. Just southeast of Damascus, the town once full of 52,000 inhabitants has an agriculture based on olive groves. Gleaning olives has helped to keep remaining townsfolk alive, but winter is approaching.

Seven children and four women have died of malnutrition in recent weeks, despite numerous appeals for food by the city’s Local Council. Zakarya, who works under a pseudonym to protect his threatened family elsewhere in Syria, is the Council’s spokesperson. There are 128 councils across Syria, community self-governance structures developed by civilians active in the uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The regime alternately claims either that only Free Syrian Army militias are left in the town, or that local FSA brigades are responsible for holding remaining citizens hostage. In fact 8,000 civilians remain and it is the regime which has sealed off access to the town, Zakarya says, and remaining residents now fear being subjected to what they consider to be forced displacement—with good cause.

The regime reneged on its promises and imprisoned scores of evacuees after four evacuations in October, which Zakarya helped to negotiate. Worse, during the last evacuation, regime army fired on civilians as they tried to reach Red Cross busses. Many townsfolk fear that if regime army breaks through FSA defensive barricades, civilians will be slaughtered in collective punishment similar to massacres perpetrated by the regime in other towns during the uprising. Moadamiya’s local FSA contingents are moderates, not Islamist extremists.

Before the uprising began, Zakarya worked in an urban hotel to support his siblings. There, he met his girlfriend, Dalia. When grassroots protests broke out, the two confessed their love to each other—and Zakarya became a citizen journalist documenting regime atrocities. Then Dalia stopped contacting him, out of fear.

“No cigarette to smoke, no sugar to sweeten my tea, and she is far away… somewhere in Europe, not talking to me because she is scared that one day she might call and find out that I am dead, that I have left her with a broken heart,” reads Zakarya’s diary entry for November 3, 2013.

Zakarya was exposed in the chemical weapons attack on Moadamiya and other Ghouta towns last August, and was nearly left for dead. “If my friend hadn’t started crying and shaking me…after the doctors thought I was dead and placed me with the deceased for 30 minutes, I wouldn’t be here thinking about all this.” Zakarya notes in his diary.

Zakarya’s hunger strike has one goal: Food, now.

Food and medicine are not weapons of war. Support the hunger strike of Qusai Zakarya by demanding safe passage of food and medicine convoys into Moadamiya and other blockaded cities in Syria.

And Dalia, call your boyfriend!

 

Please follow Qusai’s daily hunger strike updates at:

https://stopthesiege.wordpress.com/

 

Like the Facebook page for Solidarity with Qusai’s Hunger Strike::

https://www.facebook.com/qusaihungerstrike

Media Inquiries, Contact:

stopthesiege@gmail.com

 

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