Trapped in warzone: RT meets Syrian children fighting for survival in liberated Deir ez-Zor

Trapped in warzone: RT meets Syrian children fighting for survival in liberated Deir ez-Zor
As the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor is recovering from a three-year siege by Islamic State militants, the locals are struggling to get back to normal. RT met the most vulnerable of all – children of the former warzone – who each have a story of survival.

Bullet-riddled buildings and rubble-strewn streets of Deir ez-Zor are witnessing signs of normal life returning at last after the draining blockade, imposed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in 2014, was breached last month.

While changes seem to have alleviated the locals’ overall burden, some stories resonate painfully, as they come from the children left all by themselves.

RT’s Murad Gazdiev met little Sali, who is between five- and seven-years-old, and makes her living from begging or stealing in the streets.

“I sleep in the street. My father and mother are in Damascus. My sister and I are still here – but my sister is now in hospital,” says Sali, whose parents divorced and abandoned her and her siblings. Sali’s brother died of starvation.

Life hasn’t been easy on the little girl, who wanders the streets barefoot and keeps running away from neighbors who attempt to take care of her.

“I wanted to take her in, but she kept escaping. I sent people to look for her, but she never stays in one place long. She always escapes,” a woman called Malak, Sali family’s former neighbor, told RT.

Sali only says that she doesn’t trust adults.

“I want to grow up to spend money on my sister and myself, so we don’t have to beg,” she said.

She used to beg with her older sister, Sajida, who is now being treated in a hospital for a head injury after falling and damaging an implant in her head, which helped her chronic condition. The implant used to siphon away fluid that was accumulating in her skull. It still remains unclear how Sajida fell, with some saying it could be an attempted suicide, since girls of her age are sometimes forced to do more than just beg for food.

A doctor cautioned of the severe consequences Sajida might face, if the fluid keeps building up, including loss of sight, hearing and ability to swallow. While doctors aren’t sure about how long she might live, there is still at least one glimpse of hope left for Sajida, when Sali comes to visit. The sisters cry, as they embrace in hugs.

However, when left alone, Sajida starts to cry and scream for people, as she seems to not be able to see. One of the women coming to the hospital couldn’t turn her back on Sajida’s calls.

The woman, named Bushra, shows up at Sajida’s bed two or three times a day to wash and feed the girl.

“Everything my friend and I can do, we will do for her. As will Doctor Abdul Majid Abdula. Everything. Right up to the moment when she stands up and can see,” said Bushra, a former special-needs teacher, whose life is not easy either, with little income and disabled daughter of her own.

READ MORE: ‘Semblance of normal life’: Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor slowly recovers from ISIS siege

While lack of identification documents and relatives pose a hurdle to transfer Sajida to Damascus, her story struck a chord with some Good Samaritans and steps are being taken to get Sali and Sajida out of Deir ez-Zor, Gazdiev reported.