“Hold on, hold on. I’m almost there.” Out of breath, Abdullah Burhan, a 25-year-old citizen of the Syrian town of Madaya rushes back to his house so he can get good enough reception for our phone call.
Burhan was a chemistry student at the University of Damascus before he was stopped at a checkpoint and placed in prison by Assad’s forces. After leaving prison, he joined the Free Syrian Army to become a revolutionary against the Assad regime and now is a relief worker in Madaya.
Madaya, a town of 40,000 people, has caught international headlines for a series of shocking videos of gaunt, starving children who have died of malnutrition, with many people resorting to eating whatever they can find on the streets to survive.
This is Abdullah’s full account of life in the town besieged by the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Shiite Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
It’s awful here. There are more than 40,000 people and we are surrounded. There is no food. We have become weak, our bodies are very thin. People are eating tree leaves and cats. Today, I even ate strawberry leaves, can you imagine that?
They are not delicious but I had to eat them to stay alive. Last week I ate a cat. My neighbour killed it and roasted it, and shared it with my family and I. We share food because it’s human nature.
There are about 40 people in Madaya that have died due to starvation. Most of them are newborn babies and old people. Around 15 to 16 people faint daily. Hezbollah soldiers sell some food to us but it’s very expensive. For example, if you want to buy a kilo of rice or sugar, you would have to pay $300 for any kilo of anything, and $400 for a kilo of the children’s milk.
Hezbollah have taken us hostage. The regime army and Hezbollah soldiers surrounded us and they have dug mines around Madaya. There are more than 8,000 mines around us and about 10,000 soldiers. Everyone that tried to escape has been killed by mines or shooting by the army. It’s like a big prison.
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