Um Mustafa holds pictures of her two missing boys Mustafa and Ahmed. Their fate remains unkown. Copyright: WFP/Hussam Al-Saleh
The Syrian crisis has claimed many lives; displaced hundreds of thousands and tore families apart. In most cases families were on the run to save their young ones; leaving everything behind to keep their children safe and alive. But in some cases children could not be saved. Um Mustafa is a Syrian mother who has lost her two eldest sons to the unknown; their whereabouts and their fate remain unknown to this day.
DAMASCUS – It was a normal day a year and a half ago in Jisreen village in Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus; Um Mustafa said goodbye to her two sons Mustafa, 13, and Ahmed, 11, as she did every morning before they went to school.
She did not know that morning it was the last time she would see them.
“I still remember when they said goodbye and rushed out of the house heading to school just in the nearby village of Kafr Batna. They never came back that day,” she recalls.
Um Mostafa’s husband called all hospitals and contacted police including checkpoints but none had any information about the two boys. As days passed with no word on her children, she grew frightful of losing her youngest son Omar, 8, whom she prevented from going to school for fear of losing him too.
Twenty days later and as the situation worsened in the area, she was torn between waiting for them to show up and fleeing to save her youngest son Omar. Um Mustafa chose to leave her village and join her parents who had fled Homs to Damascus.
“My parents fled Homs leaving their 10 million Syrian Pound (almost US$69,000) house and shop. They had some savings that supported us for some time but we eventually ran out of money,” she says while she waits to receive her monthly food assistance at a local charity in Damascus.
Um Mustafa, Omar and her husband now share a small apartment with her parents in Rukneddin neighbourhood in Damascus on the slopes of Mount Qasioun. All of them receive WFP food assistance to help them through their displacement. They are among more than 4 million internally displaced Syrians receiving WFP food assistance.
A mother’s never-ending pain
All the woes of loss and displacement are incomparable to the ever searing pain of not knowing her sons’ fate. The heart-stricken mother has never had a good night sleep. Nightmares, tears, silence and loneliness govern her life, but she tries to stay strong enough for Omar.
“I think am still alive because of Omar and in the hope that one day I will see his brothers again or at least know what happened to them,” she says.
Um Mustafa keeps photos of her missing sons at all times and breaks out in tears whenever she takes them out and looks at them.
As for Omar, sadness engulfs him as he hears her mother talking about his elder brothers whom he does not know if they were still alive. He says only one thing: “I miss them”.