Take A Deep Breath

[TW – Death]

“Leave Your House and Flee”

“We were in a panic to take the children and run out of Zemalka to any nearby villages, People who were asleep in their homes died in their beds because they could not feel the effects of the attack.”

“We picked up a woman and her two kids, a rocket had hit their house but didn’t explode. We thought it was a dud and prayed for such good luck … they all died. I could see the foam coming out of their mouths and noses.”

“We were in Al-Mazra’a. We started to knock on the doors, calling people to get out. If there was no response we began to break their doors and look for people inside. We were able to save 20 people. None of them were dead but they were suffocating.”

“None of the victims were dead … though some of them were foaming at the mouth and their bodies were turning blue.”

“I went to one of the houses and found an infant who was a year and a half old. I can’t forget this scene till now, He was jumping like a bird, struggling to breathe. I held him immediately and ran to the car but he died. I swear to God the number of the dead infants and children are more than the numbers of elders. We even broke the locks of the shops to pile the victims inside. In one of the shops, there were 200 children.”

“I found four brothers sleeping opposite each other dead in their bed and their parents were dead too in another room. All of them suffocated. I could see foam on their mouths and noses.”

Ghouta is a little known province just East of Damascus. I know Damscus well. I used to go on Holiday. What sights, what food? What sadness.

Ghouta was under siege, a rebel stronghold in Syria. That doesn’t matters is this. At 3:00 AM on the 21st of August 2013 a series of rockets were fired into it. These did not explode. What ensued was nothing short of hellish. Accompanied by the smell of rotting eggs, a chemical agent was allegedly dispersed killing hundreds and wounding thousands. Hammuriiyah, Irbin, Saqba, Kafr Batna, Mudamiyah, Harasta, Zamalka, Ain Terma… these were the towns attacked.

Some have survived the attack, many however have died. At the last count? 3000 affected cases in one place atleast and more than 300 casualties. The rate may be in the thousands but as of now figures wildly vary.

MSF are in the region and responding to cases. The official MSF stance is this.

Based on the epidemiological evidence ranging from the odour of rotten eggs (A common additive to gas canisters to detect leaks) to the cohesive set of symptoms and it’s widespread correlation with attacks, it is a distinct possibility that this is an attack using Chemical Weaponry. MSF have mobilised care for patients in the region and the UN is “mightily hacked off”.

But what can we do? In our post 9/11 world with our diminished taste for warfare after a pointless war in Iraq and a wasted opportunity in Afghanistan can we interfere in Syria? Can we make the hard choice and do the wrong thing for the right reasons? Can we throw away more of our young men and women in a war but this time for a point? Can we interfere and not have it blow up in our faces?

There is no right choice here. History will judge us by what we did when we found out Assad used WMDs. Whether we just watch and wring our hands or put a stop to this madness but risk getting bogged in another quagmire, we will have to judge ourselves by what we did.

We cannot let another Hallabjah happen. We cannot let another Rwanda happen. Or a Shabra and Shatillah. This has to stop.

If you don’t think so? Then think of it as extending the luxury of taking a deep breath.


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