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Bree’s Beat

Frozen hope

Bree researches each story for her column, heartbeat by heartbeat. (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

Bree researches each story for her column, heartbeat by heartbeat. (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

By Bree Bailey | Contributor

Frostbite covers three-year-old Sarah, leaving a large black scab across her non-smiling face. All she has known her whole life is the war raging in her home country of Syria for the past seven years. As she lays in the hospital with various tubes attached to her tiny body, and after waking up from a comatose state, you would be shocked to discover she was the lucky one from her group.

Last month, 70 Syrian refugees set out to escape their war-torn homeland. Islamic groups had entered even the most rural villages, bringing with them bullets and explosions. Desperate and fearing for their lives, villagers trusted several smugglers who promised an easy passage to Lebanon for a decent price. Due to the fact that most countries have closed their borders to Syrian refugees, the treacherous mountain range between Syria and Lebanon is one of the last hopes for escape. Sadly, smugglers did not communicate the extent and danger which accompanied a trip over these mountains.

Shihab al-Abed was a part of this group who trusted the smugglers, mantra and fled with his mother, wife, sister, three daughters, son, three grandchildren, sister-in-law and two nieces.

At the beginning of the journey, rain began falling, which quickly transitioned to snow. The guides moved quickly, causing the elderly and children to fall behind. Shihab’s 13-year-old daughter kicked off her plastic sandals in desperation to keep up. The cold began to set in, and the surrounding whiteness caused the group to split up and become lost. The next morning, 15 people were found dead. Shihab searched for his family and discovered his wife, mother, sister and grandson all dead with the rest of his group unaccounted for.

Currently, around 1 million Syrian refugees have escaped to Lebanon. This has put a strain on the small nation’s economy and caused tension in many areas. Lebanese officials have allowed Syrians to enter but refuse to let organizations set up quality refugee camps, for fear they will become permanent.

Due to this, these desperate people live in makeshift tents in dirty areas where sickness spreads like wildfire. They are not welcome, and over 70 percent of the refugees live in extreme poverty. Many ask why they will not simply return to their homes. In response to this, Abu Musa, a man in his forties originally from Hama in central Syria, exclaims, “Of course, I’d like to go back to Syria! But Syria isn’t safe. They’re fighting in my town. My house has been destroyed.”

Young Sarah had been found on the same mountain with Shihab, comatose and covered in frostbite. The doctors did not believe she would survive, and no one knew who she belonged to.

Four days later, she was conscious and asked for her mother. No one had the heart to explain her mother had died. The next day, her estranged father showed up at the hospital after seeing photos of his dead wife posted all over Facebook. He had not seen Sarah in two and a half years due to the fact that he had been working in Lebanon and sending money back home.

Syrian refugees often can be viewed as a number or a threat. However, these people have stories and struggles which they are facing right now. They need our prayers for peace in their homeland, that they might return and safety in their present turmoil.

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