Jameela is a Syrian woman; she just turned 35 and she lives in Damascus. In 2011, when the war started, she was 24 years-old and already mother of two children. Without a job, she devoted herself on home and children care, as many women did. Her husband Simonprovided for his family with occasional jobs. . “We were not rich at all, but it was not bad”. Until the beginning of the war.
Daily life under never-ending bombings
She remembers very well those days of intense, never-ending bombs, spent with her husband and the two little sons, George and Louay, aged three and five. “I was worried about what was happening, but at first I wasn’t thinking about such tragedy”.
As much as she can, she tries to educate her children and keep them active even when the school is closed because of the war. Then life at home becomes more monotonous, the children often find themselves playing on the balcony of the house, because going downstairs could be too dangerous.
Jameela lives in a simple and humble house, with two rooms and a small courtyard to play in. A house like many others, close to St. Thomas gate, at the entrance of the Old City of Damascus.
On a warm Saturday morning at the end of April, the two kids went early downstairs to play football. “I still had in my mind the loud explosion of the night, but I didn’t give it much credit. It was quite normal. I wasn’t worried that anything else would happen”. And thus, she decides to go to the market to buy some vegetables, while she tells her children to wait in the house for their father to return home. George and Louay reach the terrace to keep playing football.
The greatest desperation
“Just near the market, close to the big Mosque, I heard a loud explosion and had a strange hunch”. Jameela quickly returned home, dropping what she had bought on the ground and increasingly speeding up. As she began to catch a glimpse of her house in the distance, she realised what had really happened.
A mortar shell had destroyed the balcony of her house, killing her children while playing. “I’ve been told I was left paralyzed from the shock. I could not speak for days. I couldn’t even see the bodies of my sons. I was petrified”.
During the funeral, she starts crying out her desperation. Simon struggles to hold her, while Jameela tries to open the little coffins to give one last kiss to her babies. Nobody had the courage to tell her that only pieces of her children’s bodies were found, which were then placed inside those little wooden boxes.
“Today I almost smile at that naive gesture on my part. It was the hardest challenge of our life, mine, and my husband’s”. For several months, Jameela does not want to see anyone. “I was angry with God for what He did to me. If He is good, how could He allow such thing? It seemed unjust and I vented all my anger against Him”.
The unexpected miracle
Some more months pass, and she becomes pregnant. No way, this time she did not want to keep the baby that had just started to grow in her belly. “I could not bear to give birth to another baby that could somehow be taken away from me. Never again would I take such risk. I did not have the courage. No, I told Simon I wanted to have an abortion”.
Then, what she calls “the miracle” happened. She met some people from the parish, where we have opened a reception centre in recent years, who began to stay with her. To simply keep her company. This company begins to raise questions. “Why were these people happy? What made them capable of love? Well, the more time I spent with them, the more I realised I wanted to be like them, capable of that smile, capable of being happy”.
Those friendships turned into a daily support. So much that Jameela’s heart slowly gained the strength to try to forgive and accept another child. That child still living in her belly. One night, she tells her husband Simon her choice. “Simon, I want to keep this child”. And so, she carries the pregnancy to term.
The Angel that God sent to us
A few months later, a new son was born, whom they decided to name Angelo. “The Angel that sent the Lord to us – she says as she takes him in her arms – when we thought we had lost everything”.
This is the story of Jameela, a story of pain and hope, that only the countries like Syria were able to give us in these years of war. We are telling it today, just a few days before Mother’s Day, to remember and celebrate the courage of so many mothers who have raised their children in its victim and martyr country.