Rabee Zarife is a 15-year-old Muslim. In November 2016, he lost his father and both legs when a shell exploded. Today, Caritas Syria is caring for him materially and psychologically. His greatest desire is to complete his studies but he still cannot go to school. Sometimes, he feels “like when I was a baby of one-year old”.
Damascus (AsiaNews) - Rabee Zarife (pictured) is a 15-year-old Muslim from a village on the outskirts of the capital who, shortly after fighting broke out, moved to Damascus with his family to escape the militia violence. He is one of many disabled youth, Christian and Muslim, who receive help from Caritas Syria.
His greatest dream is to be able to walk, continue his studies, and get a diploma as he promised to his parents. However, he has to deal with his disabilities every day, with the loss of his legs from a shell. In addition to forcing him in a wheelchair, the blast also took away the love of his father who died in the explosion.
He is one of the war’s hidden faces. Syria’s civil war is a huge burden of pain, suffering and deprivation that has cost the lives of more than 300,000 people. The Christian charity provides for the boy's medical expenses as well as the moral and psychological support he needs to overcome the trauma of last November’s incident.
His name, Rabee, means spring in Arabic. Addressing the powerful of this world, he asks for peace in his country. “I lost my father and my legs in this war, you can’t give them back to me, but you can do something else . . . You can help us get peace, good days and spring back in our country.”
What follows is his story as told to Caritas Syria:
How was your life before the war in Syria? What did you like to do? What did you like about your life before the war?
I was living in my village, Rihan, north Damascus. My father’s family owned a farm there. I used to run and play with my siblings and cousins all day. I used to help my father to grow the land and in his small auto repair workshop. Our life was simple and beautiful at that time.
I don’t understand this war. Can you tell us something about this war that will help to understand what is going on in Syria?
Me too, I don’t understand this war. I was severely hurt by something I totally don’t understand. This war forced us to leave our hometown, without being able to take any of our belongings. One day, my mother was cooking, when my father suddenly arrived at home and asked her to pack our stuff as soon as possible as armed groups entered the village and we should leave immediately before the road would be cut.
My mother prepared one bag with one piece of clothes for each one of us. We were not allowed to take more. We left our village and arrived to Damascus with nothing but this bag. My father and my uncle started looking for apartments to rent. Damascus is very expensive, so we decided to share one small apartment with my uncle’s family; otherwise we would not be able to afford paying the rent.
What do you remember of your father?
My father was a hard worker and very brave. He had never lost hope. After a while, he managed to rent a small shop in Abbasying area in Damascus, to be able to earn some money for our living. Life started to become very difficult on all of us, but with my father supporting us all the time, everything was ok. From time to time I used to go with him to his new shop. I liked repairing cars with him, although he didn’t want me to become like him. He always asked all of us, my two brothers, my sister and me, to study hard, to be able to become respectful and good people in the future.
How did it you lose your legs? What do you remember?
One day, my father’s friend arrived to the shop and asked him to help him repair his car. My father asked me to go out and park the car near the shop. I did what he asked me to do and came out of the car, my father was coming out of the shop, when a mortar shell fell. I was on the ground in big pain, not aware of what happened to me, when I heard the voice of my father saying: “Rabee, don’t die, hold on and stay alive”. My father passed away as soon as he arrived to the hospital. Me too, my heart stopped beating for a while. They thought that I passed away, and a nurse covered my face. Suddenly she noticed that I slightly moved my hand so they removed the cover and started to do the electric shocks again and I returned to life. I obeyed my father and I stayed alive!
What are your dreams?
My dream is to walk again… I want to play again with my friends. When I see them now playing under my window in the street, or when my brothers and cousins say goodbye in the morning to go to school walking, I start crying and crying. I feel myself alone now. All of them leave to school, my mother start working at home and cooking, and I just stay alone. Sometimes I start crawling after her at home, like when I was a baby of one-year old…
What would like to do in the future?
I don’t know. I just want to be able to continue my studies. That’s all what I want. After the accident, I lost my sight for a few days, they examined my head and did x-rays to check if I received shrapnel causing me the loss of sight, but there was nothing. The doctors said it was the shock. When I gained sight after few days, I suddenly became unable to speak. Again, it was the shock. Till now, I sometimes have problems in my sight, for that I can’t study. Maybe I will get better and start to study again in the next scholar year.
Rabee, what is the meaning of your name?
It means spring in Arabic, but since the accident, my family and I are living in a cold endless winter…
If you could say a message to the decision makers in the world, what would you say?
I would say: Stop the war in my country, stop the killing and blood, stop hurting the innocents. I lost my father and my legs in this war, you can’t give them back to me, but you can do something else… You can help us get peace, good days and spring back in our country. (DS)
(Sandra Awad, head of communications at Caritas Syria, contributed to this article)