"He meowed as if to say we shouldn't leave him alone." The blind siblings who fled only with their cat

Published: Mar 13, 2022 Reading time: 3 minutes
© Omar Khattab

From inside her tent, Aziza, 58, extends her hand and dangles the keys from her home to show us; one of the only items she was able to bring from her home to the IDP camp in which she has spent the last three years. It is perhaps a miracle that she has managed to keep hold of them given how she can list forty previous places where she and her brother have lived since the outbreak of the Syrian war eleven years ago.

Aziza and her brother Jumaa, 52, are blind. There is not much pleasure left in their lives. The war deprived them of everything, including the majority of their possessions which they had to leave behind. Their tent is warm at least. Aziza made a fire in a small stove and she is cutting spinach and talking about her life before the war.

"We had a shop where we sold bread and cooking gas. We lost it when the war started. We used to be happy. We lived in our own house, not in a tent like now," said Aziza, "I knew our town, I knew where what was, and I could move around safely on my own, even though I couldn't see."

Aziza's talking is interrupted by a meowing. There is a tomcat at her feet. Aziza brought him with her. She couldn't leave him alone in the village which was under shelling. "His name is Seles. I carried him 70 kilometers," said Aziza, stroking the cat. 

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"Seles came to our house one day. He loved us, and we loved him. When we had to leave our house, he meowed and looked at us as if he told us not to leave him there and take him with us. So we took him," said Aziza's brother Jumaa. 

"Sometimes he sleeps in the tent with us, sometimes he is with my brother's children," Jumaa said. You can feel from the two siblings' stories how exhausted they both are after eleven years of war.

"When the war started, we lost everything. We were starving, as we had no food and no money. Some people were merciless to us. Once we were left without water for six days," said Jumaa. He and his sister were going around looking for a house where they could stay. But they couldn't find one. 

"Years of war and crisis have completely exhausted me, and I have had many diseases," said Jumaa. Azíza listens to her brother's story, her keys clasped tightly in her grip. 

When he is finished she points to each one in turn: "These are for our house, these are for our shop, and these are for the fuel barrel. And these are for my closet," Aziza says, pulling out money from her pocket, among the keys. "And this is in memory of my late sister. She died five years ago," Aziza showed the wallet that her sister left behind. 

"People keep these things to remember their loved ones and the times when they were happy. When I took these keys with me, I hoped and believed that I would come home," Aziza said.She sits by a small stove and strokes Seles who lies contentedly on her lap. "I still hope to come home one day. But sometimes, I wished that an airstrike hit me, and I died to be relieved of this suffering. But we have to be patient and endure." 

Author: Člověk v tísni