Save the Children’s Catherine Carter, reports from the Lebanon/Syria border.
“My name is Motasem, and I am 16.”
Motasem states this with pride – he has been learning English and wants to practice. We talk a little about his school – he is in the 9th grade, but says the war stopped him from graduating.
“Now students don’t go to school, because when they did there were shells… they targeted the school, shells fell all over it. Students were leaving to go home in the afternoon when it started and two children died. They were both very young.”
I tell Motasem of the recent reports of schools being targeted, of the newly announced UN death toll. We still don’t know for sure how many are children.
He leans forward, nodding. “When children are injured in Syria, they die. They die because there is no way to rescue them, to move them. Even if we could have, there was nowhere to take them. So children die from these fragments of bombs.”
Where are your friends?
In Syria, Motasem had a friendship group of thirteen. I ask him where they are now – are some in Lebanon with him? He shakes his head slowly. “No. Only three are still alive.”
I express my condolences and we spend some time talking of the friends who survived, of his future. After all of this talk of death, I find myself wanting to see this serious teenager smile and I try everything I can think of. Finally, I ask him to tell me something funny.
“One day… my village wanted to scare off the soldiers who were approaching, so they used aubergines and pretended to bite the top off, as if they were grenades. The soldiers ran away. It was a funny moment. It was scary at the time, but now, here, it makes me laugh to remember it.”
I was glad that Motasem laughed, as we all did, but the story stuck with me. It may be comic now, but how tragic at the time. A terrified village with aubergines, masquerading as grenades.