Thursday, December 24, 2015

Syria: Firsthand account of regime's 'chemical attack' in Moadamiyya

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A Syrian activist based in a rebel-held town near Damascus witnessed the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime. He shares his testimony with The New Arab.
On Tuesday, Syrian regime forces, in a new violation of a truce held with rebels two years ago in the area, targeted the besieged town of Moadamiyeh with internationally prohibited weapons, according to opposition activists.

The New Arab was told regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs containing poisonous gas on the besieged Damascus suburb, killing and injuring scores of civilians, including women and children.

Despite the attack, the regime has not announced the end of the truce yet.

Dani Qappani, a Syrian activist in Moadamiyeh, shared a fisthand account of what happened with The New Arab.

He said around twenty minutes after the attack, around 8: 45 pm, an urgent massage was sent to him by field crews.

"Come to hospital in hurry. There are many injuries," the message said.

"I rushed to the hospital. I was running all the way. I was just praying that the injuries weren't serious and at least no children or women [were] amongst them," Qappani said.
People were screaming and crying in the hospital, as doctors treated what appeared to be symptoms of a toxic gas attack. Many had been killed or injured

When Qappani reached the place, it was full of people screaming and crying. He saw injured people being treated by doctors even though no external signs of wounds were visible on their bodies.

"Before I started filming, I began helping them as much as I could because, for me, saving lives is far more important than sharing any footage to a never caring world," he said.

Most of the injured were conscious, though some appeared to be hallucinating.

"All of a sudden, their noses and mouths started to bleed. Then I saw shock on the faces of the doctors," who were now realising these were symptoms of a toxic gas attack, according to the Syrian activist.

He was immediately reminded of the chemical weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta in August 2013, widely blamed on the Syrian regime.

To his schock, Qappani found out his family was in the area targeted in the south of the town. However, there was little he could do, so he decided to stay and help, including by getting the story out.

"If anything bad happens to my family, it would be God's will," he said.

He continued: "My friends called me. They needed the footage. I told them that I would try to film a mother who was saying her last goodbyes to her fourth son."

"I went to the room. The poor mother was screaming loud...'Oh my son! Take my soul but don't die'. All the people in the room cried, including me."
Both the Assad regime and some rebel factions, including Islamic State, have reportedly used chemical weapons in the conflict. The international community has failed to punish these atrocities.

Qappani could not bear staying there any longer.

"I went back to the office. We uploaded the footage and the photos," he said.

"We knew after that the problem is not with the people of the West. The problem is with the governments and political parties there. Hundreds of people talked to me, half of them were Westerners; they were so sympathetic and I know they would do anything to change what we've been through if they had the decision," Qappani said.

At 4 am, the Syrian activist said, he suddenly remembered his family. He felt paralysed

"You may laugh, but I put the headphones on and played Lionel Richie's song, How Long. I wanted to forget everything...Then I stood on my feet and started walking. I reached home".

Qappani found his family unharmed. "There were waiting for me. There was nothing to be said, just hugs and kisses."

"When I closed my eyes to sleep, images of everything I saw during the day came in front of me as if it was happening again. I saw the faces of the people who were killed. I saw the mother crying," Qappani said.

This was the second chemical weapons attack he had witnessed.

"I witnessed the shame on humanity's face, [from] Obama's 'red line' and Assad's bloody hands," in reference to Barack Obama's failure to deliver on his threat to punish the Assad regime if chemical weapons were used.

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