I posed 12 questions to British aid worker Tauqir ‘Tox’ Sharif. Below are both the questions and his responses. You can follow his work on Twitter (@LiveUpdateSyria).
Assalaam-alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu.
1. How long have you been in Syria?
I have been to Syria for roughly 3 and a half years, coming up to 4 years.
2. During this time have you been involved exclusively in aid work?
Yes I have been devoting my time to aid work, to education for the Children in Syria. We didn’t have any schools or madressahs in the refugee camps so we decided to build one & give these children some hope as no one else is going to do it for them. I work in counselling for those who have become victim to the war, I also work in Media and raising awareness about the situation in Syria. So as you can see, not entirely exclusively aid work, I am an activist as well. Part of our work is to raise awareness.
3. Which areas of Syria have you operated in?
We work in all parts of Freed Syria which is the province Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib.
4. Tell us how the situation in Aleppo has fared over this year. Has it got better or worse for the civilian population.
The situation in Syria has worsened since Russia’s intervention. Since Russia has intervened, different illegal weapons have been used and clear war crimes have been committed. Such as the use of white phosphorus bombs, cluster bombs, chlorine attacks and much much more. Heavy fire weaponry. There is so much documentation of children and women becoming a victim to these war crimes yet the world doesn’t do a thing about it. They’re watching this genocide being carried out & can’t even implement a no-fly zone which would save thousands of lives!
5. You mentioned that hospitals are being deliberately targeted – by whom and what makes you suspect it is a deliberate policy.
Hospitals are being targeted, I personally have been inside hospitals whilst they are being bombed and hit. We have also been able to document this. The reason we believe it is a deliberate policy is because in this last month more hospitals have been targeted and actually taken out of action since the whole 5 years of this war. Of course it is a deliberate action.
6. Do the hospitals service both civilians and fighters? What about injured regime soldiers?
The hospitals of course serve both civilians and fighters, including injured regime soldiers and prisoners. Hospitals are impartial under international law have to serve everybody, even in the UK for example, when Michael Adebolajo and his accomplices, the men who killed Lee Rigby, when they were shot by the police, they were taken to a British hospital and they were treated. This is normal, hospitals are meant to be impartial and treat every single person.
7. How many hospitals are still functioning in Aleppo (opposition held area) and the immediate surroundings.
In Aleppo city, there are four main hospitals and all of them are severely under resourced. We try our best to give them as many ambulances & medical aid as possible on behalf the the smaller charities in the UK who are making much more of a bigger difference INSIDE Syria than most of the bigger charities that are almost unheard of here. One Nation, One Ummah, Aid Convoy are some of the British charities that have really helped the Syrian people in this war especially with the aid they’ve been sending food parcels, baby milk, medical aid & much more. Winter is coming up very soon and last year we had an elderly lady in our refugee camp who passed away in her sleep maybe due to the cold. We try our best to help them but can only do so much.
8. What types of injuries are you seeing on a daily basis.
We are seeing everything on a daily basis, things beyond our imagination and comprehension. From bullet wounds, shrapnel wounds, disabled people paralysed from the neck down and so on. I’ve seen some of the most devastating injuries where explosions have ripped through different parts of people’s bodies, limbs have been ripped off, people have lost their eyesight, the detrimental effect of this war is horrific.
9. What has been the effect of the war on the children of Aleppo – how has it affected them physically and psychologically.
To be honest, some of these children are the bravest people I have ever seen, but of course they definitely suffer from PTSD. In one aspect they do become accustomed to the situation but nevertheless, witnessing loved ones die so horrifically and even becoming a victim to the bombs wil no doubt affect anyone mentally. They remind me of the children of Gaza who have become accustomed to the war. I think nearly every single person here, like Gaza as well, have at least one family member who has been killed by the regime.
10. What shortages, if any, are the hospitals suffering? How is this affecting the mortality rate of patients?
Just today we had filmed in a hospital of a man required an urgent surgery however it could not be done and the route going out of Aleppo city was closed, so he unfortunately passed away. We do not have enough ventilators, people are having to be resuscitated after their operations via air bags. We do not have the correct CT scanners, we have one neurologist in the whole of Aleppo. This is just to list a few of the lack of resources, there are just so many shortages that is costing the lives of innocent people. We just do not have the facilities or sufficient resources to save everyone, which is in itself a traumatic experience.
11. How are cadavers stored and where are they buried?
12. What is your message to: (a) the Muslims of Britain (b) Western governments?
(a) My message to the Muslims of Britain, is that it doesn’t matter about your religiosity, it doesn’t matter whether or not you are devoted to your religion, this is a human cause. Part of being a Muslim is to love for your brother what you love for yourself. The Prophet peace be upon him said, “None of you have truly believed until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” So now when you see these people in pain and you don’t feel this pain and when you live in comfort and you do not wish that comfort for these people that means you truly have not believed. So we have to do something. Every single Muslim has to take action and this means at the very minimum they are speaking about it and raising awareness, which is important. We need to push our Imams and push our communities to be speaking about these issues. Highlight what is happening here and how everyone as a community can help.
(b) My message to western governments is that they need to reflect on their own foreign policies. If they are going to be the champions of humanity and human rights then they need to be challenged on what they are doing or not doing in war torn countries. For example when Obama said that the use of chemical weapons was a red line in Syria and despite him saying that, there has been numerous footages, documenting chemical usage in Syria, then why has nothing been done? Why has the international community remained silent? Most of the Syrians that we speak to, want two things. One from the Western government to use their foreign policies to enforce a no fly zone and Secondly the right to self determination, a basic principle that we are taught in the west.