The day that changed me forever, by Ameenah Sawwan

This message was sent out by the Syria Campaign and is reproduced here to share Ameenah’s story and raise awareness on the seventh anniversary of the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. LCID campaigns for the protection of civilians in Syria and donates to the White Helmets – you can do so too here.

My name is Ameenah Sawwan and I’m a campaigner from Syria. Seven years ago I lived through a day that has changed me forever.

In the early morning hours of August 21, 2013 bombs filled with chemical weapons were dropped just 20 kilometres from my house. Then as panic filled our town of Muadamiyat al-Sham, it too was attacked with chemical weapons.

I ran to the field hospital where I volunteered as a nurse. I saw people lined up in the street in front of the hospital. They were suffocating. Many looked like they were close to death.

I went inside and started to wash people and take off some of their clothes. I was instructed to put towels soaked with vinegar and lemon under their noses. We did not know what we were doing and whether it was helping at all. All we knew was that something terrible had happened and we were alone, left to deal with hundreds of dying people unable to do anything for them.

I tried to save the life of a 10-month-old baby. I tried to wash him and give him CPR but  nothing worked. I wished I would soon wake up from a nightmare but the baby died along with his parents.

That day a total of 1,127 people were killed. People went to sleep the night before and never woke up. My family and I survived, but death continued to rain from the sky. Eight days later my brother, his wife, and their son Ahmad were killed by a mortar shell.

That attack was not the first and it was not the last. The Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people as part of more than 200 documented incidents. The red line that many world leaders talked of has been crossed with impunity.

Seven years on I still cannot understand how the attack was allowed to happen, why there were no consequences and why justice is still to be done.

Those of us who survived live with memories that haunt us daily but also compel us to keep on campaigning. We will not give up. We will tell our stories, preserve our collective memory, and demand justice.

That’s why today many of us will be taking to the streets in cities and towns giving out pins and yellow roses and explaining to people around the world what happened in 2013. We want to shed a light on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and renew the fight to hold to account a regime that suffocates children to death as they sleep.

Please add your message of solidarity today using the hashtag #DoNotSuffocateTruth on Facebook and Twitterand by following and sharing updates from the Ghouta campaign.

With hope,

Ameenah

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