AMMAN: Syrians marked Mother’s Day alongside most of the Arab world on Monday, the fifth since the war began, but for two mothers and a child who spoke with Syria Direct, the holiday is a “a day of heartbreak and tears.”
“I wish my children could visit me like they used to,” Umm Muhammad, a 48-year-old mother of three told Syria Direct from the southwest Damascus suburb of Darayya on Monday. Describing Mother’s Day celebrations in happier times, she said “I would usually make sweets at home, then in the evening my sons would visit me with their wives and give me presents.”
Today, Umm Muhammad marks Mother’s Day alone. Two of her children fled to Lebanon, and her eldest son Muhammad, arrested at a checkpoint two years ago, is one of thousands of detainees held by the Syrian regime.
“Muhammad used to take my hand and say, ‘I didn’t bring you a present, I’m your present’ and we’d crack up,” says Umm Muhammad. “I used to feel a great happiness.”
“I don’t want anything but for Muhammad to come back to me, to kiss my hand and smile.”
“Today my holiday is a day of heartbreak and tears,” she adds. “The war has destroyed and displaced us.”
For Umm Firas, a mother of four living in the West Ghouta town of Qudsaya, which was under rebel control but has since surrendered to the regime, the holiday is a “painful reminder.” The date marks the third anniversary of the day she buried her son.
Firas, who worked as a policeman, was kidnapped by unidentified individuals and found dead one week later on Mother’s Day in the nearby Damascus suburb of Barzeh. His wife was six months pregnant.
“What holiday? I buried my son three years ago, this day is agony in my heart,” Umm Firas told Syria Direct on Monday. “Firas died without saying goodbye.”
For children who have lost their mothers or both parents in the war, the holiday is extremely difficult, Muhammad Adel al-Omori, the head of an orphanage in rebel-held Idlib city told Syria Direct on Monday.
Each Mother’s Day, “we take the children out to buy gifts and the caretakers prepare sweets for them,” al-Omori told Syria Direct. “They give the children sweets and the children give the caretakers gifts to thank them and recognize their work.”
Despite the attempts by those working at the orphanage to give those in their care a normal life, “you can still see the sadness in the children.”
One of those children is Amani, a 14-year-old girl living in al-Omori’s orphanage who lost her mother to the war last year in circumstances the girl did not wish to describe. Her father died before that. On Monday, she told Syria Direct her wishes for the day, which are as simple as they are impossible.
“I wish my mother would come back to life, wake me up early for school and make me an olive oil and zaatar sandwich.”