In an allegory of Syria writ large, Kiswa is a divided town. Located 18km south of Damascus, Kiswa sits on the western edge of the M5 highway in West Ghouta and is surrounded by regime military facilities and bases on all sides.
Regime forces control the northern half and have encircled the town’s rebel-held south since 2014. This past May, both sides signed a truce. Since then, some aid has trickled in to south Kiswa, including a shipment of blankets that the Syrian Red Crescent delivered two months ago.
Concurrent with the regime’s partial lifting of the blockade is the arrival of civilians fleeing regime bombardment in southern Damascus. This population increase is further depleting the limited resources available to up to 40,000 residents in Kiswa’s south.
One widow in south Kiswa, finding herself unable to afford warm clothes for her children, decided to cut and sew the Red Crescent blankets into makeshift pajamas.
“Because of the difficult living conditions, I thought of cutting these blankets and sewing them to make pajamas for my children,” Umm Abdo, whose husband died fighting the regime in the nearby town of Taybeh last year, tells Syria Direct’s Alaa Nassar.
“From there, I thought of making them for people in the same living situation as me, who could not buy winter clothes.”
Q: How did you come up with the idea and why are you doing this work?
About two months ago, we received blankets from the Red Crescent as a form of assistance. My children did not have warm winter clothes to protect them from the bitter cold because my husband, the sole breadwinner in our family, was martyred a year ago.
Because of the difficult living conditions, I thought of cutting these blankets and sewing them to make pajamas for my children. From there, I thought of making them for people in the same living situation as me, who could not buy winter clothes.
I found that there was high demand among the women of the neighborhood, who started to bring blankets for me to turn into pajamas for their children in exchange for a nominal fee: SP500 (approximately $2.25) for children’s pajamas and SP1000 (approximately $4.50) for adult-size pajamas that I collect to pay my children’s expenses.
Q: How was your living situation before you started this work? What assistance have you received from the Red Crescent and charities?
Thanks to God, who does not forget anyone. There are still good people who gave me what they could, but in general, my situation was very bad because I am on my own here and the assistance from other people did not cover all of our needs, especially since my children are small and their expenses are more than I can afford.
No one took care of me or my children, and I could not take care of myself. I can bear the cold and hunger, but these children, are they guilty if they want to eat something that I cannot provide for them? They always ask me, “Where’s Papa? Let him bring us a heater to warm us up.” May God take revenge on those who caused this situation.
And here are many women among us who have adopted my idea and started to sew on their own.
The assistance that is distributed to us is blankets and mattresses. They were distributed about two months ago, but we only got them after a difficult struggle.
Q: How do you provide warmth for your children during the winter, given the fuel situation?
The municipality allocates 200 liters per family each month, but they have only distributed 50 liters to us, at SP140 (approximately $0.63) per liter. This amount is not enough for a week with the cold spell that is plaguing us, never mind the fact that we cannot afford it. If we want to buy it from traders, it is sold for SP260 (approximately $1.18) per liter, and that amount is outrageous given my situation.