I will not forgive you!

Story and photos by Muhammad Al-Omar, Rukban Network

28 MARCH 2022

On a donkey-drawn cart, Abbas Muhammad travels through Rukban camp, selling water. He was eight years old when he came here. His distant memories include a house, a school, games, trees and a river—memories that have begun to fade before the reality of this camp, this desert where his childhood is withering. Abbas Muhammad tells us of his life:

‘I am Abbas Muhammad. I became a displaced person when I was only eight years old, and today I am thirteen years old. I come from the eastern countryside of Homs. I remember beautiful things where I was born. I used to love to play a lot, and I played until I get tired. Today I am tired for other reasons.

‘I have started to forget what I remembered about my old home. I keep hearing stories about our old lives from my family, but now I only know this desert and this camp, and I don’t know exactly why we can’t get out of it, but what I know is that if I move away from it I will die.

‘I have five siblings, and I help them to make a living, so I work on this cart and sell water in the camp. The cart is rented, and I go with it every day from early morning until just before sunset.

‘My father is very sad because he thinks that I only do things that are required of adults, but I love my family and have to help it as there are no schools here that I can go to.

‘My clothes are old and worn, but it’s okay. I work all the time, so they are work clothes. It bothers me that I don’t feel warm in winter, and in summer the temperatures are unbearable. It’s a desert. I’m told it’s normal, but I don’t see why there are deserts with no life in them.

‘I spend a lot of time in the cart. The donkey is my friend, sometimes I pity him on some rough road, get off the cart, and help him.

‘I am afraid that I will get sick. One time when I got sick there was no doctor to go to, and no medicine. One of the children I knew got sick and they took him outside the camp and he has not returned to this day, neither him nor his mother.

‘You ask me what do I dream about? Mmm, yes, one time, I saw on someone’s mobile a picture of a beautiful bag. Yes, I want the same, and I also want a sketchbook and colours. Here in the camp there are not many colours, and I like to draw.

‘And I hope that my father’s dream of returning to our home will come true. He says that it won’t be soon, because no one cares about us and helps us, and he won’t forgive them. I don’t know who they are but I too won’t forgive them.’