Yasser and Mahmoud briskly walk to a bakery and buy a kilogram of baklava. Carrying their bounty, the boys walk for half an hour to their impoverished neighborhood.
They enter a dilapidated, two-story building. The family sleeps in a 20-square-foot room devoid of windows. Four mattresses, one wooden bed, three chairs, and countless flies fill the humid and cold room. The toilet has neither a door nor a roof.
Hassan’s wife, Noura, has prepared adas, a typical Syrian lentil soup, and boiled rice for breakfast and lunch.
“Unlike last year, I can’t cook mansaf (meat and rice with almonds) and serve my family with ka’ek (a traditional sweet). Whatever we eat here is not charity, but my husband and sons earn it with their hard work,” she explains with pride.
Dressed in gray scarf and black abaya, she says her children have two sets of clothes and only one pair of shoes each.
Noura, who used to be a nurse in a private Latakia hospital, had never imagined that her children wouldn’t wear new clothes on Eid. Amina, her one-year-old daughter, has a cold. Her skin looks pale and dry, and she’s alarmingly underweight. The temperature here often falls below freezing.
As the infant cries for milk, Noura pours lukewarm Turkish black tea down her throat with a spoon.
“My breast milk dried, probably due to lack of good food and our testing circumstances. We can either feed the entire family or provide her formula milk,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Before the family left Latakia, one of the country’s few pro-Assad cities, both had lost 16 close family members either to air raids or artillery fire.
“Prior stepping out of my home, I had laid only one condition before my husband. And he accepted: That we won’t beg for our shelter and food. We won’t live in camps, but earn our living,” Noura said.
“Forget about this Eid, we will slaughter a sheep next year as we always did,” Mahmoud said. For many Syrians, this is their second Eid-ul-Adha in a foreign land.
Indifferent to the gloom, 6-year-old Omer and 5-year-old Usman play with balloons and stuffed toys outside. Though none of the children attends school, Mahmoud’s mother Raabia teaches them basic math and Arabic handwriting.
“I keep myself busy as it helps me forget the tragedy of losing my loving husband,” Raabia said. She wondered aloud when President Obama would eliminate Bashar al-Assad for them. Mahmoud responded, “America won’t help us, mom.”
This Eid-ul-Adha, the war in Syria is even deadlier—neither of the parties announced a ceasefire, unlike in past years. At dawn, Assad’s warplanes pounded the suburbs of Damascus, and the Free Syrian Army responded with rocket fire. Other regime attacks killed three children in Hama and in the Ghouta district of Damascus. Since March 2011, more than 115,000 people have lost their lives in Syria, including about a thousand in chemical weapon attacks.