A Tearful Syrian Aid Worker Begs for Help in Interview

Zaidoun al-Zoabi’s pleas for an end to Syria’s war come as an unmanageable crisis unfolds in Aleppo.
Oct 22, 2015·
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

It took only a minute of pleading for help before Syrian aid worker Zaidoun al-Zoabi broke down in tears on CNN yesterday.

“We don’t know what to do, for God’s sake…we are just about to collapse, all of us,” said a distressed al-Zoabi after telling CNN correspondents that he and his team hadn’t slept in four days.

Tens of thousands of refugees fled the Aleppo countryside over the weekend following the latest government offensive on rebel-held areas south of the city. Russian air strikes and on-the-ground Syrian army attacks have forced many to flee, leaving whole villages empty in an attempt to escape the violence.

“The shelling is so fierce. The sky was filled with jet fighters, with helicopters, and people are terribly scared. They are scared to death,” al-Zoabi told BBC News earlier this week. The Syrian activist is the head of a humanitarian and medical relief organization providing aid to Syrian victims of war; he said there were not enough supplies to help the estimated 70,000 people he saw moving on foot.

“We can’t provide enough food; we can’t provide enough medicine; we can’t provide shelter. Even if we do so for a small portion, we can’t take it alone,” he said.

In late August, dozens of refugees’ bodies were found decomposing in the back of a lorry crossing through Austria. It’s one of many devastating stories unfolding as the refugee crisis worsens around the world, sometimes coming within weeks of the next. In early September, people mourned Aylan Kurdi, a boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach after he, his brother, and his mother died while fleeing with their father, who survived.

Many of those fleeing the violence lack basic necessities, and without the support of aid resources, they’ll likely have to journey empty-handed.

“We saw only people who do not have even tents, any shelter, whatever. People were asking for some food, sandwiches even,” al-Zoabi told BBC News. “There is no medical support.”

Those fleeing the city face greater challenges, including dodging Russian air strikes and negotiating their way past rebel-seized security checkpoints as they make their way to the border of Turkey, which lies 30 miles north. It’s uncertain whether they will be able to enter Turkey—the nation with the largest number of refugees—considering border gates have been closed for months. If denied entry, many will be forced to pay smugglers to sneak them through tunnels or patrolled fields and orchards near the border—a dangerous journey in itself. As of now, Turkey is host to more than 2 million registered Syrian refugees.

As for the situation in Aleppo, al-Zoabi says he and his team are helpless, even feeling hopeless about aiding those in need: “Enough for us. Please end this war. Do something to end this war.”