Sham’s journey from under the rubble to Abu Dhabi’s Burjeel Hospital
The nine-year-old Sham al-Sheikh Mohammed and her brother Omar have received wide interaction on social media since they got out after 40 hours from under the rubble in the town of Armanaz in the northern Idlib region following the massive earthquake that struck the area on February 6.
Sympathy for the child who sang “The Melody of Life” under the rubble was accompanied by political exploitation by the Syrian regime, whose media coverage was absent from Idlib during the first days of the earthquake and was present in the case of the child Sham, and some other cases through which it wanted to send a “political message.”
Stuck under rubble
On February 7, volunteers from the Syria Civil Defense (SCD), also known as The White Helmets, rescued Sham and her brother Omar from under the rubble 40 hours after the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and four Syrian governorates. But Sham lost her mother and sister.
Sham read verses from the Holy Qur’an while she was stuck under the rubble of her house and sang the song “Ya Sham, you are our Sham” (Ash-Sham: The colloquial name of Damascus), inspiring hope in the hearts of the people and volunteers.
After her rescue, she was transferred to al-Shifaa Hospital in Idlib city.
Dr. Mohammad al-Youssef, director of the intensive care unit at al-Shifa Hospital, said in a video recording that the pressure of the rubble on the child’s lower limbs led to the interruption of blood flow to them, and they were threatened with amputation.
Sham and her brother suffered from crush syndrome, which posed a great threat to their lives, in conjunction with the great pressure in hospitals in northern Syria and the lack of medical equipment and supplies.
From Idlib to Adana
On February 23, ambulances transported the child Sham and her brother, accompanied by their father, to Adana Şehir Hospital in Adana state, southern Turkey, after supervision and coordination between the health ministry of the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) operating in Idlib, and the Turkish authorities.
The child and her brother remained in the emergency department designated to receive all cases and not in the intensive care unit, with the cries of the child and her brother and demanded to return them to Idlib during their appearance in a video recording.
Their presence in the emergency department requires them to receive painkillers only and to wait until they get a turn to perform the operation at an unspecified time due to the overcrowding in the hospital, with the lack of coordination between the hospital staff and any party.
A video of the child in pain from inside the hospital received wide interaction, followed by activists on social media launching a campaign to save her, entitled “Save Sham and Omar.”
Hussein Bazar, health minister in the Salvation Government, said that the ministry is following up on the medical situation and the care provided to Sham and her brother after they entered Turkish territory to complete their treatment for crush syndrome on a permanent basis.
Upon noticing the delay in receiving the required care for their difficult condition, and after communication, “we received confirmation from high-ranking Turkish medical authorities to follow up the case directly,” Bazar added.
From Adana to Istanbul
On February 25, the little girl and her brother, accompanied by their father, arrived in Istanbul on a private plane belonging to the Turkish Health Ministry to receive treatment in coordination with the Ataa for Humanitarian Relief organization, which followed up on the case directly.
Ataa administration told Enab Baladi that the role of the association was represented in sponsoring the accompanying family in terms of housing, transportation, and clothes, coordinating the transfer of Sham, her brother, and the family from Adana to Istanbul, and securing their admission to the Çam ve Sakura government hospital in the Başakşehir region.
Ataa pointed out that the Turkish government provided a private plane from the ministry of health to transport Sham and her brother from Adana to Istanbul and to host them in the Çam ve Sakura Hospital at the government’s expense, with the provision of a specialized medical staff to follow up on the case.
From Istanbul to Abu Dhabi
On February 28, the child and her brother were transferred to Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi to receive treatment under the supervision of the Emirates Red Crescent and in cooperation with Burjeel Hospital, which formed a specialized medical team for the child and her brother, and provided urgent treatment for them.
After the two children arrived at the hospital, surgeries were performed by Dr. Michael Oğlu, as the life of the child Sham was threatened as a result of gangrene that spread in the lower part of the body, and her brother Omar was also saved, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
The agency said that Sham and Omar arrived under the directives of the Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, Honorary President of the Emirates Red Crescent (Mother of the Nation), Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
Ataa Relief told Enab Baladi that the child was transferred to the Emirates after its consulate contacted Sham’s father, as the Turkish authorities left the matter to her father, who agreed to transfer her and transfer the entire family to the Emirates to complete the treatment of Sham and her brother Omar in the UAE hospitals.
Asma al-Assad exploits Sham’s condition
The Syrian regime’s officials and media coverage ignored mentioning Idlib governorate when talking about the areas affected by the earthquake, despite the fact that the death toll there was more than double the number of deaths in the areas under the regime’s control.
The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released the day after the earthquake ignored Idlib when it mentioned the affected areas, limiting itself to mentioning Aleppo, Latakia, and Hama in the statement calling for the lifting of sanctions.
On the fifth day of the earthquake, February 10, the regime mentioned Idlib for the first time during the disaster when it included it by announcing the areas affected by the earthquake (Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, and Idlib).
Nizar al-Farra, a TV host on the pro-regime Syrian Sama channel, published on February 25, quoting what he called “private sources,” that the “Syrian government” is trying through several channels, with Russian and Emirati mediation, to persuade the Turkish authorities to hand over the child Sham and her brother to the Syrian health authorities to send them to the Emirates for treatment.
He stated that efforts are continuing to include the two children with six Syrian children from Aleppo and Latakia, who arrived for treatment in the UAE at the initiative of the “Syrian Presidency,” adding that the Turkish side still refuses to hand over the child or even send her directly to the UAE for treatment.
Al-Farra said, on March 1, that the child, Sham, is in the UAE to be treated and that the efforts of the “Syrian State” have succeeded after “Turkey has repeatedly refused to send her and exploited her situation and health for political ends.”
Asma al-Assad, the wife of the head of the Syrian regime, appeared in a video recording published by the “Presidency of the Syrian Republic” page on Facebook, which includes a recorded call with the child Sham, which caused a wave of anger and resentment among the Syrians, who considered it “political exploitation and trading in the pain of the Syrians.”
Asma al-Assad hinted that she was aware of the child’s transfer and arrival to the Emirates, telling Sham, “You have to come back to me.”
Sham appeared in a video in one scene with her head shaved and wearing a hat in another scene, which raised suspicions that the recording was subjected to a “montage” and “editing” process.
Family ‘doesn’t know’
With the spread of the recording of Asma al-Assad’s call with Sham, local pages and activists shared audio recordings of the child’s father, who denied knowing about Asma al-Assad’s call, saying, “I was not in the hospital, and I had no knowledge of the call, and I heard about it just like you.”
The father explained that he was not satisfied from the beginning with the removal of his two children from Idlib governorate, adding, “I never had the desire to leave, but they told me that I had to travel under the pretext of securing doctors and housing for us. I will not forgive them before God; they destroyed my children.”
Activists also circulated an audio recording said to be of her brother Omar, who said that his father was not aware of the call, but people do not understand this matter.
Children, victims of the regime
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) said on March 13 that the Syrian regime had killed no less than 22,981 children in Syria since March 2011, including 190 due to torture, and 5,199 children are still detained or forcibly disappeared.
SNHR stated that the regime assigned the task of recruiting children to the unofficial forces it formed, such as the National Defense Forces and groups and brigades of foreign and local militias, through its affiliation centers.
These forces relied on the encouragement of children and their families and provided them with many facilities. The recruitment process took on a more organized and systematic character with the formation of the National Defense Forces.
According to the monitoring group, children participated in military operations, whether as combatants or as participants in transporting ammunition, strengthening the fronts, cleaning weapons, guarding, and other missions.
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