By Omer Koparan
AL-BAB-Syria /ANKARA (AA) – Fruit was naturally scarce during the five years Syrian regime forces besieged eastern Ghouta.
“We did not see any fruit. […] One day, we gathered 12 people together and bought a kilo of bananas. One of our nephews ate it with its skin because he did not know how to eat it,” says Abu Mahmud, who recently evacuated eastern Ghouta to land in al-Bab, told Anadolu Agency.
“We were only eating one time a day. We, as fathers and mothers, were not [even] eating but making our children eat.”
Abu Mahmud is part of a group of eastern Ghouta residents who have recently taken refuge in a camp in the Al-Bab district, which was liberated from terrorists during Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield.
Along with his family, he spent the final three months in the besieged eastern Ghouta in shelters.
“Our children did not see daylight for months. They wanted to go out and play outside but we were always getting angry with them,” he remembers.
Since the evacuation process began, more than 56,000 people have left the Damascus suburb.
Evacuees were initially sent to camps in Idlib, in Aleppo's western countryside, and in the Al-Bab district.
“The most valuable thing was bread in eastern Ghouta,” says Mahmud Sahap, a resident of Douma, which was recently hit by a suspected chemical weapons attack on April 7. “In order to be able to buy barley, we were waiting in line for two to three days.”
“When we did not have any bread, we were eating spinach. We were trying to plant vegetables. There was very little land to plant on because there were ruins of buildings everywhere,” Sahap adds.
"Even the sky was under blockade," he says. “We were living in shelters. Some people died under our eyes in the chemical attacks.”
“One day before coming here, I buried my four-year-old daughter. Was she a terrorist?” he asks. “In the attacks, my seven children were killed. They were shooting civilians, not the battlefield. Our life was like this.
“Even the richest person was not able to buy something to eat for breakfast. Yogurt, olive oil, sugar, and tea, we were not able to buy them. Our house was destroyed. We lost our everything.”
Abu Yasin, another resident, says they lived without electricity for around five years in the besieged district and were barely able to find something to eat.
“Our children were saying that they were hungry when they got up in the morning. We were sending them to pick something but we were not sure if they would be able to return [alive] or not,” Yasin said.
The regime recently managed to seize the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta — one of the opposition’s last strongholds on the capital’s outskirts — following sustained attacks and a five-year blockade.
Humanitarian access to the area, which is home to 400,000 people, had been completely cut off.
Over the past eight months, regime forces had intensified their siege, making it nearly impossible for food or medicine to get into the district and leaving thousands of civilians in need.