Aid to Syria – Against all odds

When global authorities, including the United Nations, insisted that it was impossible, because of dangerous conditions and sanctions, to provide aid to the people of war-torn Syria, a group of courageous people from Switzerland achieved the “impossible.” The following is an extract from a report written by Eva Heizmann and Markus Heizmann on their three journeys to bring vitally needed goods to people in devastated villages and towns in Syria.

For decades we have been dealing theoretically and practically with the subject of colonialism, imperialism, and the struggle against these phenomena. Therefore it is not surprising that we never assumed that Syria was, or ever has been, in a civil war. Nevertheless, and against all facts, they still talk in the mainstream media of a “civil war” in Syria. So that’s not true. Syria, the Syrian people, suffer under attacks coming from abroad.

Thanks to our comrades in Vienna, we got in touch with a priest of the Melkite Church in Syria. Even though this priest lives in Austria, as a Syrian he has a strong connection with Syria. He organised transport for charity goods to people in need in Syria.

Those were the days when the war against the Syrian Arabic Republic was at its peak. We are talking about the years 2013–15.

As a result of our meetings with this Melkite priest we asked the local priest in our home town in Switzerland if he could send some money to those who do that kind of work. It turned out that the Catholic community of our village decided to send, on their own initiative, a shipping container filled with charity goods, such as clothes—winter clothes in particular—shoes, tools, and so on. We had a list of items that were needed. On another list were the prohibited items, such as medical drugs, liquids, food, and other vital goods.

The group that organised the project received a lot of solidarity, far beyond the village. In the end we have sent not just one container but six of them to Syria.

Nuns and monks from the monastery of Mar Yakoub, in the hills between Damascus and Homs, took responsibility for the distribution of these goods. This is how we got in touch with the Melkite community there, with Abbot Father Daniel and Mother Superior Agnes. Some of you may have heard of them.

■ Eva and Markus will be at Connolly House (43 East Essex Street), Dublin, on Saturday 21 July, at 2:30 p.m., when they will present a full account, together with a documentary film, of their amazing journeys to Syria in 2016, 2017, and 2018.