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Douma Evacuee On Syrian Violence


Diana Jamal el-Deen is Syrian-American. She's lived in her husband's home region of eastern Ghouta for the past 18 years, teaching English. Tuesday, she and her family fled after what's widely believed to be a chemical attack by Syrian forces. Speaking with us over Skype from the town of al-Bab near the Turkish border, she called the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, criminal and says the regime attacked her home.

DIANA JAMAL EL-DEEN: There was two days of nonstop bombing. The women and children and the men, they all were staying in basements. The second day, there was a chemical attack which was not near me, but I heard about it. And when I heard about it from some of the young men - they told me what happened because they weren't staying in the basement with us. They told me not to tell the women so they don't get hysterical.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is it like to be in those basements when these bombardments happened? I'm assuming you're doing that just to stay safe.

JAMAL EL-DEEN: It's very difficult. Some people become hysterical. I just try to be quiet and try to keep my children safe. I tell them to stay low to the ground. In the basement I was staying in, there were women crying. At the end of the two days, the last missile came very close - that hit Douma came very close to the basement I was staying in. And the lights went out, and the basement shook. And it was very fearful, actually.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what were you telling your children while this was happening? They must have been so frightened.

JAMAL EL-DEEN: They were very frightened. But, actually, I saw, in my experience, that children accept these things more than adults. I saw the adults were more hysterical maybe because, like they say, ignorance is bliss. The adults had more - a better idea of what could happen. Maybe their child could lose a leg or lose an eye or become paralyzed. The children - I saw them. They accept it better, actually.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How were you keeping them safe all this time?

JAMAL EL-DEEN: It wasn't me keeping them safe. For sure, it was God because I don't know how we came out of this not getting hurt. All around us was death and people wounded, people losing arms. It's hard to think of one family that doesn't have somebody injured in it. I can't think of one family, so I am thankful that my family came out of Douma and out of the eastern Ghouta unscathed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you heard about this alleged chemical attack, and you heard about these terrible things that they were telling you had happened, what did you decide? Is that why you decided to leave Douma?

JAMAL EL-DEEN: Actually, I decided to leave Douma before. When I knew that there was a possibility the Syrian regime and its forces would enter, I immediately decided I wanted to leave. And I signed my name to leave four times, but I couldn't get out. So, actually, I stayed to the very end, not by my own choice but because I didn't have a way to leave.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What are your plans now? You're in an apartment of someone who's taken you in. Where will you go?

JAMAL EL-DEEN: That's a good question. I'm asking it to myself. Where will we go? What will we do next? I'm not sure. Actually, we're taking it step by step. We're looking for an apartment now. And I can't say I know what I'm going to do. It's actually an unknown future right now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Diana Jamal el-Deen, an evacuee from Douma, Syria. Thank you so much, and good luck.

JAMAL EL-DEEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.