On March 25, 2011, 22-year-old Zakarya was at a demonstration in Syria when the crowd was fired upon. Twenty-eight people were killed and many were injured, including Zakarya, who was shot in the leg. The resulting fracture paralyzed his left foot.
He stayed in Syria until April 2012, when “the situation became unbearable, particularly for injured people.” Zakarya fled to the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, where his brother lived. Before the war, many Syrians came to Beqaa Valley, the breadbasket of Lebanon, to work during the harvest season. Now however, more than 500,000 Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon, putting serious pressure on the local population. Most refugees are forced to live with multiple people in small tents that were designed to provide temporary accommodation for one person.
Luckily for Zakarya, his brother was renting a room belonging to a local resident who had been renting to members of his family during the seasonal harvests for the past 25 years. The 80-year-old owner, Montha, thinks of Zakarya and his family as her own.
“Since the start of the war, I decided to let Zakarya and his brother stay here for free,” says Montha. “I refuse to accept rent. It’s my way of showing my solidarity. I asked them to bring their other family members here, so we now have their aunt, her husband, and their four children.”
Since Zakarya arrived in Lebanon, he was found by Handicap International which has provided him an orthopedic device and physiotherapy. After several weeks of rehabilitation, his physical condition improved dramatically. “The war disabled me, but Handicap International helped me walk again,” says Zakarya.
Zakarya and his family are preoccupied by the situation in their native country. They spend much of the day watching the news and making phone calls, waiting hear how the relatives they left behind in Syria are faring. As this interview was being conducted, Zakarya received a message from his friends telling him that his home village had been bombed. He struggled to hold back his tears.