My short bio: We are now ending this AMA since it is night time in Syria. Please check out our live blog for future updates on Madaya Mom and her family. Thank you for participating: In better times, Madaya, just 25 miles northwest of the capital Damascus, was famous for its pure, natural spring water and fresh fruits and vegetables. It sits 4,500 feet up on the mountains that separate Syria from Lebanon. Until recently, wealthy Syrians spent their summers in beautiful mansions there to escape the heat of Damascus. Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross describes Madaya as, effectively, an open air prison for an estimated 40,000 people. Since July 2015, Syrian government forces and its allies have besieged the town, imposing increasingly strict conditions on freedom of movement. Madaya’s population is mainly Sunni Muslim. The government in Damascus claims Madaya is home to fighters opposed to the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Chairs and desks in schools have been used as firewood, and with food supplies exhausted, its residents have been forced to resort to boiling leaves and grass to make soup. Doctors Without Borders says dozens of people have starved to death in the past month in the town, where a single biscuit sells for $15 and baby milk costs $150 a pound. The UN says starvation is being used as a "weapon of war" and amounts to “war crimes." It made seven requests in 2015 to be allowed to bring an aid convoy to the town, and got permission to deliver aid in October. After several more requests, the Syrian government allowed three more aid runs earlier this month. Despite the help, the United Nations says another 5 people have died in the past week of severe and acute malnutrition. Amid all the horrors of life in Madaya, families are fighting to stay alive. Over recent days, ABC News has been in regular contact with one of them. While they can’t leave the town physically, they can tell their story to the world. Throughtext messages and phone conversations, a heartbreaking picture of unimaginable suffering emerges. Before Syria’s civil war began nearly five years ago, their family was like any other around the world. Today, five children – including two teenagers – their parents and their grandmother, are engaged in a daily battle to get enough to eat. They can’t get out of Madaya – and we can’t get in. For their own safety, we’ve decided not to identify them. But they – and we – wanted to share their story. With Syria starving, this is the story of one family’s struggle to survive.

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Comments: 176 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

beachwandererz8 karma

What are the conditions like in Madaya today?

MadayaMom15 karma

Not good. The prices on both diesel and firewood have gone up.

My husband has been looking for wood to buy because we ran out of wooden furniture. But now the price is US $9 for the 30 lbs we need to stay warm every day.

The price of diesel, which is what we used to use to warm the house, per litre is $8.10. On Monday, it was $2.88 per litre.

Frajer8 karma

What can we do to help?

MadayaMom6 karma

Disclaimer: This is answered from the perspective of ABC News, not the 'Madaya Mom.' There are several international humanitarian organizations that have been allowed access to Madaya and the other besieged towns in Syria: The World Food Programme, U.N. OCHA, UNICEF, UNHCR, ICRC. Here is how to help:

shawncarrie5 karma

Does MadayaMom think that international NGOs are effective?

MadayaMom7 karma

International aid groups are not as effective as they could be, in my opinion as a mother who has lived through this suffering, because they were not able to deliver aid at the right time. They were very late and that led to many people starving to death including women and children.

nadineatabc5 karma

Who is your town besieged by? Why can't aid enter?

MadayaMom4 karma

What I don't understand is why we are still under siege. They say it's because there are fighters in the town but all the fighters are either dead, have left or are in prison now. There are no more fighters. Why are we still under siege?

lebronianmotion5 karma

What will you and other people in Madaya do if and when the siege is lifted? Do people there have somewhere else they can go?

MadayaMom2 karma

Everyone only dreams of one thing now, and that is to leave Syria. And that is because of the suffering they have gone through and because everyone in Syria and in the international community has let them down. No one has championed us-- they have left us alone, exposed to the fangs of oppressors as they tear away at our children's flesh. Without anyone lifting a finger.

DumBarbellz5 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA.

There are many superpower nations in the world, do you think that if they wanted, they could end this crisis? Or even worse, are they helping to cause it?

May Allah make it easy for you and all the people in difficulties.

MadayaMom6 karma

I don't believe that superpowers are not able to lift an unfair siege on a small town like ours. If they really can't do that, then why do they call themselves superpowers.

shawncarrie4 karma

My name is Shawn Carrié, I’m an American journalist, my reporting focuses on Syria.

Several reports have come from Madaya claiming extremely high prices for essential goods such as rice and baby formula – some claiming to be as high at 100,000 lira for 1 kilo of rice.

The Syrian government, which at first had at first denied that anyone was really starving in Madaya, then switched to blaming the starvation on rebel fighters who were controlling the food supply and selling it at extortionate pricing.

As a local resident, can you confirm more details about these claims of exorbitant food prices? Do fighters control the sale of food and essential good? Are the people you buy food from in the market armed, or part of the fighting force? Are they people you recognize?

What do you think of the claims that rebels are stealing food aid and re-selling it at blackmail prices? Are food prices so high because of the strained supply chain, or because someone is taking advantage for profit? Is this truth or propaganda?

MadayaMom5 karma

To be very frank, those who are able to bring in basic goods are collaborators with the regime. They bring them in small, limited quantities and in high prices beyond belief and that is so that they steal people's money and they are causing the current financial crisis we are living. They are not rebel fighters.

If there were rebels in the town, they would have made sure these smugglers wouldn't continue doing what they do. We call these smugglers "human flesh eaters" and blood merchants.

ButlerianJihadist4 karma

If there were rebels in the town

Are you claiming there are no rebels in town?

MadayaMom-1 karma

Correct. There are no rebel gunmen left.

MadayaMom-1 karma

Believe me when I say there are no more opposition gunmen in the town. Everyone who used to carry weapons have disappeared. And by the way, more than half of the young men left in the town have joined the government army because a decision was announced a month before the aid came in that anyone who enlists is able to leave the town with his family.

MadayaMom3 karma

I don't personally recognize any of them, I don't know them. They do their smuggling secretly.

BrieLikeCheese4 karma

I'm so sorry you're trapped. How do you keep your family sane and calm?

MadayaMom7 karma

The reality is my children have forgotten what it means to be calm and comforted since this inhumane campaign was launched against our town. They are petrified by any little sound they hear.

ZebulonCarlander3 karma


It is soon five years since the civil war in Syria started. Could you describe these years from your perspective?

My thoughts and best wishes to you, your family and fellow people in Madaya.

MadayaMom7 karma

This topic always brings out tears before words.

Three years ago I lost my father to a tragic accident. Four months and 10 days after that, we lost the one who had become like father to us, my eldest brother. He was killed in a car bomb.

I was pregnant at the time and thought I would miscarry I was so distressed.

Our tears barely dry from one wound and then another wound is inflicted.

This July, my youngest brother was killed. He had taken up arms when the siege was enforced but only in self defense, to protect the people of the town from the armed attacks we've been subjected to. The post he was guarding with his friends was shelled. His friends got hit. After he rescued the first one, when he got back to get his other friend, a sniper shot him dead.

BrieLikeCheese3 karma

What stories do you guys tell each other to make one another laugh and smile? I can't imagine how important memories must be...

MadayaMom6 karma

I feel helpless. My children are very effected by what they're going through. My eldest has lost 30 lbs and my boy is afraid of leaving the house because of the fainting people and the children without shoes.

MadayaMom3 karma

There isn't much fun news that comes into town but my husband tries to tell the children stories of his childhood in an attempt to take their mind off of what they're living.

Wisdom_Of_A_Man3 karma

When you are out on the street, does the Syrian government military intermingle with you? What are those interactions like?

MadayaMom2 karma

Government forces are not in the town. They are at the entrances of the town. If someone tries to go to them and requests to be allowed to leave town, they order him to go back into town. If the people refuse to go back in, they become agressive and have hurt people and those who attempt to sneak out of the town are either shot by snipers or they step on landmines.

luke_lavery3 karma

Do you think Western countries should intervene in Syria with military action? If not, how do you think other countries should help?

MadayaMom7 karma

We were hoping that the UN security council was going to agree on lifting the siege this week but I was devastated when I learned that they weren't able to agree.

I was just asking if there was any news about the end of the siege or meetings that will bring a solution.

Mzilikazi813 karma

Is there sympathy for Daesh in Madaya, since they are also fighting al-Assad's troops , or is there a fear of them along with the government soldiers?

MadayaMom1 karma

We believe there were about 10 people recruited into what is called ISIS. We believe they receive money from people connected to the regime. These guys are unemployed rejects in the town and if they were really against the regime, they wouldn't have stood by doing nothing while the regime besieges us.

BrieLikeCheese2 karma

Do you hope that your kids will be able to love and forgive when you make it out of this?

MadayaMom2 karma

I worry about them being so traumatized that they won't get over it.

I cannot shake this feeling of guilt, I feel it 24hrs a day... maybe I should have left as soon as the crisis started, spared them this anguish, the shelling, the starvation, the death of their relatives... I didn't know, I never expected the situation to become this dire, never could I have imagined it.

GSW19932 karma

I'm sorry to hear the pain in your story. What are your thoughts about the future?

MadayaMom0 karma

Our outlook on the future is very limited. We only think about one thing and that is when will the siege be lifted are we going to live to see that moment or are we going to die in these dire circumstances. We used to, in the past, plan and dream and seek a future for our children. We used to discuss a bright future for our children but now all we say is "if the siege is lifted, we are going to do this," or "if the siege is lifted, we are going to go there." We no longer plan for the future.

CaptainHansGeering2 karma

Are there many non-locals, i.e. refugees, in the town? Or is it mainly the local population?

MadayaMom3 karma

There are more than 10,000 refugees from other areas that have come to Madaya because before the siege, our area was safe.

ensheep1 karma

Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA. I have a few questions:
How did you obtain food before aid finally arrived? Do you find the aid rations you've recently received to be adequate? How do you feel about the international community's response to the conflict in Syria?

MadayaMom5 karma

There was very little food, which is why the last few days before the aid was allowed in, I completely stopped eating to give my share of the little food we had to my children. My husband did the same. He would plead with me to eat because the family needs me.

MadayaMom3 karma

I'm thankful for the food we received. I am having to ration it into very small daily portions to make it last because we don't know when we're going to be able to get more food. Right now, I have enough left for 10 days. We heard there might be another aid convoy but it's only a rumor right now.

Beggard1 karma

If you decide to leave the town to government held area, who is one who will stop you, government, rebels or both?

MadayaMom-3 karma

The Syrian Army supported by Hezbollah are the ones not allowing people to leave the town.

JimmyCartersMap0 karma

Do regime soilders really shoot at civilians trying to leave the town?

MadayaMom1 karma

Government forces are not in the town. They are at the entrances of the town. If someone tries to go to them and requests to be allowed to leave town, they order him to go back into town. If the people refuse to go back in, they become agressive and have hurt people and those who attempt to sneak out of the town are either shot by snipers or they step on landmines.