First Published: 2018-03-21

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump
US-born Lynn dreams of her five children ‘playing under the sun’ in America, but instead is traumatised by half-decade of siege, air strikes.
Middle East Online

"The children are screaming. The parents are screaming."

DOUMA - In the United States, her children could have "played under the sun". But trapped in Syria's Eastern Ghouta, Michigan native Deana Lynn and her eight children are living out a nightmare underground.

At 44, US-born Lynn has spent nearly half of her life in Douma, a sprawling town at the heart of the now-infamous Ghouta suburbs, east of the Syrian capital.

Air raids and rocket and artillery fire have pounded Ghouta for more than a month as Syrian troops, their Russian ally and loyalist militia battle to capture the last rebel bastion on the doorstep of Damascus.

Douma, where Lynn lives with her Syrian husband, children, and grandchildren, has been hit hard.

"Now, we're living under bombardment daily, every day. My children are in a state of hysteria," she says in her living room, where thick green curtains block out sunlight and the boom of bombardment can be heard.

"The children are screaming. The parents are screaming. When the bomb comes close, it's just terrible," says Lynn, in a traditional overcoat and dark brown headscarf.

Lynn met her Syrian husband at the University of Michigan. They married and had five children in the United States before moving to his native Ghouta just before 2000 -- the year Bashar al-Assad rose to the presidency.

She remained in Douma as protests against Assad erupted in 2011, when rebels captured it in 2012, and after regime troops completely encircled it in 2013.

Lynn says her children, five of whom are American citizens, have been traumatised by a half-decade of siege and strikes that have hit hospitals and schools.

"I tell my children that in America you can play under the sun. You can climb trees. You can have fun. You can go to a playground and be safe," she says.

Not so in Ghouta, says Lynn, where "if you go outside, you just worry that maybe a bomb will fall."

- 'Our home now' -

Syrian troops have recaptured more than 80 percent of the one-time rebel bastion in a blistering air and ground assault that has killed more than 1,500 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

More than 300 of them have been children.

"We're being bombed day and night. By shells, by missiles, by anything you can think of. We spend the day and the night in our basements," Lynn says.

During rare moments of calm, she comes upstairs with her children to use the bathroom and cook whatever simple meals they can scrounge up -- sometimes just boiled cauliflower.

"I do think about America and I think about the children of the free world everywhere. I think to myself, why can't the children here be a part of that free world? Why do they have to be oppressed like this?" Lynn says.

She imagines taking her children to visit her native United States, where her brother still lives, but insists that Ghouta is their real home.

"I don't want to leave a place that we've made our home now for 18 years, a place my children know, a place that I've grown up in," Lynn says.

"It's not right for us to leave. It's not right for it to be bombed. This is where they grew up. Their family is here," she adds.

As Syrian troops eat away at rebel territory in Ghouta, they have opened several "corridors" -- routes through which residents can flee into government-held territory.

- 'Trump doesn't care' -

An estimated 70,000 have used these corridors in recent days, bringing whatever they can carry and arriving shaken and exhausted at collective shelters.

"When you see thousands of people coming out, that's because they're fleeing. Their homes have been bombed to the ground -- they have nothing left," Lynn says.

"They're not evacuating. You evacuate for a flood and then you come back. They're kicking them out of their homes. They're fleeing from the hunger, bombing and starvation."

Lynn is a prolific Twitter user, firing off strings of tweets on the humanitarian situation in Douma and elsewhere with the hashtag #SaveGhouta.

On her account, she has criticised the US administration for not acting more forcefully to stem the violence in her hometown and says she has even reached out to the American president.

"I've sent to Mr. Donald Trump several messages. Actually, I think he doesn't care, because I haven't heard him speak about the Eastern Ghouta at all," Lynn says.

"I wish he would listen and hear. I wish he could do something."

 

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Morocco, EU start talks on new fisheries deal

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

FIFA to return to Morocco to check hotels, stadiums

Turkey in shock after violent Istanbul derby

Iraq pays first war reparations to Kuwait since 2014

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

Western strikes on Syria bring no change whatsoever

Trump criticises OPEC for high oil prices

Syria says rebels south of capital surrender

Market has capacity to absorb higher oil prices: Saudi minister

Putin 'ready' for Trump summit

Saudi Arabia to host first public film screening

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever

Israeli fire neat Gaza border injures five Palestinian

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai