Syria survivor speaks

2013-05-27 00:00

ONE moment they were marvelling at the destruction brought on by the Syrian war — the next they were airborne and plunging down a ravine.

Pietermaritzburg teacher and popular Witness letter writer Mohamed Saeed spoke yesterday for the first time about the crash that put him in a hospital and left his friend Mustafa Wilson — from Cape Town — dead in the conflict-ravaged country.

The two, along with compatriots Abdul-Khaliq Ali and Hafith Masood, were on a humanitarian aid mission to Syria when the accident happened.

On April 26, after inspecting a few refugee camps, handing out food and water and taking part in afternoon prayer, the aid workers were given some free time to themselves.

“We decided to go deeper into Syria to see the damage that had been caused by the brutal Syrian regime,” Saeed told The Witness from his hospital bed at the Midlands Medical Centre yesterday.

“While we were travelling on a narrow gravel road, we saw many homes that had been destroyed by … missiles.”

According to Saeed, after Ali had seen another house that had been destroyed, he shouted in amazement for the others to take a look.

“Everyone turned to look, including the driver,” said Saeed.

That was the moment that caused their Turkish driver to lose control and drive the car down a steep embankment.

“The next thing I knew, we were airborne and we went straight down the [embankment]. It was about a four-storey drop and the car rolled a couple of times before hitting the bottom.

“I’m not sure who helped us as I was drifting in and out of consciousness, but we were loaded onto the back of a truck and taken to a local clinic. We were then transferred to a Turkish hospital.”

Wilson died instantly in the crash, his neck broken from the impact.

“Initially I was in ICU because I had suffered the worst injuries [out of the survivors]. My knee was crushed and my leg was injured up to my hip. I also injured my arm from my elbow up to my shoulder.

“I also had two fractured ribs and because of that, blood was filling up in my lungs. I also suffered bruising to my head and my left eye was in a bad way,” Saeed said.

The two other South Africans who were with him returned home days after the accident, while the driver was uninjured.

Saeed said the driver paid him a visit every day during his hospital stay in Turkey. “He was distraught. He was very remorseful and felt very guilty about it so I had to console him. I told him he must not feel guilty because as Muslims, it is a test from God and he has to bear it patiently,” he said.

While in hospital, Saeed was relieved when his wife Jameela and son Maseehullah came to visit him.

“I immediately felt a great sense of relief. Because of the language, communicating was difficult. But, the treatment and the doctors were first class.”

He also described his wife as being a pillar of support and strength, along with his children, brothers and friends.

“I also received a lot of messages of support from home. It was overwhelming, especially after it was published in The Witness,” said Saeed.

Jameela said she was very happy and excited to have him back home after his Syrian ordeal.

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