British boy and mother escape Syria after three years
- 11 June 2014
- From the section Middle East
The mother of a British boy who had been trapped in Syria for three years has spoken exclusively to the BBC after he finally reached safety by crossing the border into Jordan.
For half his life, six year old Muadh Zein, has been trapped in war. When he was three-and-a-half his Syrian mother took him to see her family near Deraa, the opposition stronghold where the Syrian uprising began in 2011.
Less than a week ago, he and his mother crossed into Jordan and safety. But it's a stop his family hope will be temporary, as the Birmingham-born boy and his mother try to get back to the UK.
Muadh sits quietly now, on the cushions on the floor of his uncle's house in Jordan. They are still close enough to the border with Syria to hear the shelling. Muadh sits impassively as another boom is heard in the distance.
But he clings to his mother, Doha.
When she moves, he follows, tugging on her sleeve.
She explained the horrors her son has seen.
"Muadh's school was at the edge of the village, barrel bombs were dropped from aeroplanes, they exploded near his schoolyard," she said.
"He was inside but there was a girl outside, a friend, she was wounded… later, she died."
One of the few words Muadh speaks while I was there, is Lubna. It is the name of the dead girl.
Another uncle was killed in the bombing of their homes, hit by shrapnel, he died in front of the boy.
Along with the rest of the village, they abandoned their homes, sleeping in the open, or taking shelter in a nearby school.
Doha said: "We couldn't stand it anymore in the area where we lived, lots of clashes and operations.
"Our house is near to clashes. Now the area where our house is, is totally destroyed. There is no way we could stay there.
"We tried to move, but it was the same, shelling, Skud missiles. there is no way we could stay there."
Muadh's British passport is pristine, without a single stamp. He's free to go and join the rest of the family in Britain. But Doha, who is separated from Muadh's father Wael Zein, is Syrian and is still awaiting a visa.
Wael has campaigned for months to secure their return.
In London, he's awaiting his son's return and told the BBC: "I hope the home office will appreciate what he's been through, and give his mother a visa.
"He's been through a lot of trauma and he's seen things adults would get traumatised about, his uncle was killed right in front of him."
The family have more meetings arranged with the embassy in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The Foreign Office won't comment in detail on the case, but said, "We remain in touch with Mr Zein and will continue to provide consular assistance as necessary."
Muadh can't read or write in either English or Arabic. Schooling was impossible while he and his mother hid from the bombing. He needs to see a doctor, as he's developed trouble with his eyes.
Despite the trauma, he misses Syria, and misses his friends he left behind. But his mother explains that he's beginning to feel safe again.
She said: "He tired me out in the first days here, he cried all of the time, it was the change in atmosphere. But he is better now, and he plays with the other kids. He is clearly feeling more comfortable."