Middle East

Syria conflict: Qadour family's lasting scars

Qadour family eating
Image caption The Qadour family are now housed in a small apartment in Amman, Jordan

It was seven o'clock in the morning, and the Qadour family were asleep when a shell hit their home in Homs. Their house caught fire.

"The children were burning, and screaming," says Abu Abdul Malik, who rushed into their bedroom.

"I ran after them and tried to take their clothes off to put the fire out. I didn't feel the fire on my hands. I didn't feel the pain. All I could think of was how to save them."

His frantic efforts to rescue his children left him with second-degree burns on both his arms and hands.

His eldest son, six-year-old Abdul Malik, escaped with minor injuries because he was able to run away from the flames.

His sisters didn't get away. Three-year-old Rahaf's face and hands were burnt. Four-year-old Qamar suffered third degree burns on her legs and hands, and over most of her face.

Image caption Abu Abdul Malik says the family was lucky to escape

Their hair was on fire.

"You can never erase that from your memory, " says their mother. "You try to forget - but you can't."

Now, she tries to stop Qamar looking in the mirror.

"Once she did look in the mirror and saw herself and she said to me, 'Mum, I'm Qamar, with the burned face. I used to be beautiful. What happened to me?" But I told her that she was still beautiful."

'My heart burns'

This is the story of one Syrian family who survived government shelling and reached safety - and treatment - in Jordan, when so many others have not.

"We thank God that we were saved," says Abu Abdul Malik. "There are still people under the rubble - whose bodies have not been collected. We pray for them."

For the Qadour family home is now a simple, cramped apartment in Amman, under the care of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Except for visits to MSF's special hospital for reconstructive surgery - where they are being treated - they rarely go out.

"They are not the same children that they were before. They used to play with other kids," says their mother.

"They were outgoing. They were not afraid. But now they don't like to go out. And we don't like to take them out because people stare at them."

Qamar was so psychologically disturbed that she did not walk for two months.

MSF has now operated on both of her hands, to remove scar tissue and give her more mobility.

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Media captionWatch Caroline Hawley's TV report on the plight of the Qadour family

But surgery on her face will have to wait until she is older when it is more likely to succeed.

"I try not to show them but my heart burns for the children," says their mother.

"I pray to God that they are healed and that no-one else suffers the same fate. I pray that the doctors will be able to make Qamar as beautiful as she was before - maybe even more beautiful."

Qamar al-Qadour is now in expert medical hands but plastic surgeons cannot perform miracles.

"Mothers always have high expectations," says MSF surgeon, Dr Nasr al-Omari, with a sigh and then a smile.

"But I think that, over the years, I can make her appearance close to normal."

The Qadour family have already had five operations between them, and many more lie ahead - the damage done to one family in Syria by a single shell.