It never occurred to 8-year-old Ibrahim that his capacity to speak could so easily disappear. But after heavy bombing of his neighborhood, he inexplicably lost the ability to form words. The extreme fear he experienced during the bombing stole his voice, his mother says. Ibrahim left school after the incident and lost touch with his friends who had difficulty communicating with their friend.
"When my voice returns to what it was, I can go back to school," Ibrahim says, his voice barely audible and spoken as if by a small child. Shy before strangers, he hides behind his mother, forcing her to explain.
"Heavy armed combat took place and the street where we were living was bombed, killing more than 60 people," sighs Ibrahim's mother. "The scene was horrifying for adults not to mention the children. Ibrahim cried a lot that day. I couldn't manage his fear, and since then he has lost his ability to speak. He speaks only rarely and he is too shy to go to school."
Ibrahim interrupts her, his voice wavering, "I like school a lot... mom is teaching me letters...when I'm better I will go to school...my friends know a lot more than I do, and I know nothing."
Orphaned and displaced
"Ibrahim's father was killed more than a year ago during the fighting," Ibrahim's mother says. "The death of his father increased Ibrahim's misery and caused him to cry silently. His voice disappeared for longer spans, he lost his appetite, and still he does not eat regularly."
War, bombing, destruction of homes, and the death of his father forced Ibrahim's remaining family to flee their home, eventually taking refuge in a camp for displaced persons inside Syria.
"I don't like the camp... We have a house, our house is beautiful... The winter here is not nice and I feel a little cold," said Ibrahim about the camp before his voice failed him again.
Ongoing fears and the dream of return
For a moment, Ibrahim gets his voice back, but only briefly. It is not the voice of a child, but of a man who has grown old before his time. "There are aircrafts in the sky... and I fear the bombing... but let them bomb us... I don't want to stay in the camp."
Ibrahim, like many Syrian children who have fled their houses, dreams of returning home, to his toys, to his life as it was before the Syrian skies filled with aircraft and the cities and countryside with conflict. He dreams of returning to a childhood that was stolen before it was ever lived.
CARE partners are working with Ibrahim's family and hundreds more who have lost their homes and live under the same conditions, but are now more hopeful as they are receiving support from CARE and partner organizations, and are looking forward to a day when they can return home safely.
Ibrahim is one of millions of children displaced inside Syria whose childhood has been robbed by conflict. As the Syria conflict enters its fifth year, CARE urges all parties to the conflict and the international community not to forget the millions of Syrian civilians, like Ibrahim, and to redouble their efforts in bringing an end to the violence. The world must not watch this pass into yet another year.