The slight 30 year-old can’t be taller than five feet, with delicate bones and pale skin. But despite her apparent fragility, Yasmine is about to prove her strength. She enters the small office where we are meeting for the first time with a timid smile. We’re in a city in northern Jordan, close to the border, interviewing Syrians who’ve sought refuge from the catastrophic violence that’s engulfed their country.
Yasmine covers her face for our interview. Her in-laws are still in Syria, and speaking to media puts them at risk for retribution, especially with what she is about to tell us. Yasmine is from eastern Ghouta, which some will recognize as the location of the horrifying chemical weapons attack that put Bashar Al-Assad’s regime under intense pressure from the international community and the U.S. Up to 1,700 of victims died in Ghouta on August 21st, 2013, including hundreds of children and babies. Her own husband was killed by the gas while trying to take a neighbor’s son to the hospital. Yasmine tries to describe the chaos and death, calling that night “Judgment Day”. She and her two children escaped the non-stop shelling and managed to find their way to Jordan.
Six months later, she’s still ravaged by grief, but hasn’t allowed herself to be weighed down with anger at the unfairness of her husband’s death. Instead, every day she goes to work, recording the deaths of refugees family members. The organization she is part of has amassed a catalog of thousands of deaths, complete with photos of injuries and detailed descriptions of the event. They aim to collect this evidence so Bashar can be put on trial and will have no way to deny his crimes. To the hundreds of refugees in Jordan that she’s helped, Yasmine is a blessing. There is relief in knowing that the deaths of their loved ones are being recorded and acknowledged, and will not be forgotten if their killer is tried. Despite her own losses, she is helping an entire community cope with theirs.
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