Party cups as gas masks: Idlib civilians prepare for battle

Thursday, 6 September 2018 World

IDLIB, Syria (Reuters) - Hudhayfa al-Shahad strapped a colourful paper cup filled with cotton and charcoal to a child’s face and tightened a plastic bag around his head: an improvised gas mask if chemicals once again fall on Syria’s Idlib. 

Civilians in Syria’s last major stronghold of active opposition to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule are preparing food and digging shelters ahead of an expected army offensive. They are also putting their faith in neighbouring Turkey’s diplomacy to spare them from military action, which could become a humanitarian disaster.

A girl is seen at a makeshift shelter in an underground cave in Idlib, Syria

“We are preparing what little we can: small primitive masks we can place on our children’s mouths in case we are hit with chemicals” 20-year-old Shahad told Reuters from his village south of Idlib city, where he shares a house with his pregnant wife, three children and around 15 other people. 

Idlib is often described as the “last refuge” for rebels and internally displaced civilians, and any offensive threatens new displacement and human misery. “As for escaping toward the (Turkish) border, I don’t believe we will move from our houses. The bombardment will get us. There is no place left after Idlib,” said Ahmed al-Shahad. “We will fight to the last man, we no longer have any option.”


Party cups as gas masks: Idlib civilians prepare for battle