“My Allah has mercy on your soul, Farid” is a sentence that attracts the attention of visitors of Khayateen Street in downtown Taiz. It was written with chalk on a wall by children mourning their six year old friend.
Farid Shawqi was killed by shrapnel from a mortar shell that hit the street 10 feet away from his house. His father used to sell bags of crisps next to Balkis Cinema but he lost his only source of income and his son because of the war. “At four in the afternoon, Farid was collecting firewood for his aunt from the site of some ruins,” says his father. “I yelled at him and told him to come down because the place is dangerous. We went back to the house and then he went out to play with the kids. I went out and sat in front of the house, sipping tea. I was watching Farid playing hide and seek with his friends over there. At around 5 o’clock, I went inside, and 15 minutes later I heard a huge explosion that shook the entire street.”
“I did not think anything happened to Farid or his five year-old brother Haitham who was playing with him,” says the father. “I tried to go out, but dirt and dust were covering the street and I could not see anything. I found out later that Farid, Haitham and a bunch of others got injured by shrapnel and were rushed into Rawda Hospital by neighbours. When Farid and Haitham received first aid, it turned out that Farid had shrapnel in his head and hand. He was transferred to Safwa Hospital for a CT scan of the head, and then to Thawra General Hospital for surgery.”
Doctors tried their best to save Farid’s life, but the shrapnel penetrated deep into his skull and it was very difficult to remove. While he was in the hospital, injured Farid was screaming “Do not bury me,” announcing his attachment to life, and his refusal to die. Four days later, however, Farid died on October 17.
Shrapnel also penetrated Haitham’s left thigh, which was later removed by surgeons in Rawda Hospital. He returned home without Farid.
Farid’s father did not participate in the funeral. “When we reached the cemetery, I remembered his words so I stood away and did not take part in the burial,” he says with tearful eyes. “I only took a final look at him from afar. Had I been able to keep his body, I would have in order to fulfill his will but …” He could not complete his sentence and started crying.
In his house, which consists of one bed room and a modest living room, there are just a few reminders of Farid, who dreamed of becoming a doctor. These include his sketchbooks, toothbrush, a small football, a T-shirt with FC Barcelona’s logo and a photo on the bookshelf, depicting him next to two photos of his two younger brothers Haitham and Ahmad.
“Farid was a fan of FC Barcelona, and this T-Shirt has their logo,” says the father. “He used to wear it every time his favourite team was playing. He was a big fan of Lionel Messi and the rest of the Catalonian team.”
War fueled by innocents
The war has killed more than 500 Yemeni children, according to Hani Amiri, who guards the cemetery where Farid was buried. Amiri supported Farid’s body with his hands during the burial.
The cemetery, says Amiri, receives three to seven bodies every day, mostly women and children, who fall victim to random shelling on Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city. Amiri registers the victims’ names, ages and the places they died.
Farid was not the only child who was killed by the war and he definitely will not be the last. The war continues and missiles keep pounding Taiz which has been besieged for six months. Horror, death and destruction overshadow the city but the international community extends its shameful silence.