By OTHERSOctober 20, 2016Print : World
By Harry Yorke
An hour’s drive from the Syrian capital of Damascus, the streets of Madaya are eerily quiet, save for the haunting cries of the few starving children left inside the town. They are stranded with their families, with no hope of escape.
Madaya is slowly withering away under daily bombardment by Syrian Government forces, who are inching ever closer to reclaiming it from the anti-Assad rebels currently in residence.
Deprived of food, with aid convoys struggling to break through for fear of regime rockets and airstrikes, Madaya is suffering unspeakable horrors at the hands of its captors.
But amidst the devastation, the small Syrian commune is also home to individuals carrying out acts of heroism on a daily basis.
One - a mother of five children - has just become Marvel Comics’ latest wonder woman. Anonymised for her own protection, she is now known only as Madaya Mom.
In one extract taken from the comic’s first edition, the woman describes the daily torment she and her family are forced to endure.
“Today our one meal was rice and bean soup. Our bodies are no longer used to eating. My children are hungry but are getting sick, severe stomach pains from the food because their bodies aren’t able to digest and absorb the food because they were hungry for so long.
“When we wake up, we drink mint or thyme tea from the garden, with a little bit of sugar. It keeps the children from being hungry for a while.
“Before the war, my husband was a farmer - our land was very fertile. We grew all sorts of fruit trees and vegetable, including succulent apples and pears.”
Over the last year, the mother has been communicating with Marvel and American broadcaster ABC via phone and text messages, helping reporters document life inside the war-ravaged town.
With the Assad regime operating a complete media blackout in the area, her words have proven vital in helping to piece together the atrocities being carried out.
Through their correspondence, she has described how her family have suffered intense hunger and bitter conditions during the Syrian winter, forcing them to burn their furniture just to survive.
The Assad regime has justified its siege of the town on the grounds that Madaya is harbouring terrorists and rebels fighting to overthrow the government.
However, Marvel’s latest heroine disputes the claim, as do many independent journalists and experts operating on the ground in Syria.
“They say they are besieging the town because their are fighters and terrorists here but that’s not the reality,” she wrote.
“At the beginning of the events, a few people took up arms and now they are either dead, fled or imprisoned. There are no gunmen left in the town so why are we still besieged?”
Dalibor Talajic, the artist responsible for the comic, has spoken out about how the tales of “everyday horror” have affected him on a personal level.
Through his work, he hopes readers across the world will pay more attention to the barbarity committed by the regime, and its main ally, Russia.
“I didn’t want to do a war comic,” he told reporters. “I wanted to make a comic with a civilian point of view, where you’re really powerless. You can’t do anything. You’re just waiting for it to pass or for you to die.”
Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso believes the project, which includes a digital comic book and documentary, tells a crucial story that we can no longer ignore.
“This meticulously researched collaboration between ABC and Marvel,” he said. “(It] goes where cameras can’t and provides visuals to the true story of Madaya Mom - a story that needs to be seen and told.”