Imagine living in a place where explosions are part of your everyday life. Imagine being a child in such an environment or a parent to this child. Imagine having to teach your kid to become numb to these disturbing sounds. Imagine that this scenario isn't hypothetical; acknowledge that this is the reality of a family (and families) in Syria.
Abdullah Al-Mohammad is that parent who believes normalizing war is the only way to relieve his daughter from the psychological trauma war has on children. The father of Salwa, a three-year-old Syrian child, has turned explosions into a game of laughter for his daughter.
The family was forced to flee its home in Saraqib - a city in the eastern countryside of Idlib - due to the Syrian civil war. The parents and the child are currently living at a friend's house in Sarmada, a town in Idlib province, where continuous explosions are commonplace.
In an effort to protect Salwa, Al-Mohammad taught his daughter to laugh every time a bomb or a missile strikes. He doesn't want the sounds of war to ring in her ears while growing up. He doesn't want these sounds to impede her from living her childhood years, even though war has obstructed that experience for her. He doesn't want these sounds haunting her in her adult years. It is utterly unfair that she has to be in such an environment in the first place.
"She is a child who does not understand war," Al-Mohammad told Sky News.
"I decided to teach Salwa this game to prevent her psychological state from collapsing. So as to not be affected by diseases relating to fear," he added.
In a video that's been making the rounds online, the father is seen laughing with his daughter as the sound of a seeming blast is heard in the distance.
The trauma that Syrian children have experienced since the war started in 2011 is unparalleled. The war in Syria is an example of how "the very basic principle of protection of children is being disregarded every single minute of every single day," Geert Cappelaere, Regional Director of UNICEF MENA, wrote in an op-ed for StepFeed in 2018. This lack of protection still strikes relevant today.
Al-Mohammad has taken matters into his own hands to protect his daughter from the petrifying sounds of blasts. It's heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
"This Syrian Dad has made a game of laughing at explosions to keep his daughter happy growing up in a war zone. No one should ever have to normalize war or airstrikes to their children," writes one Twitter user.
"How utterly devastating"
"What a sad world"
The number of people displaced by the government offensive in Idlib has been rising, the UN announced this week.
Since December, about 900,000 people have been forced to flee the regime offensive in the province, most of them women and children. The UN has said that numerous health facilities and schools were being targeted.
In a statement on Monday, Mark Lowcock, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that "the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century" could only be avoided with a ceasefire.
An agreement between Russia, Iran, and Turkey in September 2018 had slowed the regime's advance on Idlib, an understanding that came to an end in April 2019. Multiple ceasefires have since failed to take ground. The war has been robbing adults from their lives and children of their futures.