Lubna, injured by a sniper attack, with her brother in Jordan. Photo courtesy of Stuart Hughes and Handicap International.
In late December 2012, Lubna, a 24-year-old English literature student, was traveling early in the morning from Deraa in southern Syria to visit her parents in a nearby town. All of the other passengers on the public minibus were women.
Without warning, a sniper started firing at the bus from a distance. Terrified, Lubna watched as all of the women around her were killed. A bullet hit Lubna in the back, striking her spine.
“I remember everything,” says Lubna. “I thought I was going to die. I was in a lot of pain, and I felt like the life could go out of my heart.
“I was bleeding for three hours. People came to help, and they were shot at as well. I was crying ‘help me, help me,’ but they couldn’t help.
“I texted my sister, ‘I am dying, please forgive me.’ I didn’t think anyone was going to come and help me. I was shouting ‘I don’t want to die, I want to live.’”
Only Lubna and the bus driver survived the attack.
Lubna was eventually rescued and made it to the hospital, where she had surgery to remove the bullet, which had entered her back and was lodged in her chest.
“I still felt at risk even in the hospital,” says Lubna. “I was there for three days in intensive care.”
Before being shot, Lubna’s family had already spent one year living in fear, moving from place to place to escape the shelling and fighting. Just two weeks before the sniper attack, her family narrowly escaped a rocket attack on their neighborhood, which killed three of their neighbors, including a seven-year-old girl.
After several days in the hospital, Lubna was taken to Jordan on a stretcher through an unofficial crossing. “The journey to Jordan was very, very painful and difficult. I was suffering from the gunshot at the time … They carried me across the border. It took about three hours.”
“I came to Jordan to find better health care, because it was not possible in Syria. There were few doctors in Deraa, as many had been killed.”
Lubna is now living in a small apartment with her family, but they can’t afford the rent for much longer. Her father Ibrahim, an English teacher, explains: “Before the movement of Syrian civilians here, a house like this was rented for 60 to 70JD (US$84.73 to $98.86 as of 17 September 2013) a month. Now we have to pay 200JD ($282.45 as of 17 September 2013) [not including electricity and water], and that is too much for us. I can’t find a job, and I don’t know how we’ll face the days that are coming.”
HI’s team is supporting Lubna’s rehabilitation and has provided her with a pressure mattress and a walking frame. With regular physical therapy, she has recovered some movement and is now able to get in and out of bed. Recently, she has even started to stand by pulling herself up by the windowsill. She does daily exercises to strengthen her legs. Despite the pain, she is determined to walk again.
Less than one month after her injury, Lubna’s husband divorced her. “When I fled to Jordan he told me that unless I came back in two days he would leave me. But it was impossible for me to go back at that time.”
Despite all that she has experienced, Lubna pushes herself to focus on the positive: “I have hope in my life, in the future, in my family. My greatest hope is to walk again, to return to Syria and to complete my university studies. I am very happy with my family.”
“Her smile will help her and will help us,” says her father. “The hope is the only way to live happy. If there is no hope, there will be no life. We live by the hope.”
Tom Shelton, communication officer for HI U.K., wrote this case study based on his field reporting in northern Jordan in late March 2013. The full names of beneficiaries and HI staff were not used for security reasons.