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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ramadan in Chechnya (Russian Fed.)

Selima Salamova is an aid worker with Islamic Relief in Chechnya (Russian Federation). In a recent diary entry, she reflected on the huge impact that Ramadan food parcels – or “boxes from the sky” - can have on those who have so little.

The names Ramzan and Marha are very popular in Chechnya, the first for a boy, the second for a girl. Both mean ‘Ramadan.’ People say that if a child is born during the month of Ramadan then these are the best names to give them. Both my children were born during this holy month and half of the newborns in the hospital were given these names.

Ramzan Mutalipova was one of the volunteers helping out with our Ramadan food distribution in Grozny. He had volunteered to drive the mini-van to pick up the food boxes from the warehouse and take them to the distribution point. But he was also here to pick up a Ramadan food box for his fifteen-year-old sister, Marha.

Marha was just two-years-old when the family’s house in Vedeno village was destroyed in a rocket attack. Her mother was killed instantly and Marha was later found clinging to her lifeless body.

The young girl lost both her legs in this tragic incident. She was one of the young people who have been given a food parcel this year. Many of those who received Islamic Relief’s support are disabled. Like Marha, they have lost limbs during the war or as a result of landmines. The food parcel was a small gift but it was wonderful to see Marha’s face light up as she received it.

At the same distribution in Grozny, I saw a grey-haired lady with a black scarf standing away from the line of other parents waiting to collect a food parcel for their disabled child. The lady was twisting a bunch of papers in her hands but apparently she was not on our distribution list. As I passed her she asked, “Can I still get a box if I’m not on the list?” I asked if she has a disabled child and she showed me a document stating that her son was blind.

One of the most difficult challenges that aid workers must overcome in their work is not to become immune to the great and overwhelming sorrow that they encounter. One needs to be able to hear the pain and hardship of each person as if it is the only story he or she has heard – to place oneself on the other side of the line or distribution point, waiting for that parcel of food. Only then is it possible to begin to understand the lives of those who are less fortunate.

The lady who wants a food parcel for her son is Tamara. She tells me that he was injured in a bomb blast that killed his two elder brothers as they made their way to
school. Her remaining family, her husband and two sons, have only just moved from one of the temporary accommodation centers in Grozny to a new plot of land provided by the government. She has not managed to register at her new place yet
which is why she was not on our distribution list.

I looked at the small lady before me and wondered how she survived the tragedy of losing her sons and living in such difficult conditions. Fortunately we always bring extra food boxes to accommodate people like Tamara so I was able to put her name on the list and ensure she and her family have enough food for Ramadan.


  1. This update brought tears to my eyes... mashallah your work is beautiful! I can't begin to imagine what life is like for these pained brothers and sisters... I pray you collect many more volunteers inshallah!

  2. Assalamu alikum.
    Inshallah, when you give sincerely to ALLAH, subhanah, your gift will reach it destination. When you care for your brothers and sisters, ALLAH, subhanah, wil bless you. Compare what you give to the smiles you see in their faces...You nake them smile and ALLAh, subhanah, will make smile in the hearafter. May ALLAh, reward all of you.

  3. This will be our only source of food this Ramadan but it will mean that I will be able to fast with a strong heart now

  4. Both my children were born during this holy month and half of the newborns in the hospital were given these names.