Madaya’s Super Mom


A page from the Madaya Mom comic book, drawn by Dalibor Talajic
CREDIT: ABC NEWS

Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland tell about a new Marvel superhero, based on a real story. This superhero is telling the experience of people in Syria.

Watch Video


Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Imagine this situation. Your town is under seige – nothing can come in or out of the town. There is violence everywhere and much of the town is destroyed. There is no food anywhere. People are making soup out of grass and water. They are eating any animal they can find. There is terrible suffering. And people begin to die of starvation.

Voice 2  

This is the real place where Marvel's new comic book is set. The comic book is called “Madaya Mom”. It is about a woman living in Madaya, Syria. Marvel is known for their superhero comics. But unlike most superheroes, Madaya Mom is real. Today’s Spotlight is on Madaya’s super mom.

Voice 1  

Madaya is a town in the country of Syria. In recent years there has been a lot of conflict here. Experts estimate that about 450,000 people have died in Syria. The political situation there is extremely complex. It involves many countries and different political groups. But one thing is clear - Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world. It is also a very difficult place to get information about.

Voice 2  

Madaya is no different. In July 2015, the town was destroyed and people were starving. Forty thousand people were trapped there, with no escape. Newspaper and television reporters could not get in to see the conditions. Rym Momtaz is a producer for ABC News. In late 2015, she had an idea about how to get reports from the area. Momtaz knew some people in Syria. They connected her to a woman in Madaya.

Voice 1  

The woman in Madaya began communicating with Momtaz. She sent Momtaz small reports, or updates, using her smartphone. She sent them for one week in January 2016. Her updates were often the only news people heard from Madaya. To protect her identity, Momtaz called the woman “Madaya Mom”.

Voice 2  

Madaya Mom is a wife and mother of five children. She does not have any superhuman powers. But many people say she is a hero. Momtaz wanted to share Madaya Mom’s story with more people. She had the idea to make Madaya Mom’s story into a comic book.

Voice 1  

Marvel called one its top artists to draw the pictures for the comic book. Dalibor Talajic lives in Croatia. “Madaya Mom” was a difficult job. He was used to drawing superheroes like Spiderman. But Talajic was a good person for this job. He had lived through war in his own country. He understood the situation in Madaya even though he had never been there. Talajic told ABC news how Madaya Mom’s words affected him:

Voice 3  

“What affected me most is the way she describes this every-day horror. If you read her words carefully, there is hidden poetry. It is really heartbreaking.”

Voice 2  

Talajic’s pictures show the desperation and depression that Madaya Mom felt. He drew the comic story using only the colors brown and black. The comic tells the story of just a week in Madaya Mom’s life. But those days are very difficult. In the first picture, she describes a family meal. She writes:

Voice 4  

“Today our one meal was rice and bean soup. Our bodies are no longer used to eating. My children are hungry. But they are getting sick, severe stomach pains from the food. It is because their bodies are not able to digest and use the food because they were hungry for so long.”

Voice 1  

The comic also shows how the town starts to shut down. There is no medical care. The pharmacies all close down. Schools close too. And when the school does open again, it is bombed. The teacher and some children are hurt. This frightens the children, including Madaya Mom’s daughters. They cannot stop thinking about how they had to step through their friend’s blood.

Voice 2  

Madaya Mom supports her husband and children through this terrible time. The family has no electricity or firewood. She has to wash their clothes in water so cold that it makes her hands stop feeling. She is full of fear for her family but she remains strong. Momtaz describes her to the news organization NPR:

Voice 5  

“She is very spirited. She has refused to let the situation they are in affect her children too much. So she tries to keep their daily life as normal as possible. She is also full of courage. She understands that her ability to communicate with the outside world is an opportunity. It is what she can do to explain to the world what is happening to them. She hopes to bring about change.”

Voice 1  

Many people in Madaya and Syria are waiting for help from the rest of the world. After a failed United Nations meeting in New York, Madaya mom sent this update:

Voice 4  

“I truly feel depressed and that the world has left us because we are weak. It is as if whether we exist or not does not make a difference for the big powers.”

Voice 2  

But Madaya Mom was able to make some change. By sharing her story as a comic, people now see her situation. Anyone can get the Marvel comic “Madaya Mom” for free on the internet. It also comes with a guide for people who want to understand more. Rym Momtaz told the news organization PRI how Madaya Mom reacted to the idea:

Voice 5  

"When I told her that Marvel was interested in doing this, she could not believe that the people behind 'Spiderman' knew who she was - or that they were interested in her story. Marvel comics are all built around heroes and superheroes, and in a way she is. She is an extraordinary person."

Voice 1  

There is still conflict in Syria today. People are still dying in Madaya, though there is some aid. Madaya Mom cannot fight armies or feed the whole town. She struggles to even save herself and her family. But the creators of the “Madaya Mom” comic hope that people will think more about the conflict because of the comic. Dalibor Talajic explains his hope that people will recognize the amazing life of heroes like Madaya Mom:

Voice 3  

“Superheroes are not defined by their powers or their physical strength or their special abilities. Superhero is in the heart. Madaya Mom fits within this group because she finds the strength to be human.”

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Bruce Gulland. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Madaya’s Super Mom’.

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Who is your hero? What makes that person a hero?

Comments