When Taha Mustafa al-Khatr, his wife Amina, his two daughters Zakia and Safa and son Sulieman went to bed in the tiny village of Maabatli, they placed their shoes outside the door. Most Middle Eastern families do the same.
It’s a tradition and a sign of cleanliness in the home. The cheap plastic slippers were still there, of course, when the Turkish shell hit their house at one in the morning – and when I arrived a few hours later, I found the same shoes, a few blown down the stairs but most still neatly lined up next to each other. Did one of the daughters choose the slippers with the plastic bows? Even the rescue workers – such as they are in the Kurdish province of Afrin – didn’t touch the shoes. They left one of the blood-soaked bedspreads where it was in the rain under the collapsed roof of the cheap breeze-block house. The bodies, of course, had gone.