What Is It Like To Be A Syrian -- The Trails And Tribulations:
Before we actually get into the article, there are some profound facts about the country Syria which you all need to know. Syria is a country in the middle east of Asia, with a population over 18 million, surrounded in the midst of countries like Iraq, Israel, Turkey, and Jordan. Syria is the only country in the world where the Civil War (Syrian Civil War) is still in practice and ongoing since 2011.
Even though countries like America (1861-1865), Russia (1917-1922), Mexico (1936-1939), and Sri Lanka (1983-2009) have dealt with the same kind of situation in the past, none of the countries is dealing with a Civil war right now. A war resulting in not only a huge economic loss, Syria also had to deal with problems like the killing of innocent citizens, losing relations with the countries it earlier had. Sometimes there is no separate place like a War Zone, where people come together and fight for freedom.
You might have heard the saying that, ‘Terrorism has no religion’, Syria is a living proof of this. The country is populated with 80% of Muslims (who constitute a larger amount of the victims as well). Imagine living in a country like this, with no fear for life. It’s horrific. And so today, we have a friend here from Syria, Rabab Alhajali, a computer science graduate. Rabab Alhajali is a normal student like every one of us. The only thing which makes her special is that she is a citizen of Syria, hailing from Damascus, the capital city of the country. With all the incredible inputs, answers, and facts from her, this article has been brought to life. So before we begin, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the efforts and time of this brave soul for bringing out the ground reality to us.
Chapter One: A Day In The Life of A Syrian -- Of War Torn Days And Uncertain Nights
I specifically want to begin this article with this chapter because this will give a clear insight as to how helplessness has come to define life in Syria. During the talk, I asked Rabab Alhajali to tell us about any particular day which she specifically remembers, to which she answers and I quote,
“I was new to the city (Damascus), I would jump with a ton of fear in my heart, every time I heard a mortar (firing shell bombs) fall in for the first few days, but only then I got to know for a fact and learned to adapt to this situation because everybody around me were so used to it, all these explosion sounds were like nothing new them. One day I was at the college, it was around 11:30 AM and I had just finished attending my lecture and was walking along the lane with my friends when the first mortar fell, that’s it, my heart skipped a beat for a second, the sound was louder and clearer than anything I’ve ever heard before.
I figured it wasn’t very far away from us and then I see everybody running for their lives towards us, and that’s when I knew I had to run too, right two minutes the second one (mortar) fell too and we were still running towards the nearest building to take cover, and within seconds the third one fell. We got some help and were instructed to go to the basement and wait, by the university management. After waiting for about 15 minutes we felt safe to go up to see what was going on.
We saw ambulances rushing in campus, and later knew that another mortar fell, but luckily it did not explode, but it was already too late for any help, we already lost 5 lives that day, 5 students. We managed to exit the campus after about an hour, but at the end of the day, we all were left with memories that will haunt us for a life time. And sadly this isn’t the only that we had lost lives due to mortar attacks on our university.”
Chapter Two: The Misconception And Myths About Syria
Why is Syria so special? How does every person seem to know a lot about Syria? Why is there more attention to Syria than any other country in the world, particularly when it comes to terrorism? The answer to all these questions is just one simple misconception, which blindfolds everybody’s common sense that, ‘Every single citizen in Syria is a terrorist’.
There are millions of innocent people in Syria (just like any other country), who have been living in the country for years (ever since they were born). But yet they are not being treated like one. Who is to be blamed? The media. Not just any country’s particular media, the whole world media is responsible for the negative perception of the country. They all tend to forget the most basic point, that there is no such thing called ‘Islamic Terrorism’, (which includes Islamic people killing other religious people).
In fact, what’s real is ‘Islamic Terrorism’ is just a name some crazy ass fanatics use to kill any person (irrespective of religion). In fact, did you know that, although the people here follow Islam, they never celebrate Ramzan or any other Islamic festival? So, clearly, get over the myth that terrorism is Islam. And there is no better way to put this point out, other than this.
Chapter-2: The Beginnings Of A Never Ending Civil War
We all know what a ‘civil war’ is. And how dangerous it is to any country. But, do we know the reason why it took place in Syria, in the first place? How did it all begin? Where did it all start?
To begin with, the man who is responsible for all the chaos to start with is also the man who single handily changed the consequences -- Mr Bashar Al Assad. Al Assad, who is the current president of Syria, is holding the office since the year 2000. Now, there is an interesting back story to this man. Bashar Al Assad belongs to Alawite community, a minority Muslim sector in the country, which is majorly dominated by the Sunnis.
Where did he go wrong? In 2011, a man in Tunisia (North Africa) set himself on fire in protest against the insane government policies. This not only triggered a series of protests across the North Africa but also, the Arab countries. Eventually, Syria was also one of the many countries protesting peacefully against this regime.
And, what did President Assad do? He saw this protest as a challenge to the status quo, and as a movement which could weaken his hold on power. Hence he ordered the security forces to fire at the supporters. And getting fired upon, what did the supporters do? They lost their shit and formed something called a Free Syrian Army (this is not ISIS), a direct military force, and a militant opponent of Assad. This ‘Free Syrian Army’ was composed of people from various walks of life, so it is very clear to say that, they are not a homogeneous unit.
However, everything was in control, and nothing worse had yet happened. Until, a group of rebels came into the picture, from Iraq calling themselves the ‘Islamic State’ and took the worst possible advantage of the lawlessness in the country. And spread as much hatred as possible and contaminated the situation by capturing the country’s northeast part, and declared Raqqa as the capital of this self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’. And this is how Terrorism came into the picture in Syria.
A lot of lives have been taken and sacrificed since then, which sadly includes a startling statistics of children between the ages of 2 to 7 years.
Chapter Three: The Immigration Troubles And Finding Something Like Home
So if the situation is this uncontrollable in Syria, why don’t people just leave the country and migrate to some other country and start a new life? It is so much better, right? Yes, of course, it is better. But definitely not so easy. I mean, imagine living in a country for 25 years, owning a house, knowing a language, having a proper life, and all of a sudden moving to a whole different country for a better survival, not so easy, right? No matter how bad the situation is, they are born Syrians, by birth, they can move to some other nation, but that doesn’t change the fact that, they are Syrians. Syrians have a belief that, someday everything will be fine, as it earlier was, they can proudly and happily live there forever.
Not everybody thinks the same way, some just leave the country and start a new life, as if nothing wrong has happened. Not everybody is brave enough to face this situation. Now if you look at the stats, just in the last 5 years, more than 2 million people have migrated from Syria to different countries (2 million out of 23 million).
This is why we always see Mr Donald Trump’s face on the news yelling ‘America is not the land of Immigrants’, (how can this man completely ignore the fact that, his wife, Melania Trump is also an immigrant, but this is a topic for the other day). And as if all this irony wasn’t enough from him, he also continuous his sentence by saying, ’America, a land of opportunities’.
Thankfully, with the kindest presence of Mr Justin Trudeu, Canadian Prime Minister, the Syrian immigrants are now welcome in Canada, to take an opportunity and start a new life.
And, as a curious Indian, I wanted to know that, why didn’t they even consider about moving to India, to which Rabab Alhajali answered, ‘It was never an option, I mean, it never even popped in our minds, when people here think about immigration, they only think of the USA, and Canada.’ (Would India have welcomed these Immigrants? Food for thought)
Chapter Four: Things Getting Better And Hope Persists
With all the brave support from Syrian civilians, things are getting better day by day. The Syrian army is now everywhere around the streets. Not just in the case with safety, there are actually many things, Syria is doing better. Be it in the field of Education -- it is provided all across the country for FREE. As a matter of fact, any form of education, ranging from primary schooling to Post graduation is free in the country.
Not just education, the hospital and medical services all across the nation are also free of cost. But, we never get to know about these things. Simple, the media, never wanted us to know these things, they only wanted to glorify the bad happenings. Nobody actually got to know about this life-changing opportunity that the country is offering to its citizens.
Adding to all these positive streaks, Syria celebrated DIF 2017 (Damascus International Fair), an important economic and cultural fair (which ideally takes place every year). Last celebrated in 2011 (the year civil war happened), was again being celebrated after 6 years. The DIF runs for 10 days, with sectors ranging from textile to agriculture. Nearly 23 countries took part in the fair, including Britain, France, and Germany.
After all these years of uncertainty, the fact that the government has been able to do this is incredible. People are celebrating their happiness with their full hearts. But amongst all this happiness, on 20th of August, the terrorists yet again targeted it with mortars and 5 people died and some got injured. But that didn’t deter the Syrians. Syria came out to show its strength and courage by continuing with the DIF Fair, despite the attacks. After all, they are fearless souls.
Chapter Five: How Can You Help?
It’s not like US and Canada are the only two countries in the world, who can help Syrians by welcoming them into their country. You can help Syrians from any part of the world just by sitting at your home. Your individual thoughts can make a lot of difference over there. Anything you do with a positive intention is considered as a help to them, be it donating funds, donating food, providing basic necessities. There are also various major global organizations working on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. You can donate maximum possible funds to these organizations
5. CARE USA
8. Mercy Corps
If not all of this, the least you could do is to spread the word. Yes, half the problems Syria is facing today are because of the misconceptions the world has about them. So as a fellow human, after reading this article, go spread the word about Syria. Everybody in this world should know about the truth of life in Syria. And just like every other life, their life is also precious. Thank You.