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Tis the season to be jolly.... Fa la la la......

I really didn't think she would write about it-but write about it she did. Reneva Fourie is a South African political analyst stationed in Damascus. Her courageous articles about the situation in Syria and the region or about the struggle of women living through war have been met with great popularity.

She writes objectively, almost documenting what she sees as a first hand witness living in Syria. This time she writes about everyday life of Syrians , of how little can be turned into much and of how a Christmas dinner can be turned into Christmas high tea .

Letter to the Editor: Fun in the midst of sanctions

Reneva Fourie

A South African based in Damascus, Syria

“Write an article about dinner and sanctions”, she teases as we plan our gathering around the electricity load-shedding schedule.  “I can’t”, I think to myself. The effects of sanctions anger me too much. And while writing is usually an outlet; the pain that sanctions causes to those around me, has humbled me into silence.

But how can I feel blue? It is festive season! I am surrounded by joy. Christmas trees are adorned with sparkling ornaments. Sounds of carols fill the air. Dinners with family and friends are being prioritised. Social life in Syria is abuzz.

There is much to celebrate. Surviving a vicious, imperialist-driven war; as well as the dreaded Covid—19; compels gratitude and the honouring of life and love.  Such honouring, if you’re Syrian, means exiting the year 2021 in style. But what to do if such style is being cramped by sanctions?

Navigating sanctions is a nightmare. Basic banking transactions are impossible. Banks even penalise foreign diplomats, just because they are posted to Syria. Accessing online learning products are prohibited. Sanctions even deny us the use of face-to-face communication tools that enable linking up with family abroad, such as Ms Teams and Zoom.

How cruel can the West be? “I can understand that the West hates us, but how can some of the expatriates that are supporting sanctions inflict this pain upon us?” a completely apolitical citizen, remarked in despair.

Efforts to use war and sanctions to kill the resilience of Syrians have failed. Sanctions might have left people cash-strapped but absolute hunger has been averted.

The Syrian government is doing everything possible to maintain food security. Besides, Syrians are innovative. They can make a large variety of mouth watering meals from basic ingredients like tomatoes, parsley and chickpeas. And this creativity enables the festive mood to flourish in spite of any limitations that sanctions may have on the cuisine.

The electricity shortage too, despite its severe adverse impact, is being creatively addressed. Blankets, socks, and hot water-bottles are being used to counter the freezing weather. Just be sure to fill your bottle, when it’s your turn to have electricity! Social gatherings now occur early in the evening, before the temperature drops to anti-social levels,  instead of the usual close to midnight.

The saying is, “where there is a will, there is a way”.  There is no truer manifestation of that mindset than here in Syria. The people of Syria refuse to allow adversity, including sanctions, to stop them from having fun. As we reflect on our many losses over the past year, the positive attitude of those who have lost even more, continues to inspire.

Editor In Chief

Reem Haddad

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