Humans … left behind

 Damascus - Foreign media and humanitarian organisations continue to trigger the myth of Syrian refugees under the pretext that many Syrians will not be safe in Syria as long as the present situation continues, because "they will be arrested, disappeared, detained, tortured and executed," and their return will be like "signing their death warrants.”

In May 2014, thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon poured into the Syrian embassy in Lebanon to cast ballots in the presidential election in Syria. At the time, many foreign reporters were at the scene, seeing many of the crowds appear to be Assad supporters holding banners depicting the image of the Syrian president. Some in the crowd shouted, "with our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Assad," Liz Sly - A British journalist and a correspondent for The Washington Post reported

 In the case of Syria, foreign media, politicians and those profiting from the war keep holding a contradictory position on the Syrian crisis. They claim that they are supporting reconciliation, intra-Syrian talks, peace, return of refugees and the need for serious steps to find a solution, but "the actions speak louder than words,” as they never stop doubting the intention of the Syrian government call for “more homecomings and reconciliation."

The war in Syria continues to affect most aspects of people's lives, and one can easily observe the impact of nearly nine years of war and Western sanctions on the lives of ordinary people. The streets, shops, people, etc., have many stories waiting to be told and heard.

Around a small table in a beauty salon at one of the fancy Damascus neighbourhoods, women from different social strata turned their cups of coffee upside-down waiting for a fortune-telling chat (a tasseography, a divination method interprets patterns in the residue of Turkish Coffee to allegedly read the future) which is a fun way to pass the time.

45-year-old Nihad, a poor mother of 4 children and barely literate, took a cup from  a young rich woman who was painting her nails. Nihad who makes the coffee checked up the dregs of coffee carefully saying, "I can see a tree and a big fish," which brought a smile to the face of the customer because it means grace and fortune, needed by Nihad more than her. Later, Nihad could not prevent herself from complaining about the coming winter and the heavy burden of school responsibilities.

Poverty accounts for a large part of the gaps in children's academic achievement, and Nihad is one of the thousands of low-income Syrian women who raise their children alone in a war-torn country which makes her fear for their future.

The fortune-telling chat stopped to be replaced by a less exciting conversation about life in wartime. They compared the prices of goods, wages and safety before and after the war and were unable to prevent themselves from laughing at what they considered a difficult time before 2011.

Till present, people in Syria are not able to prevent themselves from making this comparison, before and after 2011.

Beauty specialist, Dalal, 35, married at the age of 13 to an older man, who later divorced her at the age of 15 because she was not obedient enough.

She said, “I got married again because I had no education, no money and no job. I was so lucky because my new husband from Deir-Ez-Zor - the largest city in eastern Syria and the seventh-largest in the country - was like a dream come true.

Unfortunately, the war did not spare me. ISIS invaded our area and killed him. I returned to Damascus to live again in my brother’s house where I sometimes felt that I was treated like a servant. My late husband taught me how to fight and gave me the courage to rely on myself."

Dalal is a mature woman now and can understand what happened in her childhood. She believes that she is strong but her wounds are deep.

41-year old Rasha has a different story. She was somehow happy because her husband was one of the refugees who left the country. He was a convicted man and the crisis helped him escape punishment leaving her to raise two children alone. Her life is not easy but better than experiencing domestic violence.

Kenana, a 35-year-old hairdresser, said gloomily that her husband left the country with their only child to find a better life in the Netherlands. He promised to reunite the family, but he did not keep his promise. She was left behind, and her husband decided to start a new life with their son. She misses him a lot, but her worst fear is that her son might think she abandoned him.

Nothing is the same after war and living in the time of war is to live in a world of hidden resentment where “sadness leaks from the walls of the wounded country.”

These women who create beauty despite their harsh conditions are real and not just characters drawn from some fairy tales and they are still smiling despite agony.

Most of the time, media sheds light on immigration, refugee crisis, ISIS, fighting, conscription, winter, etc., without mentioning the impact of sanctions and the suffering of the people who decided to stay and live in the country. It is a fact that many Syrians decided to leave their homeland seeking  a better life, but media and western politicians claimed that all of them are against the Syrian government turning a blind eye to their countries’ involvement in the ugly conflict.

The UK, for instance, held Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 as the British authorities announced that there was a reason to believe the ship - Grace 1 - was carrying crude oil to the Baniyas Refinery in Syria.

The BBC said that “The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Iran must abide by the assurances it had given that the tanker would not proceed to Syria, which is under EU sanctions,” at the time the UK is preparing to leave the EU.

They say that everything is allowed in love and war. Indeed, I don't know if everything is allowed in the war and the critical question is: what about the men, the women, the children, the elderly people, the sick and the wounded, and the displaced ones who are still surviving hard times.


Emy Abbas