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Raqqa : a tender lab for displaced Syrians




The country’s current crisis pushed Syrian citizens to be displaced from their hot cities and towns to the other calm and stable cities. Raqqa city, 425km northeast of Damascus, became a shelter for hundreds of thousands of Syrians who were displaced from the neighboring governorates of Homs, Idleb, Deir Ezzour and Aleppo.

In a short tour in the city, visitors can notice the long queues on private and public bakeries, main markets and governmental departments. The Governorate of Raqqa’s officials were very welcome to any displaced Syrians and ready to solve their problems and meet their demands. The governorate’s official departments opened their offices for displaced families to offer them the same services offered to Raqqa’ inhabitants, the officials said to the Syria Times.

Fawaz al-Assaf , a volunteer activist from at the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said in an interview with the Syria Times  that the registered families in Raqqa’s SARC’s branch reached to fifty thousand families on helping lists. 

According to Assaf , the Governorate of Raqqa witnesses three stages of displaced Syrian families.  The first stage started with the beginning of 2012, when the city welcomed 2800 families who mostly came from Homs, Dara’a, Hama, Damascus Countryside and Idlib. The families were supported and backed with food baskets from the SARC.

The second stage started in June, when the number of families increased to 10.000 registered families mostly displaced from Deir Ezour city , 160 km eastern of Raqqa, and its villages. The governmental departments and organizations started a big sheltering campaign and opened the state-run schools, Vanguards Camp, state-run housing complexes, popular organizations’ buildings and each empty governmental building to host the displaced families.

Most of Dier Ezour’s residents have relatives in Raqqa and they got hosting from their relatives’ houses. Hundreds of people had hosted one or two families from Deir Ezour to offer them free food, garments, and basic needs.

“I have relatives in Dier Ezour and welcomed three families in my simple house , offering them what they need. We cannot leave our relatives to be homeless without offering them any help. We are Syrians and should stand with each other in these hard days,” said Yusuf Da’ayes , a press officer in the Governorate.

“I was saving some money for my son's marriage, but I spent everything to host my relatives from Deir Ezour. Many families in Raqqa did the same.'' Added Yusuf Da’ayes

The displaced families from Deir Ezour could quickly merge in Raqqa’s society and begin new life. Many of them could open new shops and find jobs to support their families. Hundreds of them bought houses and shops to invest their savings and gold.

I met with Abou Mohammad, 50 years old, from Deir Ezour city, who said to Syria Times:

“I came to Raqqa running away from the terrorist armed groups who kill us and destroy our houses. I lost everything in Deir Ezour and want to begin new life in Raqqa. I bought a small house and think to open a new business. I should keep my life not sit at home and cry as women. Syrians are strong people and they will overpass this crisis."

The third stage of displacing began in the mid of July , when residents of Aleppo ran away from the armed terrorist groups and gangs which attack the city of Aleppo and frighten the peaceful citizens. The number of registered families reached to 20.000.

The governmental departments with help from SARC could host 4115 displaced families in 173 Sheltering Centers in the cities of Raqqa and Al-Thawra. The families got hot meals, canned food, kitchen tools and all of their needs. SARC opened tow health centers to offer free healthcare services, including free medicine for the displaced families in addition to the state-own hospitals and health centers.

According to Dr. Ahmid al-Izzo, who is a volunteer in SARC, the biggest number of families are living in Raqqa’s rent houses or at their relatives and friends’ houses.

“ I can say most of the displaced families are living with local citizens , just ten to fifteen percent is hiring houses. The SARC are presenting a 30-kg food basket each month to the registered families who also got kitchen and healthcare baskets. There are some charities which offer food and staff to the displaced families who left their houses without brining anything."

The SARC also helped to rehabilitate fifty schools, out of 150 schools, are hosting displaced families. The project aims to build cold, hot and drinking water tanks and networks. The project will cover all schools in the near future.”

Obeida al-Mohammad  and Inas Abdulkareem

Photos : Yasin Hosin




The Sacred Love for Homeland




Patriotism or loving homeland means to each of us many sublime things. Expression of patriotism for me means, with each letter of its name, something special and unique.

S: Syria is the country of Safety and Security for those who are proud in front of the whole world. We used to say that our country is security, but did not know the value of this word, but now during this temporary crisis in which we live. Syria is also the country of Sanctity that spread Christianity to the world. It is the crossroads of civilizations and the starting point for the spread of Islam throughout  the world in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Y: Syria is the country of everlasting Youth. The country of civilization that began with the start of history and still renewed.

It is the country of the great leaders who fought heroic battles in Levant region and the world.

The country of the Young leader who challenged the world and made the future and past of his country a pride for everyone who belongs to Syria.

R: Syria is the country of Rebirth and Resistance. Syria is the source of civilization, culture, heritage, science and religion to the whole world. Syria pioneers Resistance and takes pride in this throughout the ages.

I: Syria is the cradle of Love and Intimacy. These  traits characterize the citizens of this country. Any one who has visited Syria from end to end knows that the Syrian people possess this capacity. Love for the guest and welcome reception are the two essential attributes that distinguish the people of Syria from others.

A: Activity is what distinguishes the people of Syria. They built civilizations since the dawn of history and credited with the invention of the Alphabet, which enabled the world identify the history and science. From this land appeared the first music notes and Ornina sang to make the world taste the beauty of the melody and sweetness of spirit.


Amal Farhat




A letter to our soldiers

I am glad and very thankful that you are very courageous men, you are fighting to keep us safe, I am amazed by how much strength you have, It’s hard to know what to say, or how to thank someone who performs such a great service to our country. I’m so proud of you, of your courage and determination to fight the terrorists, to keep them away from our life. We could see the act of killing they did to innocent people, women, old people and children; the foreign-backed terrorists destroyed the being, buildings, and even the trees.

All the Syrians are very grateful that you are willingly risking your life for us, and for our families, and we appreciate the sacrifices you are making in the defense of our safety. I know being away from your families, your loved ones is painful, but I want to tell you that your families are so proud of you, and so are all the Syrians.

We watch you day by day, you fight boldly facing unknown perils, through the scorching day and bitter night, at night we lay down in our beds feeling safe, because you are awake, you are defending our country tirelessly, we watch you still flying our flag over the buildings and squares, we watch you running from street to street, with lungs full of dust, with strong feet, and high spirit, after those murderers

You are doing your duty with pride, exposing your life to dangers every day. I am thankful for your voluntarism, to be among many brave Syrian soldiers, willing to part from their families for up to two years until now, and putting yourself in harm’s way for us, and for Syria.

I pray for all of you, for your souls ,and for your safety; so many have been hurt or martyred in this fight against terrorists, against unknown persons, and I do fear for you all, but I think you are not afraid, because you know that our God had put bless in martyrs, they will go to heaven, where they will be able to reunite with loved ones who have already passed on, once my cousin who is a soldier said:” if I die don’t mourn over my grave, but remember  the morning call, the summons to rise, because heaven is not the end, it’s only the beginning , the martyr’s scent will stay forever, because martyrs  defend their country, they sacrifice themselves for others, they defy death for their home”.

At last I say:  we are so grateful to you soldiers, we will give our love and thanks to you forever, for having the courage to do all the sacrifices, to Syrians and Syria, please come back safe, God bless you, Amen. Let us sing together these poems by by Abdelrahim Mahmud


I will carry my soul in my hand

And throw it in the valleys of death

It is either a life that makes a friend happy

Or a death that makes an enemy angry

The noble man's soul has two goals

To die or to achieve its dreams

What is life if I don't live

Feared and what I have is forbidden to others

When I speak, all the world listens

And my voice echoes among people

I see my death, but I rush to it

This is the death of men

And whoever desires an honorable death

Then this is it

How am I patient with the spiteful

And patient with all this pain?

Is it because of fear?

While life has no value to me!

Or humiliation? While I am contemptuous!

I will throw my heart at my enemies' faces

And my heart is iron and fire!

I will protect my land with the edge of the sword

So my people will know that I am the man


Butheina Alnounou






I was preparing to go to work, suddenly I heard an explosion, I couldn’t stand or even walk, I didn’t know where my children were! I didn’t know where my husband was? After the initial blast flames reached very high, as the fire fueled itself on burning homes, leaving some in total ruins, and reducing parked cars to ashes. It was like a bomb, I couldn’t realize, I crawled to my children’s room( Sameer and Ali) , I found them crying, and my husband was trying to calm them, we rushed to the street, oh my God, I can’t describe what I saw, mothers were running after their children, fathers were running to help, the wounded people were screaming, one of our neighbor’s,  called (Lyla) was about to marry, she and her beloved were preparing for their wedding, but her beloved died, she couldn’t even believe he died, the realization hit all her hopes, her glory, and her faith.

We took our children to a safe place, and came back to help others, another explosion happened, and may be third; it looked like hell on earth. Our house had gone, we had nothing, everything had gone, we’re homeless now.

Sameera paused a little to cry, then continued:” That was awful, many people were wounded, others burnt, I heard the screams of the survivors,  these were not the voices of the dead, they had no time to scream, no time to even consider it, and no time to say goodbye.”

She added “I have really lost the control of my mind, I live in the fear of losing my children, and that I would end up in total darkness one day, with my hopes and dreams all shattered and my entire inner universe blinded and destroyed. But I still have hope, they can kill many, but they can’t kill our spirit, we are Syrians, we will defend our country with the last one of us, they are just terrorists, they proved that they are the enemies of Islam; they are undoubtedly the agents of Wahhabis and Zionists. We won’t give up, we won’t give up, life is not fair, but it is still wonderful.”

At last I say: This is the story of one of thousands, that some terrorists even do this in the name of God, indicates a high point of ignorance and backwardness, while other nations are fast- forwarding their movement to the moon, they want us fast reversing to Stone Age atavism.

We are conscious to all their dirty games, and conscious to their conspiracies, we know that our way is not soft grass, it’s a mountain path with lots of rocks, but it goes upward, forward the sun.

    Butheina Alnounou

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My little Angel taught me a Lesson




My elder son is a doctor, after graduation he married, then his wife gave birth to a wonderful child, they named him Basheer. They lived with us for six years, we were very happy to see our grandchild growing among us, he felt loved and secured among us, and learned good, morals and he had a solid foundation for his future, because children need strength to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, and a living  example to learn from .Then my son decided to travel to Germany, where he can continue his studying, so they moved on.

My grandson is now eight years old, two days ago, his father told me a story about his son, I want to share this story with you.

He said: When I reached home, I found my wife shouting at my son as to take his lunch, and he was crying, he didn’t want to eat. I asked him to eat, he refused, and then I told that he will not grow, and may become sick and many kind words of love, again he refused. Suddenly, he wiped his tears with the back of his hands and said ‘’Dad, if I eat will you give me whatever I ask for? ‘’ I said, yes, then he asked his mother to do so, and she did.

We gave him our promise, but we asked him that he shouldn’t insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. He said: no, dad I don’t want anything expensive, slowly and painfully, he finished eating the whole quantity of his food.

After the ordeal was through, he came to me with his eyes wide with expectation; all our attention was on him, ‘’Dad, I want to visit two of my friends for a while ,please can you take me ‘’ I said : ok, I took him to his first visit, but he asked me, not to enter, then a boy in his age, came out and rode the car in with him, we went to another house, where another friend was waiting for us ,they rode the car in, then they asked me to go to the barber ,I was astonished , but I did, they asked the barber to have their hair cut, I tried to interfere, but he reminded me, that my promise must be kept. I closed my mouth, because he would never learn to honor his promise. They went out with their head clean-shaven, but they were still very nice.

The next day, I dropped him off to his school. It was indeed a scene to watch my hairless boy with two hairless friends walking towards their classroom, they turned around and waved, I waved back with a smile, just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted,’’ Basheer please wait for me!’’ what struck me was the hairless head of that boy, ‘’may be, that is a new style, or may be the fashion ‘’ I thought.

‘’Sir, your son is great indeed’’ without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued, ‘’That boy who is walking along with your son is my son Hanse, he is suffering from Leukemia” ,she paused to muffle her sobs “ Hanse could not attend the school for the whole of the last month, he lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy, he refused to come back to school, fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates. Basheer visited him last week, and he promised him that he would take care of the teasing issue, but I never imagined he would persuade his friends, and all to sacrifice their hair for the sake of my son”. I stood transfixed, I wept,” my little angel taught me a lesson” then he continued “the first seven years of a child is the most important, they shape his morals”

At last I say: No one has yet fully realized the sympathy, kindness, and generosity hidden in the soul of a child, the effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.

      Butheina Alnounou                                                                              This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Women's Empowerment Projects on Top of Aga Khan Priorities in Syria




DAMASCUS,(ST)_ Woman Empowerment has been the preoccupation  of projects carried out by the Aga Khan  Network  for cultural services.

Within the context of its initiative on social and economic development, concentrated in Aleppo on institutional activities,  Agha khan Network  targeted mainly mothers, girls and children in the old city . The activities covered education sessions for housewives and girls about Summer diseases and awareness campaign and detection of breast cancer detection

In 2011, the Network organized an environmental course on economical household plantations for 300 women in Aleppo. Other courses were also held for women in Aleppo on hair cut for ladies and facial care, English language and literacy courses, in addition to getting women involved in planning and implementation of projects.

Other activities included  forming groups  of women working in  cheese and dairy , olive products , home vegetarian garden,   training  women from poor families on  skills related to sewing recyclable bags, as part of the Aga Khan Network set policy to empower women as  the main sponsor of the family.

T. Fateh




The Thorn Bird !




Armed terrorists with dirty hands, killed our neighbor, when he was about to enter his building, his car collided with the door of the building, we all heard the noise of the collision, I looked out from our balcony, I saw people trying to move him off his car, he was still alive, although he was bleeding, he smiled and cried “ Long live Syria” he was still saying it, until he died.

I heard his voice, as if he were singing, the music seemed to come from all of him, the sound poured out with such force and conviction that I wanted to sing too, he seemed to be singing about the rising sun, about a new day full of hope, about beautiful flowers and the gentle fields, about cool, flowing, sparkling waters to wash all the blood away, he was just singing to Syria with all of his being.

Here I remembered the legend of (the thorn bird): There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than other creatures on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it finds one. Then singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine .And, dying, it rises above its agony to out carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…Or so says the legend”.

I felt resurrection inside me, about new possibilities, about new ways of looking at life, about a new day full of hope, as long as we have such people, about the beauty of creation, and a great love to Syria, that washes away mistakes, hatred, and rancor. With all our being, with all our strength, let’s just sing to Syria.


  Butheina  Alnounou

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