Category Archives: Refugees Life

Very Small Thought on Syria Inspired by NPR Story

I listen to NPR everyday on my way to work and it never fails to impress, entertain, and educate me. Today, on my to the lab – I know I have to work on Sundays *insert sad face of some sort* – I was listening to a short story on NPR about the current Syrian crisis and alleged use of chemical weapons. The report also interviews a Syrian refugee currently residing in Beirut who was interrogated and imprisoned for >17 months by Assad’s secrete police on alleged charges of aiding the enemy. Aiding the enemy as in caring for the injured and providing food for the needy, as far as he said.

When Ms. Martin asked him why he left Syria, Mohammad – Syrian refugee in Beirut – did so not only because Damascus morphed into something completely alien to him, with increasing detentions, checkpoints and violence, but also whenever he, “thought of liberated area I saw people with guns, you know? I saw Islami[s]ts. I saw, I don’t know, maybe worse than Al-Assad by the way… I saw people with beards, wearing this Afghani [turban], in Damascus actually.”

He goes on to conclude what I think is the epitome of Syrian crisis at this point:

I’m not changing something bad for something worse.

I think that the reason behind US/Russia differential, hesitant treatment of the crisis could be attributed to, at least in part, the fear of Islamist extremism which has already proliferated in the region. And, this is what Mohammad is alluding to here.

Really cool story, and I encourage you to give it a listen.

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Iraqi Youth, Whereto?

Iraqi Boys

“Our history, our memory, our perceptions of the future, are all built and held within stories,” Dahir Jamail, Beyond the Green Zone. Since the extensive abrupt change that happened to many Iraqis generally and the young ones particularly, especially in 2003, many social and mental disciplines had been changing. Some of them started to expose to public, for instance, from expatriation, emigration, being far from one’s own country, to the mental and psychic disorder. Some of these issues started to vanish or disappear, commitment and patriotism for instance. Iraqis adapted the Idea of traveling and abandoning their houses, friends and country, simply because Iraqis wanted to get rid of all the confusion and disorientation that Iraq had been facing the past few years. Those poor years in numbers, are rich in incidents. Those incidents had their negative affect on people on different perspectives. The ones who really were injured because of these horrible incidents, were the young Iraqis! They had to face many responsibilities that they didn’t have to face before. Some of those young Iraqis went to find a job to further their life-class, while others found their way to European countries seeking re-settlement or fleeing from religion sectarian conflicts! Many causes and our youth is paying the price.

Traveling and Knocking on Emigration Doors

People at their early life with their early stages suffered a lot because of IraqAn Iraqi refugee hold his national flag ready to board on buses in Sit Zainab, a southern suburb in Damascus, in November 27’s wounds. Some of them carried out these sufferings inside their country, while others add additional weight to their chests – mourning and enduring on their beloved occupied country – by tolerating these sufferings outside their country. Recent  conditions separated between friends, lovers, relatives and even between east and west. There are many opinions, someone supports leaving country, while some other oppose it.

I had the chance to meet a student at the Technology University, Baghdad. Mohamed Saleh, 21 years old, rejects the idea of leaving the country for foreigners “Why do we run away from our own reality. That’s what meant for us to live, and thanks God I live in my country,” he said “I haven’t lost my dignity, dislike many others I know outside Iraq,” he adds. This young man has an interesting way of thinking. Saleh thinks that leaving the country is hard, and he has his reasonable reasons, “I have no intentions to be in the middle of this scary adventure, emigrating is a hard experience that I don’t want to try, and hopefully, I will not be forced to try it. It is exhausting, physically and mentally,” he explains.

On the other side of this equation, Ali Mahmoud, a 23-year-old refugee, Damascus, Syria, disagrees with Saleh “living in my country became desperate and unbearable.” Mahmoud faced many difficulties in his life. He was threatened by an unknown militia. “If I want to improve myself and develop my skills, I have to go to Europe. I’m aware of the difficulties I might face there, and I’m capable to deal with them. Simply because, I have nothing to do other than that,” he says, explaining his future plans.

The negative pattern of emigration will, surely, reduce and may be eliminate one’s skills and capabilities. Indeed, their passion for participating, creativity, originality, and planning for their big picture – future will be injured.

The Positives and Negatives of Emigrating, and Its Impact

Emigrating is like a funnel where positives and negatives are pouring through. Positive – negative, two intuitive concepts that we’re familiar with in every single experience in life. What if this experience was migrating? What if emigrating meant separating from your beloved belongings and people. Many opinions and points of view regarding these questions!

Through my involvement in working things out for refugees, I met an incredible personality. Mohamed Faleh, a 20-year-old student, living in Damascus, Syria, talked to me about his opinion “Emigration has a direct impact on one’s life psychologically. They used to live with their families and friends; doing activities that they can’t engage in them only in their home country.” Leaving country is harsh in Faleh’s perspective “When I was compelled to leave my country, I felt different kinds of negative feelings, depression and frustration for instance. It is very normal that people grief and sorrow, it’s like a big mountain lay upon my chest,” he explains. He thinks that migrating sufferance vary from one country to another. Living in an Arabic world is different from European side of world, for instance, “Although I live in an Arab-Islamic world, where people nearly have the same nationality and speak my language, still, I miss my school and neighborhood.” In addition, he said that “on the one hand, here in Syria, as a refugee, I had the chance to learn more about Syrian culture and accent, and their way of living, on the other hand, daily, you have to worry about work, food, education and money.”

Arej Emad, 21 years old college-student in Arbid University, Jordan. She finds that negatives of emigration are far more than positives, “I don’t think that there are positives in migration,” she said. She thinks that the moment a one leaves their country and becomes a refugee, they will worry about things they didn’t worry about before. “Most refugees have psychological issue that they have to live with, because of bad news about Iraq, the separation from their beloved ones, redundancy and managing to live for a next day in the host country,” she adds. Emad agreed with me about the sad fact of education fees. They are so high that some of families cannot afford them because of redundancy and prohibiting working in host countries.

Education, Standards and Curriculum Changes

Curriculum, teaching styles and methods, class standards and accent change are the biggest problems that Iraqi students are complaining about. While some of them cannot study due to those factors, other managed to cope with them to complete or continue their education.

The Iraqi Cultural Council (ICC) in Syria is offering an exceptional chance to do the Iraqi version of baccalaureate – in Iraqi curriculum. I was there; I saw a face with an optimistic look full with hope, prospect and confidence, Ahmed Ismail. This 20-year-old student, who likes to be called as a man instead of a student, lost faith in himself when he failed two times in his last year of high school. Ismail faced hard times back in Baghdad. He received many kinds of threats from unknown militias “I came to Syria running away from killings in streets.” He did his transcripts and carried them out to The Syrian Ministry of Education, to be part of the Syrian baccalaureate. Problems in specific fields of study were faced by Ismail; as a result, he failed in his first year of baccalaureate and the year after, “Physics and Math were the hardest rivals in my two baccalaureate years. Symbols and names were different than the ones I’m familiar with. I was confused, my head kept swirling, I have names and symbols from the eight years of my study in Iraq, and now I have names and symbols from my six months of study!” He explains. Ismail tried the Iraqi version of baccalaureate. At that time, in front of the ICC, Ismail was waiting for his marks. Therefore, I waited with him; the results came and Ismail passed that vexing term of his study.

 

On contrary, I met Maryam Al Rubaie, a 19-year-old high-scholer. Changing curriculums and teaching styles are the advantages of being a refugee in host country, as she noted, “all the manners are poured in one funnel.” Another advantage, students will have the chance to access different kinds of syllabus. As a matter of fact, it’s good to educate in different environment, Syria, than the one you were familiar with, Iraq “I can see no wrong in learning Syrian curriculum. Teachers, students speak my language. I can know more about Syria’s culture and traditions.” She mentioned that we, Iraqi students, are an ambition and well-known with our intelligence, intellectual capacity, smartness and talent.

Customs, Traditions, Folklores and Rituals

Tradition is a strict and complicated concept in our, unfortunately, closed-society. Those rituals manipulating human-communities, and this manipulation will end up in the creation of one’s personality. That’s why we notice stereotypes in Chinese, Western and Middle Eastern personalities. It will be an understatement to say that this is who we are, a bunch of traditions. Unquestionably, when two cultures are mixed, we will have a unique culture that breaks stereotypes’ cultures.

Through the internet, which brings people closely than they are, I interviewed a young woman, who lived nearly thirteen years in Netherlands. A 22-year-old Zahra Ali is studying medicine in one of Netherlands universities. She clarifies the differences in the cultures, Dutch and Arabs’, but that didn’t stop her from continuing her life though. “There is a huge gap between the Iraqi’s and the European countries in every aspect of life. It’s hard to live here, because I have two cultures and one identity – Arabic,” she said. The young Dutch have their way of living, which varies from the Arabic way of living. Dutch do things that Arab can’t do, as a result, Arabs got rejected because of their beliefs. They feel that Arabs are crazy; they don’t respect Arabs’ beliefs, “I know how to deal with such discriminate people, I’ve been here for thirteen years.” What comes in parents’ mind is that how they going to control their children behavior in such communities where everything is allowed under many justifications. Western communities have a completely different way of living; it’s not just about accent. Indeed, those non-Arab people have different way of dealing with things; this kind of actions is not acceptable in Eastern communities, “Now I’m living my life as an Arab, because that’s who I’m. A party will not change my identity, trust me!”

Totally the opposite – in other side of the world I met a person. An Iraqi-Syrian, Karar Abbas 24 years old, live in Humus, has another look to the Syrian culture “In my humble opinion, I think that there is no such thing called – Iraqi and Syrian culture – I remember that my father usually said “The Iraqi say ‘where you want to go? Syria,’ and the Syrian say ‘where you want to go? Iraq.’ That’s because the two countries are not too far from each other.” In addition to that, Iraqi people marry Syrians and Syrians marry Iraqis.

The Freedom That was Obtained Throughout Loneliness and Being Lost in the Exile

Diverse and democratic societies enable young people to think freely. A person usually reflects the values of an era or time that he/she lives in. However, there is an exception to that rule, when someone comes up with new ideas that don’t fit their period of time.

A twenty-year-old network engineer student in Damascus, Ahmed Samir, explained that the concept of freedom was misunderstood by some parts of society, “Freedom, democracy and transparency issues, those appealing words that have been introduced lately to the Iraqi scene were understood and applied in a wrong and uncivilized way.” Unfortunately, this misunderstood freedom was used by some young men to break the law. In my personal perspective, I believe that establishing the freedom of a person on someone else’s is a savage and disturbed way of using freedom. I also believe that we are not actually living in the freedom time while there are still some restrictions on freedom. On the other side of this picture, Omar Mohamed, 18 years old, illustrate his opinion in quite few words “When a man leaves his country, the dignity and freedom concepts will be vanish. I don’t believe that there is freedom in an exile because no freedom for people without home!

One day I went to a café where Iraqis used to hang out. As usual, I saw a bunch of Iraqis who used to play cards, backgammon or domino. When I started to talk to them, they took a deep breath, I sensed the rage and depression inside this breath, and they said, “We are young men living alone here in Syria because of the grave conditions in Iraq. We often come to this café, so that we kill our free time and the feelings of failure. We couldn’t find anything else other than playing cards to fill up this huge space inside us.”

Iraqi Youth’s Big Picture – Their Future

Future has a unique definition for Iraqis, it might be different for other nationalities. Regarding those mischievous actions of killings and discomforts, Iraqis’ future definition had been changed, as a result, the combination of migration and loneliness had a direct impact on their life in the exile. As noted before, there are positives and negatives. Refugees should think positively in order that positive things will come to them. I have faith and positive hoping in those young Iraqis. We hope much in the coming generation of young Iraqis, whose life is full with experiences. They will re-build our country, get it out from dark and put the cornerstone for a new community full with gratitude and determination to their life.

East or West, Home Is the Best.

When I was in Baghdad, I did not care much for this proverb and sometimes I even changed it into “East or west, out is the best.” I wanted to get out of Baghdad, because I was bored with the daily routine. I wanted to travel and change my life.


Now, I wish I could change those memories of being bored in Baghdad, because I cannot return. My family and I were forced to leave Baghdad against our will, which is the most painful thing I have ever been through in my life.


When the war started, I was scared of the bombing. At the same time, I was happy because I thought I could change my lifestyle. There were rumors that a new president, a new government and new laws would allow us to get cell phones and satellite reception. I took it as a guarantee that the war would break my boring life routine.  Several months later, Baghdad and its streets were destroyed. It was more like a ghost town where no stores open and no happy people talk and have a friendly chat. I hated myself for having been so selfish when I put my own interest ahead of everybody else’s interest.


The most unfortunate thing for Iraqis was when the violence started to grow. In 2006, the violence reached its highest levels in Iraq. For that reason, on a Monday in June my father chose travel to Syria. At that moment I kept saying nothing but “East or west, home is the best.” I did not want to travel for many reasons, but most of all, I didn’t want to abandon my school, home and my country. It was hard but the decision had been made, and we were going to be in Syria by Thursday morning.


In Syria, I was surprised by its people and their way of living and treating each other. There were many differences between the Iraqi and the Syrian way. I felt that Syrians were interested in other things than treating people nicely and greeting them even if they do not know each other. They were interested in things that did not interest me.  Neither the way of life nor dialect was the same I was used to. They couldn’t understand my dialect, so I changed it just to be socially accepted.


I believe that this experience is the most significant and challenging phase of my life. It created a new person, character and identity and also made me more responsible and independent. I set achievable goals, and this opened my eyes to new aspects of life that had been forgotten like country, home and family.


In Baghdad, my dream was about me. But now, the experience of being a refugee washed away most of the selfishness I had before. Now I have a noble goal: developing my country and benefiting my community. Being a refugee made me think clearly about my life and future career, which is to build up my country again.  My home and my country had been stolen from me. That sad fact encouraged me to be stronger and more aware about my personal and my country’s needs. My life and its obstacles made me realize that home is always the best.