The war in Syria affected its people deeply. How did it shape the perspective of a generation becoming adults during this tough time? Jenan Aljundi (25) was 13 when the war started. In her personal essay she gives insides into the feelings of alienation of a young woman remaining in Syria, while witnessing friends and family migrating to other countries.The question about our dreams gets repeated at the beginning of every academic year, teachers try to break the ice through asking about our dreams, aspirations and what we want to do when we become mature. The answers were as expected. Some of us wanted to become doctors; as medicine has a prestigious social status in Syria, in addition to the fact that it is a good source of income for Syrian families. Others wanted to become engineers, workers in carpentry or ironwork, or employees in beauty salons. Travelling was out of sight. The educational system in Syria prepares students to work inside the Syrian territories rather than abroad. It does not concentrate on other languages, computer skills, or scientific training that prepares students to enter the job market. On the contrary, the educational system directs us towards staying in Syria and taking up specific roles in various state establishments; therefore, travelling was out of question, nor was it planned for, since the reality we lived in did not allow us to do so.
When the Syrian revolution started, workers and university students had significant presence in demonstrations. They used to form the vast majority. Many went out calling for freedom, dignity and a decent life that protects our souls from humiliation and decay.
Alienation at HomeI was a child at the time, but I used to see what happened to us every day. With the passage of time, we certainly knew that our situation started to deteriorate. We were met with violence, beating, arrests, economic embargo, and other problems which started taking control of what was left of our dreams. At this particular time, I started hearing about people who left to other countries that may embrace the remnants of our souls. Here we started the loss journey; saying goodbye to people whom we love became part of our traditions and customs. When we learn of a relative planning to migrate, we rush into their lap in fear, asking them not to forget us. We all gather holding small lightweight presents suitable for a dangerous migration journey. The purpose of these presents was to engrave a memory in the heart and mind of the traveller, and to say that we are still here. We are still suffering and there is still a place for dreams in our minds.
Today, twelve years after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, we - who did not manage to escape - became more expatriated than our friends who are absent. When our sun rises, I remember well that whom I used to share my morning with has travelled; hence I start crying. When I walk in the streets of my city; the place where I grew up and memorised the details of, I do not recognize people’s faces, I feel lonely, strange, and far away.
When facing any problem that may interrupt my way, I do not know whom I want to share it with. I reckon that living in severe war conditions, and analysing what is happening around you by yourself, is one of the hardest human feelings that an individual can face. This feeling constitutes the essence of expatriation and estrangement. You feel how isolated you are from your surroundings, and that you are the only one having such thoughts, then you feel the insanity that hits your mind for seconds, after which you remember that the feelings, we are experiencing are normal amid insane and stark circumstances.
The hardest thing we, the trapped in Syria, are experiencing is the question about our circumstances. We indulge in talking about our bad financial conditions, about universities trying daily to ditch us abroad, or about our health system stealing many lives through failing to control infectious diseases spreading in wars, like Cholera, TB, Brucellosis, and others. We die a thousand times each day before going knackered to our beds wishing that all comes to an end. Getting engrossed in daily life problems and our inability to meet basic human needs makes us forget talking about our fatigued souls and mental disturbances, which got saturated with loss, poverty, and humiliation. We daily accrue tons of harsh feelings distracting our minds and exhausting what is left of us.
We try daily to travel abroad, as it forms our sole salvation from this mass grave. My case is the same as that of other Syrian youth. I daily ask about travelling anywhere, in Facebook groups, calling friends abroad, or even in travel agencies, despite knowing that they are going to devour my bones by playing on the travel dream and selling illusions and false news. Yet, we cannot help it, since travelling is the only option for us to continue our lives like other people.
Migration as the only horizonI cannot talk about migration without shedding light on the positive sides of it. I feel happy to hear that a friend had escaped, and that they can now focus on what they actually love and dream of. History registers every day a Syrian male or female who managed to overcome all that has passed and embarked on the road of achieving the desired goals. There is no denying that the most important thing the youth migration has produced is the creation of a solidarity space; a space the countries which ditched us cannot accommodate, nor can borders draw. We found many ways to get around the economic situation which threatens our lives daily. Financial associations managed by a group of Syrians were established. They raise donations on a weekly basis, then they send it into the country. This way our friends pull us out of this vortex of hunger and fear. In addition to providing all types of mental and spiritual support which we need as we feel huge internal expatriation in our country Syria. Syrians abroad have seen what we dream of and believe that the temporary solution of travelling is the only choice. They created Facebook pages that answer our questions about travelling. They provided all possible assistance that may rescue an individual of us, like family reunion procedures that allow Syrians to fetch their families, in addition to the sponsorship procedures that allow to sponsor someone who just travelled out of Syria.
Yes, I do believe that solidarity resulting from migration is irreplaceable. In the future we can build on it the basics and values of our revolution. Solidarity is good evidence that we stand side by side, and that despite our differences, we belong to the same class and our solidarity is our real saviour.
Today, while we are distributed all over the world, I listen to Rasha Rizq’s song that says: “your voices fill the place... laughing, debating, and conversing”. I recall our past together, our memories that we drew at every corner of the city, and I say that I miss every moment we lived together. This makes me believe that migration is an option for personal survival. However, our only solution is striving for what we used to dream of, striving for freedom and dignity for the Syrian people.