Letter from Damascus: What it’s like to be Syrian
This letter is written by a 22 year old girl from Damascus, Syria.
,,While I’m writing this, I can hear explosions and machineguns through my window. I would never have expected that I could develop some kind of skill to distinguish different kinds of weapons just by hearing their sounds, but I did. The sounds are familiar, because I hear them every day since the war started.
I was shot at, chased after and escaped from death many times, like many Syrians. What it’s like to be Syrian during these times can be divided into four distinctive, but yet similar interchangeable statuses. You are either dead, arrested, surviving or simply just trying to get out of the country.
As for me, I survived the first a couple of times, were so close to the second one, living the third and working on the fourth. It’s not easy at any age to be close to death. No one is ever prepared enough for that. I never knew that the sound of thunder has the same sound as an explosion. I wish I could still look at things in the same way I did before, but I can’t.
To be arrested and tortured nearly to death to admit crimes you didn’t commit, would makes option one sound more appealing.
So imagine people around you being killed for nothing. As the number of murdered people gets larger, a part of your humanity dies with them because somehow you became careless. You feel worthless knowing that you’re one of them, dead or alive.
The second status is not any better than the first one. To be arrested and tortured nearly to death while admitting crimes you didn’t commit, would makes option one sound more appealing. There is a great chance that they kill you after interrogation, and no one would ever know if you’re dead or alive. People who know you would have to live with the fact that you’re gone for good.
I was never arrested, and I really wish to drop dead before that happens, but people do not have much of a choice here. The mukhabarat is everywhere.
The air you breathe doesn’t smell like jasmine and fresh baked bread anymore. It smells like of gunpowder and death.
As for the third status: it’s not really an option but mandatory because people are born to survive. To survive during war means that you have to act as if there’s no war going on, but yet stay alive. Almost everything changes during a war: people, streets, lifestyles… Even the air you breathe. People become worried and distracted all the time, and at the same time they stay alert enough to sense everything around them.
The psychological situation is hard to explain since everyone is ready for the worst case scenario. Streets become abandoned and Damascus looks like a ghost town. When you walk down the streets you can always remember how crowded and lively those places were. You can never believe this black and destroyed street is the same street which you made your best memories at. The air you breathe doesn’t smell like jasmine and fresh baked bread anymore. It smells like of gunpowder and death.
The fourth status is my plan, and basically every Syrians plan, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Most countries require a visa to Syrian people in order for them to enter the country.
To be a Syrian today means that you have been through the worst. My plan is to leave, but you can never be sure if that happens.
As a Syrian, getting a visa during normal circumstances is almost impossible, so can you imagine how hard it is to get one now? I was lucky enough to get my visa, but I have to leave everything behind, everything I grew up with. I’m going to say goodbye to my family and friends. Well, at least the people who are still here. Every one of them experienced the four different statuses. It scares the hell out of me.
To be a Syrian today means that you have been through the worst. As a Syrian, I have lived some of those statuses and know many people who were not fortunate enough to change their current one, like me. My plan is to leave soon, but you can never be sure if that actually happens.
It’s not bad or sad to be Syrian. What’s really bad and sad is that everybody is watching Syrians being killed, tortured and migrated from their own country, and that they can’t or won’t do anything about it.”