Thursday, June 26, 2014

Forty Years in the Desert

When I volunteered with the Zeitouna program for displaced Syrian refugee kids in Reyhanli, one of the questions which knocked the wind out of me came from a tearful girl who had shared her writing with the class. It was a beautiful, emotional journal entry about her last day in Syria written straight from the heart. When she finished reading this the girl started to cry and asked me why nobody was interested in developing or recognising all the talents that they had. Seeing her cry broke my heart and really affected me and I was going to tell her that everything will be alright, and that things will work out. But I didn't. Something hardened in me and I ended up telling her that more than likely nobody is going to come, that life was going to get harder and that they were going to have to nurture their talents on their own because nobody is going to give them a chance.

Maybe I was wrong, maybe that was too harsh, but it was true. The class bell rang and I had to leave to my next workshop. A week later and I'm still thinking about that girl and all the students and children of Syria. They're not going to get a chance. Some have been luckier than others, but they have a very difficult and cruel world to face. Maybe it is too early for them to have seen all this, maybe it should never have happened this way, but it has, and they've been laid with a terrible burden. They are paying for the sins of their fathers, for decades of complacence and acquiescence to injustice and repression. Some of those children will probably go astray and do terrible things because of the hurt they've seen and suffered, but some of them will survive and do something. They will forget us all and move on. Maybe they will salvage something out of all of this, when Assad is gone and the country tries to heal. When that day comes it will be all up to them.

There is a Quranic story about the Israelites leaving Egypt. They disobeyed Moses and worshipped the Golden Calf when he went up the mountain. For that they were cursed to wander for forty years in the desert. This meant that none of the original exiles could ever see the promised land. Moses wandered with them too. Sometimes I feel that we too are cursed to never see our homes again, we followed Assad and joined in his corruption and lies for too long. Maybe this is the price we will have to pay.

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