What Syrians Want you to Know

Some of our contributors partecipated in the following project appeared on CNN International on the 5th anniversary of the Syrian uprising (15 March 2016). They replied to a number of questions on how their life has changed over the past five years and what they would like to do once the war is over. 

55 stories of lost homes, lost lives - and hope.

Alma, 30, lives in as-Swayda’ and Damascus. She was a student when the war started, but now she’s a Spanish teacher and a reporter who volunteers with children.

“My entire life changed during the war,” she says. “I learned to stay strong and see things differently. I discovered how strong-willed and stubborn I am, and realized that I am capable of finding alternatives to continue my work in spite of the harsh circumstances.”

“I feel at my best whenever I finish what I have to do regardless of everything, like when a psychological support activity is successful and I leave a good impact on the child, or when I write an article about life in as-Swayda’ and it gets published despite the risks.”

“As a child, I used to see all the beautiful regions of Syria on television, and I dreamed of visiting them when I was old enough. However, it is too late now, for the war has destroyed everything that is beautiful in this country.”

“After the war, I plan to visit Daraa and see the parents of a friend of mine. I want to apologize to his father for not being able to help him during the war. This apology goes to all of the residents of Daraa as well.”

“Five years from now, I hope to achieve one of two dreams of mine: I want to start a radio station in as-Swayda’ to echo the voices of its people, or establish a school for the displaced people arriving in the city and for orphans, including basic school materials and psychological support.”

Basel, 23, lives in his hometown in Latakia governorate. He used to be a student and volunteer, but now he works in media.

“Over the past few years, I learned to rely on myself more than ever, and I tried not to grow attached to anyone around me, for I could lose them in any moment, either because of their traveling or the security situation,” he says.
“The war in Syria has had an impact on each and every one in the country. The governorate that I live in is relatively stable, but that is not enough for me to feel safe. I always feel like I need to work harder because I will leave Syria one day.”
As the cost of living rises in Syria, Basel has taken on other jobs, including photography. “I often grow tired of the workload and want to quit, but then I think of my family and quitting is no longer an option,” he says.
“Unlike most people, I do not plan to visit anyone when the war ends – or at least I have not thought about it. I would rather have my friends who left Syria return home so we can see each other here.”
“As a child, I used to see all the beautiful regions of Syria on television, and I dreamed of visiting them when I was old enough. However, it is too late now, for the war has destroyed everything that is beautiful in this country.”

Jood, 29, is a journalist from Homs who still lives in Syria.

“Over the past five years, I realized the value of my life and that of others, and I learned that we should all strive to preserve it. Man can only feel human when free and unchained.”
“I felt at my best when I became involved in community work, meeting new people and visiting new places,” she says. “Another great moment was when my first article was published on a renowned website and quoted by over 15 others. The best part about this is the happiness that I see in my mother’s eyes when she reads my articles, and my friends’ support. These are moments and feelings that I would not trade for the world.”
“When the war comes to an end, I hope I can visit the grave of the first person who encouraged me to write. He gave me support and motivation. I want to apologize to him and thank him, because despite our differences, I can never forget such a dear person who influenced my life so much and that of many others.”

Emad, 29 is from Aleppo but now lives in Austria. He works as a journalist and as a coordinator in the Life Makers Team, a civil work organization active in Aleppo.
“Over the past five years, I unleashed my writing talent,” he says. “The opportunity presented itself as there was a need to report what was happening in Aleppo during the war.
“I was able to work as a journalist – without the boundaries imposed by the Syrian regime, [without] oppressing freedom of speech and expression,” he says.
In the past year he’s written for a number of media outlets, including Good Morning Syria, while working for a number of aid organizations operating in Syria. But he says he hasn’t reached the peak of his abilities yet.
Emad says he’s awaiting a reunion with his family in Turkey once he secures a residency permit. The wait, he says, “has taught me firmness, determination, and dynamism at both personal and professional levels.”
When the war ends he says he’ll visit his friend Safwan Bakir in Aleppo: “When we meet, I will hug him and say, ‘You see? The war is over and the dream of revolution became true, establishing grounds for a state of justice, freedom, and dignity. I’ve missed you, Safwan.’”