Welcome to Radio HAKAYA – حكايا the official podcast series of Brush and Bow. These podcasts report stories of the life and displacement amongst Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian communities in Lebanon. By focusing on individual stories, we hope to convey the complex realities of life herein Lebanon: people’s memories, present experiences and hopes for the future.
This interview was taken in the refugee camps of Lebanon’s northern province of Akkar. Abu and Um Rawa have lived there for four years with their two small children aged 2 and 4. Two days after this interview they flew to France thanks to a resettlement scheme. In this interview, they speak about the hardships of living in Lebanon and their hopes for their future in France.
See below for the English translation.
Abu Rawa: I come from Homs in the Jobar district.
Um Rawa: And I also am from Jobar, Homs.
Abu Rawa: The thing I remember most from before the war is the feeling of security.
I had friends from all religions, Alawites, Christians, Shias, we used to live in social harmony. We were neighbours, we ate together, cooked together. All as one.
How did you leave Syria to come to Lebanon?
Abu Rawa: After I was set free from jail, my father told me for my own sake to go to Libya to work as a builder with a friend of his. Libya was a bit calmer at the time, there was no revolution yet, but problems were starting there too. After Libya I came here to Lebanon.
Um Rawa: I entered Lebanon on the 1st January 2013.
Abu Rawa: I transferred some money to her in Syria in order for her to join me here in
Lebanon. When we first came to Lebanon things were good.
Um Rawa: The first year in Lebanon was good. But then we moved to Tel Abbas camp and he [Abu Rawa] started to suffer severe backaches.
Abu Rawa: When I first came out of prison it wasn’t so bad, but now if I don’t get it treated I might become paralysed.
How is life in Lebanon?
Abu Rawa: In the camp everybody is from different regions in Syria, but when we lived in Syria everyone we knew was from Homs. We had many friends, but here [we live with] people we don’t know.
Abu Rawa: There is no education or future in Lebanon.
Um Rawa: We want to go to Europe to educate our kids and secure a better future for them, because in Lebanon there is no future.
Abu Rawa: There we can have a new life, a new existence. And the other reason [to leave] is fear, I am scared because I was captured and tortured in Syrian prisons. I am in constant fear still, fear that won’t vanish until I get in the plane and it flies away from this country. Especially now there is so much rumour of Syrian refugees being forced back to Syria from Lebanon.
Um Rawa: A week ago, a Syrian man was shot dead by a Lebanese at the Tel Abbas
crossroad. Just because of an electric wire, just because the Syrian man attached his own wires to the generator without asking the Lebanese owner first. This is how some Lebanese treat the Syrians here. He [the Lebanese] might be jailed for a while and then bribe somebody to be set free as if nothing happened. The only loser will be the dead Syrian.
Abu Rawa: I would like to thank the government of Lebanon though. If they hadn’t opened the door and let Syrians into Lebanon, it would have been a big problem for Syrians. More would be dead. In this country [Lebanon] there are no planes bombing us. The [Syrian] regime cannot come and get me here even if they wanted. It is forbidden. Just for this [Lebanon] should be thanked a lot.
Would you ever return to Syria?
Abu Rawa: Only if there was to be a different regime, a different intelligence service, only then I would return. I will never return [to Syria] otherwise. But if all the regime changed, maybe I would be the first to go back.
Um Rawa: If we find it is better for our kids to stay in France we will stay, because once – and if – we bring them back to our homeland after 10 years, they might not adapt to the Syrian education system.
If there will be the opportunity, I would like to learn French to then be an Arabic or French teacher or translator.
Abu Rawa: In the future we will have to work together [with Um Rawa], not just one of us alone.
Abu Rawa: The Syrian regime says that the Syrian refuges are welcome back to their
homeland. But if you return, after a week or two they will come to your house and arrest you. There is no guarantee of security. No safety.
Um Rawa: Our neighbour in Syria, a woman, was arrested when she went back to Syria, because her husband was wanted by the Syrian regime.
Abu Rawa: There are many people who have been arrested and nobody knows where they are. The Syrian forces may act kindly at the border checkpoints, but things change as soon as you step in. This is the war we fear. This is the war that will not end. Even if the battling [in Syria] is almost over, the psychological war will continue.
Podcast – 8.10.18
Project Managers: David Suber and Roshan de Stone
Interviews and Editing: David Suber and Roshan de Stone
Illustration: Hannah Kirmes-Daly