Photo courtesy of Rosy Tahan

My Syria

Today, I read that the British Parliament has voted in favor of bombing Syria. I scrolled through countless outraged Facebook posts by friends inside ...

Dec 5, 2015

Photo courtesy of Rosy Tahan
Today, I read that the British Parliament has voted in favor of bombing Syria. I scrolled through countless outraged Facebook posts by friends inside and outside Syria, and I felt tired. I shut off my computer, had an omelette and started doing my work. There was a time when I would have written angrily and passionately about the injustice of the world; when I would have shared videos and articles that conveyed my message more eloquently; when I would have gotten into debates with friends and strangers or passive aggressively up-voted the comments that I agreed with.
But now, I am tired. I cannot keep talking about the refugee crisis, or the brutality of Daesh or whether climate change did actually cause the uprising, knowing how helpless I am and how irrelevant my opinion is. It is not that I resent it when people ask how I feel about airstrikes or Bashar al-Assad or the refugee crisis in Europe. On the contrary, I am glad that people care enough to ask and try to understand. I do not mind answering their questions, although a political science student might be a better information source than a privileged Dubai-­born Syrian. I do not have the answers. I do not have a solution. All I have are Daesh jokes and ironic complaints about how long it takes to get a Schengen visa when your country pretty much caused the refugee crisis in Europe.
I hate that I feel like a fraud because my national identity is now inherently linked to pain and suffering, while I have been so incredibly privileged. I miss those times when Syria was insignificant, even if the questions got tiresome — “It’s in the Middle East,” “Yes, I speak Arabic,” “No, I’m not Muslim.” I envy the freedom others have to talk about their homelands in a unique, personal way — something that people from conflict ridden countries have been robbed off.
I cannot keep talking about my country solely in the language of political analysis. My country is a part of me, and I do not want something so integral to me to be characterized by violence, conflict and death. I cannot keep talking only about that Syria because I am beginning to forget my Syria.
My Syria is sleeping on the balcony when the electricity was cut off and it got too hot inside. It is my jeddo, my grandfather, surreptitiously feeding me ice cream before lunch and the both of us getting reprimanded by teta, my grandmother, when she inevitably discovered the cause of my meager appetite. My Syria is swimming pools with Armenian names. It is waking up to the smell of jasmine and my entire family singing along to Fairuz. It is being squeezed into the back of a car with five squirming cousins, all the way from Aleppo to Damascus. Sometimes I feel like I still have their elbows lodged inside me, somehow.
My Syria is reckless taxi drivers who unintentionally teach you how to swear. Pushy souk vendors who try to sell you flamboyant lingerie. Posters and stickers of Muhannad from the Turkish-dubbed television show “Noor,” and learning how to not get too addicted to television shows that aired during scheduled electricity cut-off times. It is the realization that my absence for nine months a year and my awkward Arabic are not a barrier to feeling at home.
One of my favorite poems starts with the line, “People are made of places.” I accept that the conflict is a part of me. Ask me about that Syria, but do not deny me the rest. Ask me about my Syria. Often, too often, our stories of the Middle East are reduced to nothing but conflict and violence, but there is so much more to our homes than that, even if these are just memories. Ask me about my Syria, and I will tell you about it over sahlab and pistachios.
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