Syria: ‘My school was bombed’
TRANSLATED BY ARTHUR MASYUK
While many political figures discuss different perspectives on the Syrian conflict, little word is given to the Syrian population itself. Le Journal International met with a couple of Syrian refugees who have been living through the conflict for over four years.
Aycha (name modified) and her husband came to France in the summer of 2015. Despite their difficulties in communicating what they have lived through, both have agreed to testify under the condition that they remain anonymous.
“THERE WERE GOVERNMENT SPIES EVERYWHERE”
Aycha explains that before 2011 life in Syria had been ‘normal’. ‘People could not speak or act freely, but they went to work, to university and to school. People could go anywhere, but there were some restrictions’. In 2011 the Arab Spring hit the nation: revolution broke out. Syrians took to the streets and protested for their liberties.
Authorities began to arrest people. ‘You had to pay attention, there were government spies everywhere’, Aycha explains. Tension rose in the nation and the slightest word could land you in prison or place you under torture.
While the demands continued, the army suppressed dissenters by means of firearms. According to Aycha, the protesters continued to peacefully protest for a year then ended up arming themselves too. ‘It was to defend ourselves. I think it is fair’, declares the young woman, before adding that she detests violence. ‘What would you do if your brother was arrested simply because he demanded more rights?’
ACCESS TO EDUCATION
An important yet hardly addressed problem is education. Since 2012, many schools have been destroyed or converted to military bases. Three years later, many Syrian children do not know how to read or write. The association Humanium is concerned with the risk of a ‘lost generation’ in a time where education is perceived more as a luxury than a priority.
Aycha teaches English in a school, so the problem of education affects her directly. Following a rocket fire, the school where she had been working was destroyed. She tells us, ‘They [Al-Assad’s military forces] bombed the school because they suspected that opponents were hiding within. But they did not know anything about it. They did not know if they were opponents or civilians. […] There were children and teachers. Two children died. I told the children to leave class because military planes were constantly overhead. They did not listen to me. They were terrified’. She tries describing the ensuing chaos, the ‘pillar of smoke’ and the confusion: ‘We were not even able to know where exactly the rocket had exploded’. A situation which is ‘indescribable to anyone who did not experience it’.
‘That is how it went almost every day’, she affirms. ‘I did not decide to leave Syria because I experienced a tragic event, or because of the bombings. […] My school was bombed. I wanted work’.
“THE SYRIAN PEOPLE NOW HAVE TWO ENEMIES”
When asked about her opinion on the role the East should play in the conflict, she replies without any hesitation. ‘First of all, we must end Al-Assad’s government. Only the government, because many people are forced to join his army. They are not responsible’.
Next, we tackle the controversies linked to a hurried overthrow of Al-Assad, namely the risk of eliminating a consequent opponent to the Islamic State. ‘I am not a politician’, the teacher, totally ‘overwhelmed’ by the situation, reminds us.
Subsequently, Aycha refuses to speak of her voyage to Europe. She does not feel capable of evoking those traumatising, all too recent memories. Today, she and her husband live in France, awaiting a response for their refugee claim. While he seeks work, she tries to learn French. Both agree in saying that they wish for peace in Syria so that they can return home as soon as possible.