The following article is written by a native Syrian who currently lives in Syria. The purpose of the article is to provide an insider’s view of life in Syria after almost 10 years of civil war and strife.
I was born in Damascus during its finest days at the start of the new century, and later moved to an isolated village close to the Israeli borders. The village was a very one-sided community of less than 500 people. Syria is a country with a vast variety of social minorities and cultures, and most went along with the government despite the pressures that got in their way. This diversity is the first point that should be considered, because all of the nation’s problems are the result of conflicts between minorities ruling over others, even if it didn’t really seem that way. Alawites benefitted from the military coups that stretched for years after the French occupation. They took over as one “Arabic leadership,” and started a new type of regime that forced Syrians to their knees for over 40 years. The people ignored the problems that slowly ate the country’s treasures until it became too much to bear.
The best thing about Syria before the war was the safety. One could go out anywhere in Damascus at three in the morning without worry. The control over crime was very strong. I could confidently say Damascus was safer than the best European countries due to the public’s complete disgust and subsequent disassociation from criminals. Education in Syria was pretty good if you ignore the state propaganda. Propaganda was shoved even into elementary grade school books. It tunneled every person’s opinion into a specific route that served to set national standards. Any open-minded human could tell after a while, but not everyone was able to notice. Despite this, universities’ certifications could give you good credentials at home and abroad. The economic conditions weren’t really the best, and you wouldn’t always get what you deserve according to your qualifications. Your chances of getting a job were always corrupted ever since the present party took over. Only in a different way from what destroyed the country’s capabilities right now.
Every true Syrian unaffected by war knew that he can support one side of this ugly conflict. At the beginning of the fighting, only a few cities around the country were involved, but, after the mistake of using force, safety disappeared for everyone. The most dangerous times were around 2015. Every place in Syria was within the reach of every faction’s weapons. There were rare places where the people managed to secure their own safety. However, this was only temporary. Migration was the biggest misery. It either resulted in millions of barely-maintained camps, or in various “safer” cities and towns that couldn’t exactly afford themselves to start with. It was difficult to forge communities because of cultural differences and there were many societal problems.
Jihadists in Syria ranged from brainwashed prisoners who were “mysteriously” released from Europe, to backstabbing locals that took money and positions as priority over literally anything else. The saddest, smallest few, who had pure intentions at first, were stuck in this dirty business of pretending to be the righteous side, and, more dangerously, the “Islamic” side of the war. “Normal Syrians” were oppressed to the extent that any two Syrians who are not part of the same family could not discuss such topics sincerely. When those topics were brought up by mistake, everyone said the common, well known propaganda view: “Religion is for Allah, and the country is for all.”
The fallout of the war touched 90% of civilians across Syria. Over 40% of education centers were damaged severely. The economy was destroyed and the poverty rate skyrocketed above 50%. Social services were the most broken. People couldn’t afford to buy diesel for heating purposes, and electricity was supplied to most places for two to four hours before being cut off. There were many orphans who lost their families throughout the war. Some of the orphans were simply left to their fate. Parents found supporting their families to be too much. The hardest task for commoners in this country was supporting their families. Child labor was rampant and could even be found in the heart of Damascus. Charities here were trying their best to help anyone who is in need but they were not anywhere close to even fulfilling a fifth of the necessities. Moreover, it was shameful to see the government funding Christmas festivals when elderly people were forced to search through trash to survive. Local coverage of events has shown stark contrasts. Media outlets streamed the live festivals at the same time northern Syria was being bombed, as if this is a normal fate for anyone who opposes the state again.
Besides the civilians who fled to neighboring countries, many had fled to safer areas in the opposition or the government’s territory. They had to leave vast agricultural lands and fields behind, which gave a major blow to the economy. The cities people fled to became overpopulated and, in most cities, the job market couldn’t accommodate the influx of workers. The unemployment percentage jumped up dangerously. This became a common cause of economic crisis among Syrians, and it only added to the political corruption. The nation’s currency was completely destroyed, but the wages were barely raised. Syrians were left with no one, except Allah, to aid them.
After ten years of war, Syrians were split into two groups. Each group knows the amount of destruction the crisis has caused, but one washes off the guilt with a fake victory and dreams of “reconstruction,” while the other is thoroughly exhausted. Still, they know that everyone who didn’t help them will pay, and, indeed, they’re paying for staying silent in the face of the injustice and oppression. Under the mercy of a merciless government, the media can never show the true story.
For more than fifty years, Syrians were ruled under a socialist government by one family. Deemed worthless and unworthy to help alleviate their hardships, all Syrians want is a change to a civilian government, with the military and their agencies out of the picture. I believe that won’t be possible. The opportunity for change is long gone, and Syria’s fate was already sold to external politics. I just hope that Allah destined us to the most peaceful outcome there can be for Syria.
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