0162 – Anwar’s columns


The community Bronckhorst invited me to come to a meeting for refugees. The community welcomes this year new status holders They wanted to know: how to handle this? Or how not? There were many volunteers and employees of the community. All these people were together to consider how to ensure the best for the group of asylum seekers coming. I find that amazing. That’s so really great about the Netherlands. That so many people genuinely do their best to make the best of a situation. Maybe you think that’s normal, but it’s really special. The attendees questioned me about every detail of the past year.

What I missed in my first time at the refugee center? Training. We would rather have filled our time filled with Dutch lessons.

Wanting some guidance towards my own house? A translator. We had to sign anything, but we had no idea what we signed. I was happy with all the help of a Dutch woman, but the others did not.

Practical information would also be welcome. For example shops. We did not know what shops in the Netherlands are give good products for a low price. And what could be improved at my current stage? Control. I know refugees who still follow any Dutch lessons after 1.5 years. They have to arrange that themself, but do not. I liked that I “after a long time in the Netherlands”, now could give feedback. Information where all those people eager to get to work. And so I help other refugees who will walk the same path as I did. But then smoother.


I find it annoying that you can not bribe anyone in the Netherlands. It has been made quickly clear to me in my first time in the Netherlands that you can not bribe here, so I do not try. But I find it difficult. I’m used to that you can solve any problem with money. In our garden is blown over the fence and broke. We rang the housing association and they came to see. Here we can not do anything, they said. It is not up to us to fix this. “Who needs it or fix?”, we asked. “No idea”, said the housing association, “but we do not”. That they mean it. If we would offer them money, they would not repair the fence. It feels strange. Why Dutch want to earn extra money?

Certificate: When I graduated as a lawyer in Aleppo I wanted to get my diploma. In college I was told I had to wait a few weeks for me to receive my diploma. There was absolutely no way to get my degree before. I gave him an envelope with money and the employee told: “Tomorrow is your degree ready.”

Army: After graduation I had two months before I would have to report to the army. In those two months I was stopped three times by soldiers who wanted to take me. “If you’re only conscripted over two months, you’re two months but with us,” they said. I did it three times to get rid of them by giving them money. Then I fled.

Rules: That fence, I’m fine with it. That there is no way to get my parents and brother in Aleppo to here, is really frustrating. I try to explain to my parents, but that the rules here are really rules that is hard to believe for them.


Voting in the Netherlands, is the same as in Syria. There are different parties, you can choose who you vote and the finally is in the government not only the winning party. Yet there is a world of difference. When you go to vote, there are still people in the voting office who try to convince you. People flock from all sides on your arm and promise you free food and great feasts, if you vote goes to them. As in the Netherlands, there are booths where to hang curtains. However, it is thought, if your into that booth to vote you have attached something to hide. So most people vote in public. They cry aloud: “Ah, where do I sign for our President Assad? Here?’ And they put while everyone is watching, a tick behind the party of the president. People do not like to be known as an opponent of the president. So Assad wins. About half of the government then is composed of his party, the rest should consist of “workers” from the country. After all, they know what is going on among the people. Yet these workers can never be in the majority. The law states that the party of Assad should be the ruling party. So he always has a majority in the government, so all his decisions are approved. The Dutch have to hand over their voting pass on the day of the elections. Truly a Dutch system. Structured. If we vote in Syria, you have to dip it in a jar of ink your finger into the polling station. That remains twenty-four hours, and if anyone sees that you have already voted. The Dutch system I find convenient. Then at least you do not have to walk around all day with a dirty finger.

Public transport

Dutch feel in public transport right at home. They read a book, eat, exchange some clothes, work on their makeup, do their homework or are on the phone nice and hard. Basically everything you do at home. People therefore take everything into their bag. At the HAN University of Applied Sciences students are walking with backpacks as if they go mountaineering. They get there an extra pair of shoes, a vest, a laptop, a tablet, and of course water and lots of food. Anyways, I do not understand why Dutch can not a few hours without food. I have on my Syrian university never seen someone with a sandwich in his hand. We come with a book under our arm to school, nothing more. We eat at home. Maybe because we are used to different mealtimes. In the morning, breakfast, after lunch and 16:00 to 22:00 for dinner. Public transport works in Syria very different. There is a bus, but there are not always bus stops and bus schedules. You usually just wait until one comes along. A bus leaves when all seats are occupied. And sounds in any transport always loud music. Unfortunately always to the taste of the bus driver. If passengers like it, it does not matter. You may give clues to a Syrian bus driver . “Would you stop here right? Since in that building should be me.” In the Netherlands, I do not try. The bus driver drops me at the stop Cologne Battle. Then I still have to walk a quarter. But if you only have a book under your arm, it is also best.

Jehova winesses

I got a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses. I did not know at first, I thought they were the people of the municipality. They had clean clothes and said they wanted to talk about my future. Once inside they saw my roommates Basil and Achmed. ,,Great”, shouted one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. ,,Three people to talk to.” We did not understand what they meant with it, but offered them coffee and tea. “Ah”, said one of them. ,,I can see a Koran. Does that mean you believe in paradise?” I said: ,,Yes, we are Muslims”. ,,But how do you know that there is only one paradise?” he asked. I actually had not said that. I do not know if there is only one paradise, because no one has been there. But he knew. He had lots of questions. About there were children, why Adam had been the first man to be on the world, and why animals were so important. According to the man all answers could be found in the Bible. They had all kinds of biblical texts ready for us in Arabic. They felt encouraged because Basil ever said ‘yes’. He always says he does not understand anybody. After half an hour and two long Bible verses later Basil whispered to me: ,,Anwar, this is not the Koran”. He had understood nothing of the visit, except that it was about God… The Jehovah Witnesses continued to tell, but I had actually to leave. I had an appointment. I thought it was rude to say, so I sat out the whole conversation with the men. I tried to explain that I have great respect for them, but I just believe something different. He said he loved us to be very open and that he wanted to make a new appointment. Now he comes over a week. I hope that we’ll talk about something else.