Aylan was the first Syrian child to shock the world. He was the boy who washed up on the Turkish beach and that symbol stood for thousands of children who drowned during their get-away to Europe. Now there is Samar, a baby that is emaciated in the hands of a nurse. The Dutch newspapers state that they are suffering from hunger, but they could also be the victims of the chemical weapons used in the area where they were born. She too symbolizes thousands of children. It is striking that everyone talks about these children, except for the people in Syria. There was nothing to see about Aylan on Syrian television. I think, out of embarrassment. In the case of Samar, the government says: This is a propaganda message. If the government broadcasts reports of abuses, the opponents say so too. Nothing changes like that. Nobody says: Now it’s done. Nobody wants to change his opinion and that is how people keep going. Even when the war is over, I think the suffering continues for many people in Syria. When I lived in Syria, I went to a village for UNICEF to give people food. In that village, thousands of Kurds who were born in Syria lived, but had no identity card. They could not go to school and could not work. The father of the current president was then in power and said that these people were not Syrians, but came from Iraq. No papers. That could just be the fate of the children like Samar. They live in areas that are occupied by groups that are against the government and their parents can not outsource the villages to report the birth of their child. They are undocumented children who will not be able to go to school and have no work. There are a few organizations that use lawyers to arrange the paperwork for these people, but that is far too little. It does not matter to Samar. She died 35 days after her birth. The number of people who die is no longer shocking me. Hundred deaths in Aleppo have become normal words. A picture of a child like Samar never gets used to. It keeps touching me. She is a baby who did nothing wrong, but happened to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In the Netherlands, the weather can suddenly change. Within three minutes it can turn from dry, good weather to hard rain. Last happened to me. I was sitting on the bike and when I left, it rained a bit. It was romantic rain. Nothing’s going on. But then it became an immense rain, and then death seemed to come out of the air. It was so much water that you could hardly name it anymore. My eye lashes became so wet that they became heavy and I could hardly open my eyes. Because it was raining so hard, I could not brake well anymore. Through the hard wind I drove down to the left. It was not normal. I think the Netherlands has natural disasters all the time because it rains a lot and it’s very hard here. In my view, you do not have to worry about anything here except for the weather. It seems to me that people in the Netherlands suddenly wear a lot of funny clothes when it starts to rain. Jackets and trousers in all kinds of colors and ponchos with dashes. Those clothes are always way too big. If people have become thicker in two years, those clothes still fit. I think they think that too. I do not have such clothes, so I got wet on that stormy day. It was suddenly also very cold due to the windy wind. The wind does nothing to the Dutch, it hits me. They just keep riding straight. I can not do that. I swab back and forth. I think it’s best to buy an astronaut suit instead of rainwear. I keep my clothes dry, but also my head and I do not injure myself when I fall. Maybe I should first ride a bicycle-in-the-storm course. Exercise at the Afsluitdijk, because it always blows. Four times back and forth to train my muscles. With such training, I can advance until I, as student industrial design at HAN, have made the real solution: an electric bike that I can click on the trolley bus network in Arnhem. Then I’m sure I always keep straight and weather and wind can defy.
‘I wondered why people are so busy in the Netherlands’
In Syria, nobody does anything for nothing. Of course you bring a soup to your sick neighbor and you help the neighbor when he builds a barn. But no-one does voluntary work, so on a regular day in the wind and wind go somewhere to work unpaid. Even those who reported themselves in the Unicef war to help tents and food, got some money or something to eat in return. Actually, the fulfillment of your day in Syria is very simple: you work or you’re free and when you’re free, call someone to talk or watch tv. Older people who no longer have to work can not do anything anymore because they do not move. Then they need the help of two people to go to the toilet. They soon die because they only sit still. Here people continue to do something after retirement, no one is going to sit still. When I was still in the refugee shelter The Dome in Arnhem, I thought that every Dutchman had to deal with a refugee because there were so many people coming to the Dome. Other Syrians also encountered this and there was a rumor that you had to do hundreds of hours of volunteering to get Dutch nationality soon. So when a paper was put on the wall with the question of who wanted to help painting an elderly home or who wanted to help clean, everyone was urged to sign up. People thought, “Now I can do volunteering hours that hour. After that, I have work and I have no time for it. “If they had done a job, they stated that their name and the number of hours they worked were noted. Now I know that Dutch people do all kinds of unpaid work without anyone obliging them to do so. I see very often older women who make up their minds and do well-dressed volunteer work. Sometimes I sometimes think: Madam, go to bed and sit down with your husband. I wondered why people are so busy in the Netherlands. Perhaps it is because they feel lonely. In Syria no one is lonely. If you’re free, just call your friends or your children to come by. This is not the case, because everyone is always at work. Then you can stay busy if it does not really need it anymore.
‘Dutch are too honest and then it hurts’
Honesty is a beautiful quality. It’s great if someone is honest and not cheating on you. With Dutch people I do not think honesty is such a good quality, because they are too honest and then it hurts. It has happened to me that I had cooked food for someone but he did not want to eat it. He did not like the look of the food, lifted his nose and said, “I can not eat this.” He did not want to taste it either. This kind of honesty hurts. In Syria you would say, “Sorry, I have already eaten.” If you ask a Dutchman if they come along, they are too fair. ‘I can not. This week, it really does not work.” In Syria, you avoid saying ‘no’. If someone asks you to come by, you say yes and then you’re looking for an option to say no, because if you say that immediately, it hurts. So you send a message with “Sorry, I already have an appointment. I can not come” For some people, this may seem like lying, but it is not. It’s a nice excuse to not hurt anyone else. I no longer ask the Dutch what they think of my new clothes. I know they will say without shame, “I do not like the pants, but the sweater is fun.” On the other hand, it is also good for Dutch people to be so honest. If a teacher asks why I did not do my homework and I say I was sick, then the teacher believes that. He also says “Are you feeling better?”. I think it’s better to like this, than to say I did not like doing homework. That’s not fun for the teacher. So I keep on using my good stories. Except as the Dutch ask me what I think of their clothes. I find that many people wear very beautiful clothes here, but wear the ugliest socks at the same time. Who is wearing a black suit with socks with the Frisian flag? There are beautiful black socks underneath. Only in such situations is I a Dutchman straight away and I will say: ‘Those socks are ugly. Do not walk next to me. “
As a child, I had a wound on my leg and, according to my mother, it was through the evil eye. That’s right. When I was a baby, a woman came to visit, and declared with a strong voice that I was a beautiful baby. She did that with great conviction and repetition: “What a beautiful baby!” And then that wound came. In Syria, moms believe that they have to protect their babies against too many compliments. If a child is praised in all the heavens, the evil eye may go to work and an accident occurs. You may become sick or ugly. Mothers therefore ensure that the baby wears a blue bead, because it offers protection from the evil eye. Instead of a bead, a mother can also express the evil eye with words. When somebody’s in the arms of the baby says: “Oh, how cute!”, the mother says, “Masha Allah,” which means “God wanted that.” Every time the child is praised in heaven, she does. Some mothers also say to their guests: “If you say,” What is the baby beautiful, “say immediately, Masha Allah.” We never give clothes to a newborn baby, because it’s the mother who wants to dress her child in her own style. Guests bring gold, or a blue bead. Sometimes in the shape of the evil eye. “Allah” indicates whether the name of the baby is engraved in gold. That gold sits on a pin that is pinned on the baby’s clothes. Poor people sell the gold to buy clothes for the baby, but rich moms keep the gold for later. They keep it in a secret place with their other gold. By the way, it is not the case that giving compliments can only bring babies to an accident. If you want to flirt with a woman, you also say that she is beautiful because God wants it. Oh, it’s all superstition. However, you can not give me too many compliments. My mother is now not around here to turn off disaster with counterfeits.