0261-Anwar’s columns

Mission (1)

The neighbor of my mother may come to the Netherlands. My mother told me this week. “Can not you let me come over?”, she asked. She, my father and my brother are still in Syria, in Aleppo. They do not have a house anymore. I hope I succeed in getting them to the Netherlands, but how? In Syria there is always something special during holidays. Then the president will release prisoners, for example. Or he will nevertheless allow students who did not complete their first year in two years to continue studying. The rule is that you then have to stop the study. These kinds of decisions make people grateful. In Syria you can also wait for a politician if you want to do something for each other. With a bit of luck he puts his signature and it is arranged. Making a suicide attempt also helps. I understand why some refugees do that when they are angry or desperate. That works in Syria. Not here. One and one is always two here, never two-point-something. The neighbor of my mother may come to the Netherlands, because there is a rule that determines that. I have not found such a rule for my parents yet. I want to make a video in which I ask the boss of the Netherlands to let my parents come over. I thought of King Willem-Alexander. My friend said that does not make sense. If I record the video for the mother of the king then? She is a mother herself. No, she said, does not help either. For Prime Minister Mark Rutte? No, my friend said, he is also not the boss. I have a nice coat in Syria. I asked my mother if she would like to give it to her neighbor. She did not want that. She wants to keep the coat with her, as if it were me. She said: “I am coming to the Netherlands with your coat”.


In the Netherlands Santa Claus is so important that he even has his own news. On TV I saw his entry into Dokkum. He arrived with a boat, got on a horse and walked through the city. Children were singing loudly songs and had pieten hats and mites on. They became overjoyed when Piet gave them a handful of ginger-nuts. In Syria we do not have a party that looks like Santa Claus. Christian Syrians do have Santa. A symbol of peace and for children that makes everyone happy. Also the Muslims. At the end of the year the Syrian Christians decorated their streets and we helped Muslims thereby. We wanted to be part of their party and also bought gifts for each other. Conversely, the Christians participated in the sacrificial feast and the Sugar Festival. They were happy with our cookies during Ramadan and we were happy with their chocolate during Christmas. Christians and Muslims lived together very well in Syria. The integration was good, until the war came. Now everyone is on the run. Now that I am in the Netherlands, I celebrate the Santa Claus celebration. Recently I put my shoe at my friend’s parents with a carrot in it. In the morning there were presents in our shoes and the carrot was gone. Eaten by the horse. I wonder who the horse was at home, but I did not ask for it. I got a chocolate letter from “Santa Claus mother-in-law”‘. I wondered if Santa Claus knew my name, or whether I would get the R from ‘refugee’. But no, Santa Claus knows everything. I got an A. Santa Claus is a beautiful tradition. I think it’s nice how happy children become of Santa Claus and Peter. I would be honored to make children happy during the entry. I like to offer myself as Anwar-Peter. And when I have children, I will also teach them about Sinterklaas and Peter and then my children can proudly say: My dad is Anwar-Peter!

National anthem

I am jealous of this country. For a lot of reasons. There is only one thing that I find special and ridiculous, namely that you do not know your national anthem. You can sing along on Spotify, but when I ask people to sing the national anthem, they say they only know the first sentences. Or they do not know it at all. “Boeiuh,” they say. As a child in Syria I had to go to school as a soldier. We wore green uniforms from the age of six and that went on until we were 17 years old. Now school children in Syria no longer have to go to school in such a uniform. However, on the first and the last day of the school week they are still in rows in the schoolyard and the national flag is hoisted. I remember it well. With the right hand against our sleep we sang the national anthem. When I was small and did not know the words, I was playing along. We also had to swear allegiance to the ruling party and to the country every day. Then the teacher asked: “Do you have to be ready to defend your country?” And we called in unison: “Yes, we are ready to defend our country!” We also had to shout: “The president forever!” while we tilted our stretched right arm upwards. The President and the party were so important in Syria that I thought I should learn everything here about politics and the royal family. For my civic integration exam, I read everything about King Willem-Alexander. I know who he is married to, how many children he has and much more, but there was not one question about that on the exam. That is not all that important to you. Arjan Lubach even ridicules the king in his television program. Unbelievable! Now a political party has said that all children in school must learn the national anthem and there is discussion about it. I do not think it’s odd to teach all children the national anthem. The national anthem is part of the country you belong to and that you love. That’s why you have to know it. That is not boeiuh. I just do not understand what it has to do with the Netherlands that Wilhelmus van Nassouwe is of German blood.

‘There is another language in Dutch. That of abbreviations’

Just when I thought I had mastered the Dutch language a bit, I learned that there is still a language in Dutch. The language in abbreviations. Vlgs, sws, ipv, idd, ff. Sigh. I discovered this new language at school. In September I started the Industrial Product Design course at the Hogeschool of Arnheim and Nimwegen. In the lessons on materials science we received powerpoint presentations that were full of words that I did not know. They were abbreviations. My friend made a list of abbreviations and their meaning for me. It is now hanging over my desk. There were also many abbreviations in the materials science exam. Because I have only been in the Netherlands for a short time, I can use a dictionary during exams, but some abbreviations did not. Idd, for example. That means ‘indeed’, but is not an official abbreviation. I felt like returning my pain to the teacher and using Arabic words or self-invented abbreviations in my answers. I soon made up “vlgsa”. If I were to use that, the teacher would be surprised and ask me: What is that? Then I would say: According to Anwar! I did not do it. I did not dare. All exams and reports that I had to make in these first months, I have achieved, except material science. This is not only due to the abbreviations, but also because the material was in two languages. We were taught in Dutch, but had an English study book that was almost too English. It was full of jargon. The test was also in Dutch and English. That was hard. I became angry with myself because I found it difficult. I also became angry because we received an English textbook in the Netherlands. It reminded me of Geert Wilders. I felt like using his words: President, we are losing our country. Mr President, in the Netherlands we speak Dutch! I thought about saying that in class, but I did not do it. We are in school, not in the House of Representatives. In April I have a second chance regarding the exam about materials science. Fortunately I am not the only person who has to do the exam again, but there are more people who did not pass the test. So that is sws again ff blocks.


Once a week I come to the office at De Gelderlander in Arnheim. To enter you must have a pass. I do not have that, so I depend on someone who opens the door for me. That is an exciting moment every time. Already on the stairs to the editors, I see who is there. When I see the boss, I think: not you, not you! He always immediately stands up to open the door for me. I can not get used to that kind of equality, it makes me uncomfortable. In Syria I would keep the door open for him and say: “Boss, you make the best newspaper in the Netherlands. Here you have another present, fresh food from the market.” In Syria we all stand up when the boss comes in. We praise him, say that we missed him and that the day is so beautiful because he came in. Yes, it is slime. But it’s part of it. I remember from the past that the boss of my father regularly called our house number. Then something was broken again in his house. My father and I then solved it for him. It had nothing to do with my father’s work, but he had to “come”. A kind of involuntary volunteer work. At De Gelderlander I do not have to rub, stand up for anyone, not bring gifts or repair something from the boss when it is broken. In Syria I would have been fired for a long time now, which is why I can hardly get used to it. That it really does not have to be here. Yet I am happy with it. If I have work after my studies, it seems nice that I am important, even though I have just started working. That I may give my opinion and may also contradict the boss. Now I would not dare to. Fortunately, my study just started. I have four years to get used to.

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