All who are in the Netherlands are treated equally in equal cases. This is how the first article in the Dutch Constitution begins. People are the basis. At the start of a lecture at HAN about working in a different culture, a teacher asked: ‘Is there anyone who doesn’t understand Dutch?’ One boy raised his hand. “Okay, welcome everbody,” continued the teacher. It was then taught entirely in English. This had already reached the goal of the lesson for me. Take one person in the room who doesn’t speak Dutch into account, wow. That is dealing respectfully with other cultures.
As a Kurd in Syria, you belong to a minority. At home, my parents consciously spoke only Arabic to us. My parents thought that behaving and speaking like the rest of the country would help us. Kurds have a special status in Syria. Some of them have received Syrian nationality because families have lived in Syria for generations. That goes for my family. Then you have Kurds who later came to Syria when there was war between the Turks and Kurds. That group has no Syrian nationality. They are not allowed to work or go to university.
I did not know that group until I started working for aid organization UNHCR during the war. I arrived in a village with unregistered Kurds with trucks full of food, tents and clothes. “We’re going back, Anwar, these people have no papers. We shouldn’t give them anything, “said a colleague. I couldn’t go back. I know what it feels like to belong to a minority group.” We help people, not papers, “I told him. I distributed everything. A minority is never insignificant. My HAN teacher made that clear within one minute.
I walked down the street and had to sneeze. I didn’t dare and tried to stop it. I was afraid people would think I have corona. Somewhere this week there was suddenly a tilt in the whole situation and also in the behavior of people. All toilet paper in the supermarkets ran out. As if we are dealing with a diarrhea virus and not with corona. It is clear that talking about protecting our society is much easier than really taking it into account in our behavior. We became selfish and nearsighted this week. Buying all available disinfectants for yourself is of no use if it means that other people cannot disinfect. The cleanliness of others is a precondition for protecting yourself against the virus. If everyone can get clean, it will help stop the spread.
Buying all the food for your own family is of no use if the nurse, policeman and teacher who try to help you have nothing. If you have an accident or need help in the hospital, those are the people who need to help you. After all this hysterical behavior of everyone, I wanted to take shelter somewhere where I can think. A friend asked me to go to the beach to get some fresh air. “It helps very well,” she said. I went to the beach near Leiden. The amount of wind caused my head to clear. Empty of all stress and negative thoughts. But the wind has a phrase engraved in my head that I don’t forget. They are the heroes of the corona crisis in the Netherlands. Teachers, nurses and anyone who does think sensibly during this crisis.
I am linked to a person from the municipality of Arnhem to support me in making choices. Arnhem wants to help highly educated newcomers on their way. Arnhem’s municipal secretary turned out to be my buddy. He walked over enthusiastically and shook my hand. I started to stammer, I couldn’t remember what to say. Your Highness? His function sounded very important to me. “Just say Rob,” he said. “Shall we take a tour first?” If I’m nervous, I say yes to everything. ,,Yes sir. Um, I mean, yes, Rob.
“We started at the mayor’s room. A historic room with a few chairs and a table. It was not the most beautiful and largest space in the municipality. The meeting room was also an old room with a large table and chairs. The board works in the old part and residents are received in the new beautiful rooms.
I thought of the Aleppo congregation that I sometimes had to go to before the war started. The important officials are at a distance from all people. The whole building is made of marble, they are at the very top. The mayor receives officials in an important room, who give him gifts there. My country of Syria has yet to learn that the congregation is there for the residents, and should not receive gifts behind an expensive desk.
When I went back for my second appointment with the town clerk, I reported to the desk. Sometimes I walk my head in the Syrian clouds and forget about the system here. “Hi, I’m here for Rob.” I expected everyone to jump into the pose to take me to that important man everyone knows of course. The woman looked at me and said: Rob who?
Oh yeah. We are in the Netherlands.
“Shall we go to the supermarket and stock up on food?”
“I feel a little depressed, Anwar, you only hear misery in the news. Deaths, war and diseases, ” said a friend. I feel that too. Now that the coronavirus has arrived in the Netherlands, we panic. “One customer emptied the shelf,” said a friend who works at a supermarket. I also work at a supermarket. I wouldn’t let a customer go out with a shopping cart full of disinfectants.
When the war in Aleppo started, bread and baby powder milk were no longer available in a few days. They were there, but were no longer sold. Crisis dealers are smart. They are waiting for the problem, which was our war, to get worse. After the first deaths, it appears that bread and baby powder milk are still for sale. But only at huge prices, of course. Only the richest people could afford the milk and bread.
I now see that movement in the Netherlands. Hand gel that I have for 80 cents of the Action now costs tens of euros at Bol.com. Here too, in the sensible Netherlands, you have crisis dealers.
“Shall we go to the supermarket and stock up on food?” Asked my housemate. Like me, he’s used to the food crisis in Syria. However, we did not go. We don’t want to be like that woman who bought all the hand gel for herself. We have to do it together. If one person has all the hand gel in the house and the others have no hand gel, the virus will spread. People have to keep thinking a bit in a crisis. My hands have become thinner twice now due to the frequent washing. We don’t have face masks. My roommate and I are going to put underpants on our heads in the worst case. “It is a nice one, isn’t it,” I said. “Otherwise, we will have a new disease because of this solution.”
Strength everyone, and hold on.