No more photos.
My mom sent me a picture of my brother and me when we were very young. She found it with my aunt. She was devastated because she has no other photos of us from the past.
I remember how we gathered with my family every week to view photos from the past. Photos of my parents when they were little. How different everyone looked in their youth! Photos are a great way to bring back memories of the past. After our house was bombed, all tangible memories are gone. Now there are only the memories in my head.
Here people often ask me what my childhood was like. I have nothing left to show. Then I describe the photos I remember from early ones, or I try to show photos of Syria on the internet. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make any sense, because when I search for something about Syria on Google, I only get photos of dead people and broken houses, not of the Syria I know from the past. The Syria where I played on the street with a homemade paper ball. I was so happy with that ball that I could almost hear the laugh out of the picture. The Syria, where we played with the sheep in the summer with my grandmother in the countryside and where we climbed the fig trees to eat the ripest figs. The Syria where my brother never left my side, no matter what mischief we got into.
How can I later tell my children that their father had a childhood without war, if there are only pictures of the war? Later, when I am a father myself, I make sure my children grow up happily. I make sure that I take a lot of photos and I print them out. I also store them in the cloud and on an external hard drive. I will not let a moment of them fade away.
Do I have to ask my father to take a picture with 80 euros in his hands?
Sharing the problems we have as newcomers is important. We learn from it and laugh about it. I often also tell new Dutch people about the endless problems that I myself experienced in my new home country.
When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I thought it was important to be independent of aid. I tried to arrange a lot myself, which often failed. For example, the application for my student grant.
When completing the digital application, I had to indicate how much my parents earned. I could not submit the form without that information. I called DUO employees and explained my situation. “Sir, my parents are in Syria and my father earns about 80 euros a month and my mother does not work”, I said. “You have to prove that,” said the employee back.
I explained that this situation proves rather difficult. Should I ask my dad to take a picture with 80 euros in his hands, and my mom in the kitchen stirring the pans, and then some houses shot in the background to make it clear that is really about Syria? He had nothing to say, but he insisted that I had to prove my parents’ salary.
I went to the Dutch Council for Refugees and therefore asked for help anyway. There too they had to laugh about the situation. The Dutch Council for Refugees sent an email to DUO that I am a refugee and that my parents are in Syrian war zone. It turned out to be sufficient “evidence” for the institution.
In retrospect, I think it is a shame that I did not fill in my father’s salary. Maybe DUO would be so shocked by his low salary that they even gave him a student grant.
Of course you would never miss a dictatorship, you would think. Sometimes I secretly miss it. For example, if our country is in the grip of a dangerous virus and the government only provides “advice”. If you are not allowed to have an opinion about what the government decides, it can sometimes just have its advantages. The military will just take to the streets if you don’t listen. It works, because Syria is not yet colored on the corona map.
Our country is colored orange. Unfortunately this time not because of a football match or King’s Day, but to show how dangerous the area where we live is. The new corona measures feel like a show that we put on together. That we want to show how well we are doing, while nothing really changes. Shops and catering must continue to have enough customers. That is why the customers do not have to wear masks, but the employees do. We wear a self-made mouth mask from a piece of cloth from the closet, because it looks nicer and matches our outfit. Moreover, it is cheaper than the medical mouth masks.
I am afraid that the new measures and behavior that comes with it will resemble the glass container. Residents separate all the glass in the correct colors, after which it is collected in one large container. We are doing well for the show, but not really.
In my opinion, measures in the Netherlands will only work if we understand the problem properly. Because there are too many people who see corona as a fart. When they walk past it, they put their T-shirt in front of their nose and let it go a few meters further. In my opinion, the Netherlands does not need new measures, but it does need better information. We need to understand the virus. Only then do we get it under control.
When I look at pictures of refugees on Lesbos, I see myself.
Hundred maximum. We hear that a lot today. In one example, unfortunately, it is not about the maximum number of people in a restaurant. Nor is it about the new maximum speed in the Netherlands. It concerns the number of refugees who are allowed to come to the Netherlands from Moria camp on Lesbos. Those who fled violence and wars from their country and arrived on Lesbos after a drowning journey thought they were at the gates of European bliss. But the beautiful island turns out to be a coffin for them. It is the worst place where refugees can live on Earth.
They have become prisoners of this island. They live in an open concentration camp where human dignity has been lost. When I look at the pictures I see myself. I was also on a Greek island, among hundreds of refugees. I see myself lying in a broken tent again, with all kinds of unknown people against me to keep each other warm. The tent cloths were full of holes and did not block snow, rain and hot sun. I got up very early every morning because the toilets had just been cleaned. I waited for the cleaning machine to finish and went in without throwing up from the smell. Then I went to the sea, where no one could see me. I swam naked to clean myself. Then I stayed on the beach shivering with cold until the sun came up to warm me up. I have terrible memories of it. It therefore really affects me when I realize that my time in the camp was even ‘luxurious’, compared to the situation now. I pray that the sun will continue to shine on the new camp in Lesbos. That there will soon be no more tents, and that there will be two zeros next to the 100.
Solving problems requires years of experience in the Netherlands.
Life in the Netherlands is more difficult than I thought. It is not just me, it applies to everyone who lives in the Netherlands. Solving problems here requires years of experience. Apparently the five years of experience I have in the Netherlands are not enough.
“Have you emailed the IND (the Immigration and Naturalization Service) that you need proof of your application for a permanent residence permit? Otherwise, your student grants will stop and tuition fees will go up”, said a friend this week. “You don’t have to, right? I have already applied online for the permanent residence permit”, I said, surprised. “No, it really takes a long time to get it. So you have to arrange something now, otherwise you will have no papers and a problem with your school and work”, the friend said.
The student grants of a Syrian friend of ours has stopped, because his five-year residence permit has expired and his application for the new residence permit is still being processed. The basis that I have had in the Netherlands all this time is no longer self-evident. Without papers I am not insured, so I am not allowed to see the doctor. A valid residence document is also crucial for my work in the supermarket, I am not allowed to work without it. If I don’t have the papers in order, the tuition fees go up and I will automati-cally be treated as a foreign student, who has to pay € 8.000 euros for school.
Newcomers are expected to reach a certain language level, integrate and find a job within five years. It might be an idea if the government also inte-grates in a number of areas, such as the IND with the Education Executive Agency (DUO).
That wouldn’t make our life more fun, but it would make it easier.
Soon I will be expelled from the country for the shady trade in lost permits and passes.
In the past five years I had a residence permit stating that I can stay in the Netherlands temporarily. It is the only document we have as refugees and we must treat it with care. Well, dealing with cards is not for me. I’ve lost it twice. I can no longer lose it from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND), otherwise they will think I have a business in residence permits. Now it is at home by default, so that I cannot lose it anymore. Now that I have completed the five years in the Netherlands without any specifics, I can apply for a residence permit for an indefinite period. Last week I had to go to the IND office in Utrecht to take a new fingerprint and photo for the document. I had to bring my residence permit safely stored.
“Good morning, your ticket, please,” I heard on the train. I reached into my pocket to show my public transport card, but it was empty. I lost him. When the conductor was waiting for me for the public transport card, I was simultaneously looking for my residence permit. “Fortunately, I have one!” I shouted happily. ‘Did you found it?’ the conductor asked. No, I had lost my public transport card, but I was relieved that I had not lost my residence permit for the third time in any case. I came along to explain that I can travel for free because I am a student. That I really just lost my public transport card. He did not believe me and proceeded to issue the fine. I will stay at home until I have my permanent residence permit. Otherwise, my file will soon be full of fines and shady trade in ‘lost’ residence permits and passes, and I will still be deported from the country.
I have adapted in many areas, but destroying relationships is not part of that.
“Everything can be broken, eh.” A phrase I’ve often heard from my Dutch friends, when they want to score a lady who already has a friend. I often laughed at this sentence. It shows how easily Dutch people think about breaking up a relationship, but at the same time it makes me silent. It is scary. A while ago my housemate Ahmad had a friend visiting, they were playing football on the PlayStation. “I would like to go back to school man, I miss the pretty lady in our class,” said the boy to Ahmad. “But she has a friend, right? And you have a girlfriend?”Ahmad asked surprised. ,,Well friend listen, that she has a friend is no problem. Look at our game, you have a keeper and I am 3-0 ahead. The fact that she has a friend doesn’t mean I can’t score, I just have to make sure I play well, “the friend told Ahmad. I looked at the boy with a crooked face and walked away. I got mad.
A woman who has a boyfriend or husband should not be decorated by other men. That’s a red line. That’s how I was brought up. It’s called honor. Boys in Arab countries are taught from an early age that honor is a very important part of masculinity. Without honor you are not a good man. This means that you treat everyone with respect, not just the women in your own family. We have an expression in Arabic: “Put your finger in your eye. The pain you feel, that’s how it feels with someone else. ” By this we mean that you should not harm others, as you would not do yourself. In addition, it is also considered a disgrace to decorate an occupied woman. By doing this you put yourself outside society. During my integration process I adapted in many areas to Dutch society, but destroying relationships is not part of that. At this point I stick to my own principles.
Jealousy is in my blood, but that doesn’t mean I want to limit my wife later.
One of the hallmarks of Arab culture is jealousy. I learned it that way and that is how I was brought up. We consider it a sign of love. When the Arab woman notices that her husband is no longer jealous, that is, he doesn’t care much what she does, she sees it as a sign that he no longer loves her. She already sees her relationship on the rocks in her mind. Here in the Netherlands I see that jealousy in relationships rarely occurs. A friend said to me, “I see it as a limitation. A jealous man has no confidence and no confidence in me. “She also said that her boyfriend likes it when other men flirt with her. This way he knows that he has hooked up a nice lady. “Really ?!” I exclaimed in surprise. “But are you jealous?” I asked. “Not at all, he can do whatever he wants and so can I”, she said. She asked how I thought about it.
Well. I am a Syrian man, and jealousy is in our blood. That doesn’t mean I want to restrict my wife later. For me, jealousy has nothing to do with my confidence. Not even with confidence in the other. I don’t see having a relationship as a contract where we own each other. Love, respect and mutual trust between the two sides are the highest feelings we can feel for our life partner. In my opinion, this results in jealousy. It is the protection and enhancement of these beautiful feelings, not a limitation of love. So yes, I am a jealous man. Do the Dutch see jealousy as a sign of love or of ownership? In the end I hope the first, otherwise I will have a very hard time in this country.
Without his bag, my father couldn’t work and we couldn’t eat.
When I miss my family, I think back to the last months we had together. A terrible time, but also one in which the love we feel for each other became clear. When we had to flee from our house in Aleppo, we became homeless as a family. This made my father unemployed. He was an electrician. He had a small bag and went to the people with his bag to make repairs. It was his job and it provided income. When we had to flee, he left his bag in a hurry.
We had a cloth in the new place, and the four of us sat on it. We had each other, and the dress. The bag was gone. It was my father’s right hand. We sat on our clothes in there and had no money and no food. I saw my father suffering, he blamed himself for leaving the bag behind. Without the bag he couldn’t work and we couldn’t eat.
My mother took care of the housework, my brother and I were students. I silently devised a plan. I went to the neighborhood to get the bag. Between me and the neighborhood, nothing was as it once was. Everything was different. I first had to pass through occupied ISIS, past Al Nusra camp, and then through the Kurdish domain. The journey was dangerous. Once arrived, the district was destroyed. The plane bombs had destroyed the houses, they looked like ruins. One big mess. I was looking for the place where our street should be. What I found was bad smell, the smell of dead people. I didn’t find the house. And also the bag, nowhere to be seen. All for nothing.
I returned to my parents. My father cried. “You never want to do this again? He said. Not the bag is my right hand, but that’s you.”
In the darkest hour of the night I see myself studying medicine so that I can send my mother medicine.
“Mom! Mother? I beg you, wake up!” I called my mother who passed out on the line while calling. I was silent for three minutes, feeling paralyzed and looking helplessly at my mother. I thought this was the end for her. Later I spoke to my brother. “She has had this much more often since you had to flee.” She went to see a doctor in Aleppo a while ago. She told her that she is not the only one with these kinds of complaints. “All my patients have psychological problems after nine years of war. People have lost their homes, lost relatives or no longer see their children because they had to flee.”
The war in Syria not only cost many bodies, but also left horrific traces in the hearts and minds of the Syrians. Children, women and men have seen parts of the body and blood lying on the roads, their neighborhood being bombed. It has not resulted in blood and death alone, but in psychoses and depression among civilians.
“Your mother probably has a post-traumatic stress disorder,” said a Dutch doctor I know. A psychiatric problem is no longer something to be ashamed of in Syria, as it was before the war. Everyone is bothered by it now. Nevertheless, there are no good doctors in Syria for people with psychiatric problems. In recent years I have been able to offer good help to my mother from the Netherlands. I saved as much money as possible for her. When they no longer had a home, they could rent a new home. When food became very expensive in recent years, she could still buy it because I had provided her.
But now? I can’t sleep because I don’t see a solution. In the darkest hour of the night I see myself studying medicine, so that I can send my mother medicines from the Netherlands. I feel desperate.