October 29 2012

The dream of a peaceful Syria

How Syrian families try to survive - By Carole Alfarah

People in Syria are losing their jobs, their homes, their hope. Many did not live a life in wealth, but they were able to live a life in peace despite being poor. Now this is gone. What remains for many is the traditional strength of their family ties. Four families, who are being helped by SOS Children's Villages, tell how radically the war has changed their lives and views. Their stories were written down and documented in pictures by Syrian photographer Carole Alfarah.

It has been one year and eight months since the start of the uprising in Syria, an uprising that has developed quickly and dangerously to take the form of an armed conflict. Many of the victims of the conflict are innocent Syrian families and individuals who belong to social classes between lower-middle class and poor.

The severity of this conflict can be seen in the violent clashes between the armed opposition and the Syrian regular army taking place in almost every small town in the Damascus countryside as well as in the Syrian capital. These different places have a common characteristic: a poor environment. Regardless of the current situation, people in these areas are in real need of material support and social awareness by the Syrian government, non-governmental organisations and community groups.

The persistence and the increase in day-to-day violence have caused deterioration in the economic conditions of the average Syrian citizen. All sense of security and stability has been lost. Men are unable to provide for their families, women live in daily fear, and a generation of children has lost its childhood.

The Syrian people are reserved by nature and do not like sharing their fears and experiences with anyone, but we found four brave families willing to speak with us.




Photo: Carole Alfarah
Rahaf and her mother Alya © Carole Alfarah
The dream of a peaceful Syria

Alya (48) is married to Attiah (75). Together they have four children: Rahaf (19), Marwa (18), Mohamed (15) and Safa (12). The eldest daughter Rahaf tells about her experience during the past months:
"Two years ago I was in the 11th grade. One day we were watching TV and I saw an ad about SOS Children's Villages in Syria and the family strengthening programme. I wrote down the number and called the association's office the next day. I explained the situation of my family. My father is disabled and my mom can't work; however, I wanted to continue my studies. Since meeting the people from SOS Children's Villages, they have become like a big family for me, partly thanks to their financial support but also because of the invaluable moral support they provided to me and my family. I was able to continue my studies and to succeed in the baccalaureate with a GPA [Grade Point Average; editor] of 80%. I am studying computer engineering at the University of Aleppo.

To be honest, computer engineering was never my dream. I wanted to be a pharmacist and I didn't want to live away from my family and leave them in Damascus to study in Aleppo. But despite all obstacles, higher education is an essential part in my life and a goal for big aspirations. I am the elder sister and I want to make it in life so I can get a decent job in the near future to support my family. Being far from my family, my first year at the University of Aleppo was very tough. I was responsible for following up on the studies of my sisters and my brother, but my biggest fear was because of the situation in Syria and the lack of security. Because of the unrest in Aleppo, I had to come back to Damascus. But right after my return, the situation in our neighbourhood in Damascus deteriorated such that life became miserable, so we had to flee to another area. This never ending conflict and the violence between the armed opposition and the regular Syrian army in Damascus means we have been unable to return since that day.

Today we live in our relatives' house, almost 40 people in one house, mainly women and children. Recently a shell from an unknown source landed in a street close to ours and killed 20 people. My dreams have changed now, and today I dream of going back home with my family and having our life back, a peaceful and safe Syria. We don't know what will come, and I am not sure if my siblings will go to school this year, but I have decided to go back to Aleppo for the summer exams. I am ready to risk my life to achieve my dreams."