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Is there no solution to this Syrian Stockholm Syndrome?

Is there no solution to this Syrian Stockholm Syndrome?

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Opinion Homeless Diversity Arab Migrants

Wednesday 13 September 202312:18 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

كم كانت سوريا جميلة، يا الله كم كانت جميلة


I know every inch of Damascus by heart, to the extent that as soon as I come across a picture of the city while browsing Facebook, I can pinpoint the location with precision, even if the photo reveals only a detail or an angle of a street that doesn't unveil the entire scenery. Instantly, my memory teleports me to that very place, summoning situations, people and details that have crossed my path over the years of my life. People with whom I shared a moment in time, only to part ways, either through death or departure, sometimes both. It's painful for your memory to be so filled with absences, isn't it?

My relationship with Damascus may seem strange, for my feelings toward it oscillate between profound love and extreme hatred. I have traveled extensively in past years, and I always come back to it with a sense of longing, missing the sense of ease that envelops me there. Yes, a sense of ease despite the shelling, bombings, explosions, death, loss, power outages, relentless Israeli airstrikes, and even an earthquake. I felt that I had to be here, with Damascus. How could I leave it to experience all this pain alone?

In my travel bag, alongside my belongings, I would always tuck away a small glass jar, resembling a spice jar, carefully cushioned between my clothes to prevent it from breaking. Inside, it holds a memory bank filled with images and scents. In it, I store my daily nightmares, which I would spread across all the bed sheets I've slept in so I wouldn't feel like a stranger. I would often exceed the weight limit at airports during security inspections that prohibit the carrying of undeclared heavy memories that could pose a danger to other travelers.

But I was always flustered by the questions that confronted me upon returning from each trip: "Why did you come back when you can leave this prison? Why didn't you stay there?"

This is how I come back every time, but to a country that doesn't love me, only waiting for my return to collect the 100$ return tax. If our countries don't love us, who will? Who'll give us that sense of ease that makes us feel like we can be ourselves as Syrians?

I don't even know exactly why, maybe because I'm afraid of another separation? Or maybe because I'm terrified of the pain of cutting my roots? And maybe I'm too cowardly to build a new memory in a place that doesn't resemble me? Or because I can't erase my memory, and I fully realize that it will prevent me from living peacefully in the new place?

I always think about what "homeland" means, and I invent new concepts for it every time, concepts tailored to me, not as we were taught in school and we remained deluded by for years. It's neither defined by the land, nor geography, or even the language or the house.

Oh, how beautiful Syria was..

I recently added to my long list of ‘homeland’ definitions a new description; that it's defined through people we love and yearn to go back home to. But how many of these people have remained "here", I mean in this virtual or hypothetical homeland? I communicate with most of my friends when I'm "here" on WhatsApp. My phone's memory is crowded with Dutch, German, Emirati, and Lebanese numbers. As for Syrian numbers, they are very few and exclusive to those I need to stay connected to in order to continue living as normally as possible: ‘Abu Abdo gas’, ‘Abu Ehab healthcare’, ‘Abu Yasser electricity’, ‘Abu Hadi inverter' and others, all gathered under the letter "A" at the top of my contact list. By the way, I also have the number of 'Abu Haydar Al-Khatib branch' (a well-known shawarma restaurant in Syria). I kept it so that I don't answer in case he calls.

It's been years since I've seen Damascus from high above. I look down at the dry land and desert terrain beneath me, and I find it strangely beautiful. Maybe it's mere melancholy. Maybe it just longs for rain and the love it kept waiting for until it withered

But, if the rest of those we love are gone, what will remain of this homeland?

So, is it that place we feel safe in? Maybe, or maybe not.. depending on our definition of the safety and security we need. Even when I travel, I don't feel safe, not to mention the anxiety that hits me because I've left my heart back "there".

What's the solution then, for all this longing, yearning, and conflicting emotions? Could it be that there's no solution to this Syrian Stockholm Syndrome?

It's been years since I've seen Damascus from high up in the air. It was a strange feeling, even though I had been traveling through Beirut Airport for years, not as a habit, or by choice, but a reality forced upon Syrians who were able to travel during the years of turmoil. I look down with awe at the dry land beneath me and desert terrain, and despite that, I find it beautiful and very strange at the same time. Perhaps it's more melancholic than necessary, and maybe it longs for water, rain, and the love it kept waiting for until it withered.

I used to be happy as a little child knowing that there was someone waiting for me at the airport, anxiously looking around to find me among the travelers. Unlike the feeling I get at Beirut Airport, where no one is waiting for me except a driver standing alone holding a sign with my name on it.

It's nice to return to a place where someone is awaiting your return.

By the way, Beirut looks much more beautiful from the air than Damascus. It lies in all its splendor by the beach, with its informal settlements and luxurious buildings. I can't help but compare the two cities and feel sad for them, and I even become melancholic when I breathe their air.

In my travels, I met many Syrians who left their hearts here, yearning and longing. Their nightmares are folded in the suitcases they carry, spread out every night like sheets scented with the fragrance of Syria in its glory and devastation, and they sleep..

My relationship with other cities and the countries I have visited forced me to discover myself more, explore my feelings, and make comparisons. Will I be able to live there, for example? Then what ties me to a country that no longer loves me, just like a loved one who you once trusted, but abandoned you at the most critical time when you needed them, making you feel like you're suspended on a cloud driven by the wind, disconnected from the ground and stability you once knew?

So, why do I torture myself by getting attached to a country that doesn't do the same for me? Is it time to sever this fragile thread? But my hands are not helping me, and I feel foolish that I keep giving it a second, third, and fourth chance. I just hold the scissors in my hand until they rust, neither cutting nor making a decision.

In the countries I have traveled to, I met many Syrians. They all left their hearts "here", yearning and longing. Their nightmares are folded in the suitcases they came with. They spread them out every night like bed sheets scented with the fragrance of Syria in all its glory and devastation, and they sleep.

I'm not alone. Many are like me, seeking stability we can never find. We all carry Syria inside us, sheltering it in our hearts and closing our ribs around it, even if it hurts. It pains me that this homeland devoured our memories and bombarded the way back home

I feel a little relieved knowing that I'm not alone, that there are many like me, seeking stability and security that we can't find anywhere we go. We all carry Syria inside us, sheltering it in our hearts and closing our ribs around it, even if it hurts us. It pains me that this homeland has closed its doors before us and betrayed us, devouring our memories in its hunger, and bombarding the way back home.

Oh, how beautiful Syria was..

This is how I come back every time, but to a country that doesn't love me, and only waits for my return to collect my hundred-dollar return tax. If our countries don't love us, who will? Who will provide us with that sense of security that makes us feel like we own the whole world, and where we can be our true selves as Syrians?



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