- What do you picture when you think of Syria?
This question was posed to us by Ahmad, a Syrian man living in Darmstadt we’d met and had dinner with a few nights ago. He’d asked because he was curious how much Americans truly know about his home country, especially since he himself had heard so much misinformation about it. It was said that some were even surprised to learn that people in Syria had smart phones, likely assuming that the country was some sort of primitive wasteland.
So, what do you see?
If you type “Syria” in on Google today, all you will see is pages and pages of photos of war-torn cities, decimated buildings, explosions, and general destruction. We see images like these so often that it’s hard to imagine that Syria ever looked any different, yet only seven years ago it was being regarded as a beautiful vacation destination by American travel writers.
Just today we met with a woman named Christina Janßen, a German teacher that works with refugees that spent four weeks in Syria in 2005.
Christina spoke only positively about her trip, stating that she did not have a single unpleasant experience while she was there. She spoke about how friendly every person she encountered was, a fact that we can all attest to after meeting and forming friendships with so many different Syrian people during these last few weeks.
Syria did not appear on many people’s maps until we began to hear about the atrocities happening there on the news, but it’s important to remember that people had lives there before the war. We’ve met so many smart, interesting, well-educated people during our time here that were simply forced to leave everything behind and start fresh in a foreign country because it was no longer safe for them to live in their homes.
No one plans to be uprooted in the way that the Syrian people have been. All of them had plans for the future; they were in college, they had careers, they had families, and they had dreams. They are no different from you or me. They are human.
When you think of Syria, think of the people that call it home.