Since 2011 Syria has been engulfed in a civil war. News programs covering the war have depicted images of buildings turned to rubble and lives torn to shreds. Television screens across the world have shown the bombings of cities and the burning of towns. Most have seen the struggle and the violence from the perspective of onlookers, but not from the perspective of those personally affected.
The following text is an interview with two individuals who both call Syria home. For their safety and the safety of their families, the names of the two individuals have been expunged, but their responses are their words, and their words are their story.
What do you remember about Syria before the war?
Individual A: I remember pure joy. Every time you would step outside you would see the friendliest people. I remember the smell of jasmine so vividly; the atmosphere was so calm. I would have never guessed that what felt like the happiest place in the world would turn into what it is today.
Individual B: The details that made Syria my home have been imprinted in my mind ever since the day I left. The narrow streets, the scent of the jasmine flowers at every corner, and the lights of the city on top of Qasion Mountain have all become part of me. To me, it is not about remembering. How can I remember something I had never forgotten in the first place?
When did you leave Syria and why?
Individual A: I lived there for several years, the last time I was there was 2009. My father's job required my family to move around the world, which is why we had to leave. If it weren't for his job we would probably still be living in Syria.
Individual B: I was born and raised in Syria. In 2012, my parents and I had to leave for our safety. The Syrian Regime's violence had escalated and we had to leave everything behind.
What can you remember about the first time you heard about the war?
Individual A: I will never forget this day: March 2011. I remember I was sitting on my knees, and we had a substitute teacher in school that day. He spent the last few minutes of class discussing world events, and he concluded with, "And now there's some trouble stirring up in Syria." I turned to my friend and was like, "What did he say? That's my home."
Individual B: One day after school, my parents told me that they were shopping in Souq Al Hamidieh when people began chanting for freedom. I couldn't believe the Syrian people had decided to protest a regime that has stolen people's simplest human rights. I felt like it was a rebirth for my country. Truly, an Arab spring.
What is it like when you hear about Syria on the news today?
Individual A: It honestly doesn't feel real. I know that Syria is not the same today as I remember it, I just can't wrap my mind around how what felt like the safest place on Earth turned into the biggest humanitarian crisis.
Individual B: A bittersweet feeling runs within my bones. Syria has been and will always be my home, and seeing my own people suffer and my home getting destroyed is a pain that will never fade.
What does the word "refugee" mean to you?
Individual A: Human. They are just looking for peace, and most of the time people treat them like aliens as if they haven't already gone through enough hell to reach this point.
Individual B: To me, the word refugee means bravery and determination. Every day they continue striving to achieve their goals despite the pain they endured.
What do you hope for the future of Syria?
Individual A: I hope peace, the smell of jasmines, and the sound of laughter will return. Just like how I remember it.
Individual B: I hope for a country where everyone will be able to speak out, and where no one is afraid of oppression. A country in which freedom will flourish.