“When I arrived in Jordan I felt I died every day twice. I wish I died just once in Syria”
In the Arab world it all starts with a tea. With the tea you share experiences, laughter, smiles. At first, the contact with the Arab people can be somehow distant, sometimes tense, but after five minutes you feel like if you were at home. The tea is always the best way to interact with the Arabs.
I met Mostafa sharing a tea in late November 2013. We started with a short talk about my plans for the trip, the family (one of the first and main issues that starts any conversation with an Arab person), the city where I live, etc. It was my first night in Madaba, a Jordan Christian town 30 kilometers away from Amman. I thought that Mostafa was Jordanian, due to the simple fact that he was in Jordan and spoke Arabic. I do not know at what point of the conversation we crossed the line of being complete strangers to each other to share emotions, bitterness, and, at the same time, laughing. That’s the most fascinating thing of this wonderful culture, smiling is the last thing you lose, it lasts almost forever.
I wonder when it all began, because I do not remember what we were talking about when he started to talk about his current situation. It was like a carousel, he could not stop talking, to express his frustration, anger, fear, insecurities, sadness, boredom, uncertainty. Mostafa is a Syrian refugee, working in squalid conditions in Jordan because he has no passport and no choice but to accept whatever leads him to survival. His only purpose is to send his small savings to his family, besieged in Aleppo.
War destroys everything. It destroys lives and hopes. His father and his cousin were killed, and his best friend was shot in the leg. Mostafa pulled his friend from the battlefield and they were transferred directly to a refugee camp. There they shared all the indignities and humiliations, hunger, fear, and, above all, the unbearable uncertainty of not knowing where and how their beloved ones were, if they were still alive. Mostafa accompanied his friend even to the bathroom, because he was absolutely dependent on someone due to his injured leg. Lost in his vivid memories, Mostafa explains what his friend told him in such circumstances: ” Not even my brother would do this for me.”
Despite the conditions under which he lived in the refugee camp, arriving in Jordan increased his frustration and misery, rather than decrease it. “When I came to Jordan I felt I died every day twice. I wish I died just once in Syria”, he says, sadly. When he studied English literature at Damascus University he was called to join the Syrian army. He did not share the military ideals, so he refused to join them. Since that moment, he was relegated to the status of refugee. They took his passport and he lost its identity and contact with their family. The last time he contacted his mother was six months ago, because she has no way to communicate with him in Aleppo.
Surviving day by day as he did not die that day in Syria.
I asked him which were his future plans and his response was blunt: “Survive”. Surviving day by day as he did not die that day in Syria. Some tears appeared on his eyes, and I started to cry with him as well. And then he smiled, saying how ridiculous is in their culture that a man cries. It’s 1am in the morning and I have to go to bed. He asks me for a hug and I give it to him, accompanied with a ” layla sayda”, the words that still shout like an echo in my consciousness.