Syrian Diaspora - 2011 to Present. They Never Asked for This.

                 Syrian refugees in Bute, Scotland.  Image source: Express UK

The pervasive proxy war against Syria hasn't only destroyed the country but has also facilitated an atmosphere of depressive isolation for many Syrians forced to leave home. 

On December 2015, fifteen young displaced Syrian families  were dumped (as refugees) in the secluded, lonesome and dismal Scottish island of Bute which has a population of 7,000 elderly traditional Scottish seniors from 75 and 95.  Most of these old retirees don't know a thing about the Syrian war.  They admit viewing the arrival of Syrian refugees in Bute as "them and us."  For the refugees, the glaring contrast from the vibrant and cheerful pre-war Syria couldn't be more heartbreaking!    Job opportunities are zero in a place like Bute.  There is no one to teach them English.  Apart from the emotional trauma and utter boredom, it's a colossal waste of talent for the young families. Quoting a 42-year-old Syrian and father of four, “I feel like I have one option now, to die here.  Only die here, nothing else.” The scenario isn't too different from the concept of punishments in middle ages by imperialist powers when they exiled dissidents to remote, uninhabited little islands like St. Helena, Devil's Island, Robinson Crusoe Island and more.

                 Syrian refugee family in Canada:  Image & story Yahoo News Canada.

A Syrian refugee family - parents and five children - living in a townhouse in the Canadian city of Langley, province of British Columbia, have their own woes.  Around the fall of 2016 there was a small fire in their kitchen above the cooker.  For safety purposes, renovation workers had to remove part of the ceiling, the drywall, laminated floor and the kitchen sink.  Apart from the inconvenience, that made the house frigid in sub zero December temperatures.  The family couldn't afford to move to a new house without government assistance.  It took a little while for Immigration Settlement Services to receive approval from the Federal government to find a new accommodation for them.  According to the family, Syria is cold too.  But in Syria they were ready to handle unexpected situations for they had the resources.  As refugees away from home, they don't.

So much of their lives is now just a bundle of memories.  The fragrance and flavor of Syrian cuisine .. the thick lentil soup and kanafah sprinkled with pistachios;  those traditional Syrian restaurants with waiters carrying large plates of shawarma and fried falafel;  the togetherness of Syrians and Palestinians during the month of Ramadan ... the traditional sahoor Ramadan drummers (the musaharatis) going around neighborhoods with their drums and songs.  After tarawih prayers, friends would meet in the evenings, chat, tell stories, sing, sip coffee .. and those traditional Ramadan sweets of Damascus!   All Syrians miss Ramadan in Old Damascus.  "Nothing compares to it" is the commonest comment.  In their cell phones, many of them carry Youtube clips of the adhan sounding from the minaret of the Ommayad Mosque in Old Damascus.  It takes them on a short free ride down the memory lane and back home; but only for a while until the rude awakenings start pouring into their difficult lives again.   Most elderly Syrians, despite the emotional trauma of foreign invasion and loss of their homes, were reluctant to leave.  In many cases their adult children literally had to grab their passports and bring them to the airport. 

This once incredibly happy and financially secure community is now scattered in groups of war-exiles in different continents with faltering economies, job shortages, debts, mortgages and impersonal neighbors. They are dispersed everywhere –  Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Scotland etc.  It's a  tragic Syrian diaspora forced upon them.  One thing that follows ever Syrian refugee - old and young - like a shadow is homesickness. 

Slight Relief in Algeria:

The only place the Syrian exiles are comparatively happier is Algeria.  There are approximately 40,000 Syrians  living in Algeria at present, escaping the foreign invasion that has ravaged their beautiful homeland.  Fortunately, Algeria doesn't force Syrian refugees to live in camps like Jordan and Lebanon.  And unlike  Turkey, Syrians in Algeria don't need to fear the wealthy Saudi and Emirati predators hovering around  refugee settlements looking for young girls as war brides.   There's no racial discrimination, imprisonments nor derogatory treatment as in Europe.  Syrian children can attend school in Algeria and families are free to set up their own businesses.  There are a couple of problems however.  Algeria offers healthcare only for refugee children under age six.  Unlike Syria, there's no free healthcare for all.  Algerian government also does not allow refugees without documents to look for jobs nor to purchase property, compelling many to work illegally.  Most displaced Syrian families in Algeria have opened  traditional restaurants serving Syrian food that are doing fairly well.  Along the historical winding alleys of the kasbah of Algiers with its brick steps, it isn't unusual any longer to see Syrian sweet marts with comfortable sunken couches, Syrian decor, images of the Aleppo Citadel and shelves stocked with traditional Syrian desserts.  They can afford to rent houses or apartments. But it isn't the same as Syria for any of them.

                                                             Youtube Clip

                          Algiers kasbah neighborhood.  Image: Skyscrapper City.

Quoting an excerpt from Beirut's MashAllah News on Syrian refugees in Algeria:
Nour Derdar, carries a tray with lentil soup and hummus out to a table, then returns with empty plates piled on top of each other. She arrived in Algeria in 2015, not long before they began imposing visas, and lives with her mother and three kids in a house in Baba Hassan (a neighborhood in Algeria).  “Our situation is good, if I compare to Syrians elsewhere. There are no camps here, we can live better. My kids are in school. It’s taken a while to get used to the Algerian system, but they are doing alright,” she says.  Still, there is something sad in her eyes when she speaks. She left behind a life, a community, everything, only to start something new at a place she didn’t know. Baba Hassan, a suburb with long-standing ties to Syria, has many Syrian families who have lived here for generations. There are Syrian spice shops and date sellers, and small importers of clothes and fabric. But the story of Derdar and the other newcomers is entirely different: their migration was involuntary, pushed by force. And, for now, there is no going back.  “Most of all, I miss the hawa, the atmosphere of Syria,” says Abdallah at Bawabat Istanbul (a Syrian restaurant with branches in Algiers and Istanbul).  “There is nothing like it, even though there is generosity and great feelings towards Syrians here (Algeria).”

There's an old historical connection between Syria and Algeria that goes nearly 200 years in the past when Algerian freedom fighter and national hero, Emir Abdelkader,  led a struggle against the invasion of French colonialists resisting the French colonization of Algeria.  He eventually found refuge in Damascus after years of imprisonment in France.  The Emir loved Damascus and died in Damascus.  Many Algerians presently view the Syrian struggle against the foreign terrorist invasion financed by Western governments similar to what their ancestors faced in the mid-1800s. 


It's ironic to watch and read the frowns across Europe against the "wave of Syrian refugees."  These refugees are far more unhappy than their sulking hosts.  They do not enjoy living on charity abroad.  Pre-war Syria already had a fantastic welfare system - free education, free healthcare, interest-free loans, various family allowances and more.   They are homesick, separated from families and close friends, they feel lost culturally and they are struggling to learn foreign languages.  It's anything but any ideal situation.  They are not interested in the generosity of Western governments to let them in.  They do not want to be indebted to those granting them 'favors' who were squarely responsible for the catastrophe that created the problem of displacement.

"They (the Syrian people) don't need your support in your country; they need your support in our country (Syria).  They (western countries) need to stop supporting terrorists." - President Bashar al-Assad (interview with TG5, Italian channel, December 30th 2016).