“Arabs are the less to care for, sooner or later they will kill each other, have you heard that saying?” he asks. G is a 33 year old Syrian living and working in South Africa since 2008. He left Damascus, his “old city” as he fondly refers to it and went to Dubai “to make a better life”.
He explains how Hitler said that and laughs, not happily, at how it’s being lived today, all over the Muslim world. The irony is that one of the earliest founders of Syria’s long reining Ba’ath Party admitted his admiration for Nazism and its influence on the socialist Ba’athist ideology.
G is a Syrian Sunni Muslim who served in Assad’s army for three years but left after becoming disappointed with how unglamorous it was. He was young he says and the weapons and cars were not of the kind you’d find in the army today. But back then Russia and Iran – long loyal friends of Syria – were not equipping Assad’s army with the military backing it needed as it does today.
Bashar al Assad, Syria’s current president is an Alawite, a sect of Shi’ism which forms a small part of the minority in Syria. Sunnis make up over 80% of the population.
G describes life in Syria as being high risk, tough and always under pressure. “The only people enjoying life are the rich people, the trader people, the people connected directly to the government, so there’s a lot of corruption in Syria. But we are as Syrian people similar to Egyptian people. We find this little space and this hope that things will change.”
“What’s happening in Syria is not about Sunni and Shia,” says G. “If I say something I reflect my personal opinion and others might see things from a different side and have a different judgement. My opinion is it’s not about Sunni or Shia.”
He believes the Sunnis are the first target and describes what’s happening in Syria as something similar to what Hitler did to the Jews. “Those people they are not worried about any one, like Hitler, they want no one else besides them as they are the minority. So the Alawis are like Nazis. They are too racist. Even as people on the streets, our accent is different from each other. And if you have their accent everything moves faster for them.”
Which is why Sunni soldiers in Assad’s army speak with an Alawite accent, explains a Syrian Sufi sheikh who is currently applying for refugee status in South Africa. He arrived in the country in July and his wife and kids not long after. Both the sheikh and G agree that Islam is non-existent among the government.
G’s brother escaped to South Africa three months ago. It cost him 800 dollars to get his brother a visa to travel to SA. But unlike the sheikh they refuse to apply for refugee status.
“Syrian people have a very great history. We are the first civilisation on that side of Shaam… The rules for a refugee make your life tighter. There’s bad treatment of refugees in the neighbouring Arab countries. We call them our people but they are not ours. They’re chasing people away from Jordan. If you are a refugee you don’t have value, you’re nothing.”
G needs to make 10 000 dollars to bring his mother, who wants to die in her home, and the rest of his family to SA. His brother is here to help him work and raise the money. He admits it won’t be easy “maybe we’ll struggle for a little bit but we are going to move, we have skills, we’re educated, so it’s easier for us to do things.”
Both brothers speak to their family but keep conversations short. His brother relayed stories of the terror that he escaped. Horrible stories of his cousin who found people in his apartment building massacred and his neighbour, his wife and five kids killed, their heads cut off.
G can link his family lineage to one of the oldest families in Damascus but says that doesn’t matter. It’s not about which family you come from. “They treat us like we are stupid or crazy like we don’t exist. Maybe we are flies or mosquitoes in their mind.”
Syria he describes is like a ball and instead of helping all the big super powers, like the US, hands are on it throwing it around or holding on to it depending on how it benefits them.
“I need to be optimistic but unfortunately all the indicators say maybe after 150 years we can enjoy Syria. Unless a miracle happens.”
G says right now the only thing that drives him is saving his family. Trying to build his import and export business that took a dive once the uprising started.
“Syria, don’t forget is like Egypt. There are still people who are truly Muslims. Maybe few from what I see but still there is strong Islam in Damascus and that will help the people. It’s like Sayyidina Muhammad SAW said with his tongue, Allah bless Shaam and Yemen.”
Sakeena Suliman – Cii News | 01 Dhul Qadah 1434/06 September 2013