Generation Centraide



I used to teach English in a private primary school in Aleppo, in Syria. Our school was entirely destroyed. I worked there for five years, and made a very tight group of friends. We were all teachers, twelve of us, and at the end of each year, we’d go have diner in the Ancient City of Aleppo, always in the same restaurant. That’s the last time we were all together, and now we’re scattered all over the world. I always come back to these memories; the dream is to one day be reunited, the twelve of us, in Aleppo.

We Syrians became a phenomenon. Before us, it was the Iraqis, now it’s the Haitians. We’re put in a frame, and we see everyone talking about us in the news. We’re not human beings anymore, we’ve become numbers, statistics. We’re like a commodity, something to take, to give, to sell. In the news, it’s about who’s going to find the story of the year, how many times the video will be viewed, who’s going to get the scoop. It’s important to listen to people, to hear their stories, but when we talk about refugees, we always see the same images, it doesn’t represent all of Syria. Many Syrians don’t feel seen, represented. And now we’re not talking about it anymore because things are cooling down a bit. But the struggle continues for people in Syria, except no one listens anymore.

This morning again, I was walking on Décarie to get to work, and as I watched the buildings it hit me: ‘I’m walking in Montreal, in Canada, where I live now.’ It’s as if it hasn’t clicked yet. Even though I got here in 2016, and got engaged here, with a Canadian. It’s crazy: my children are going to be Canadian. It feels weird. It feels very weird. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to wake up and it will all have been a dream. And the hardest part, it’s the questions your shouldn’t ask yourself, but that you do. I’ve always wanted to travel, to live abroad; and I come here, I meet someone, my family’s with me,… Sometimes I wonder, if I could go back in time, make it so the war never happened… I’d have to give up everything I have now; would I do it or not? I now many people who lost their lives, I saw my city fall to the ground. And me, I got everything I’d always dreamed of. But at what cost?

Portrait taken at CARI Saint-Laurent, a Centraide supported agency, by Portraits de/of Montréal as part of Génération Centraide’s “52 portraits. 52 realities” series. The interview originally took place in French.