A voice of a voiceless

An internal monologue for a refugee, a simple woman who faces discrimination, hatred, and cruelty of humans everywhere…

In this part of this city, in these 200 m2 specifically, you stand in a miniature of Syria. You move around and you can easily hear Syria in different ways and accents, smell it from the carriages of street hawkers selling beans or Sahlep, even taste it; taste the poor part of it… even the dust in the street tries to resemble that in the streets of old destroyed cities.

Wherever you look you will see women in black, Brown, or whatever dark colors they find. Yes this is who we are; we are scared of colors, we feel exposed, Black helps us disguise and keeps us as invisible as we have always been.

It is very noisy in here but I can get myself out of this noise whenever I want. I learnt this technique when I was a child; every time my father would shout or beat my mom I would sit in the corner and sing in my head a song I used to hear from those children who went to school. The song says “those chicks! How cute they are! They are turning around their mom” so that I don’t hear my mom cry, and in times like this I do the same thing but with different songs, I don’t hear any of these women complaining about waiting for several days or since the early morning, I can only hear the song in my head and think of my own problems. I have enough of them!

I hear other women saying that you have to know how to write your name in order to get your assistance. I wish my father (RIP) hears this, he always thought he was protecting us by not sending us to school. He thought I will be more useful in my husband’s house; if only he sees the look on people’s faces when I say I am forty and I don’t know how to write my name! They look at me as if I was a savage coming from some forest. I don’t have the urge to change that look they have. I can’t read or write, I wasn’t sent to school, it is not my fault but then it is my father’s my village’s my people’s fault. What change does this make! In their mind it is either I am a savage or my people are! I don’t care as long as I will find a way to convince them that whatever I write is my name, I would cry, I would beg, I would even act dead, I will not go back home empty handed.

Oh look at my toes, they look funny. I had to take off my socks because we didn’t expect it to rain while waiting. They were wet, they made me cold. I put this nail polish four weeks ago when Ahmad (my little son) slept for thirty minutes during the day. I thought of impressing my husband but he didn’t even notice. Every day when he gets back from his work in construction I feel that another part of him is dying. I hope that seeing his five children growing up creates a strong motivation for him to go on… I can’t help the idea of being alone, I was never allowed to depend on myself, it is even weird that this assistance was sent under my name! I don’t understand why they would give it to the woman while there is a man in the house… they are usually in charge of everything outside the house.

Again I wish my father was alive to see where we are now and see how different life would be if I was sent to school or learnt to do anything to make a living. Will I repeat the same mistake with my daughters? I will try not to!! Probably to a level…  For different reasons; because we are refugees, because we are poor because I can’t afford food on the table. Maybe it is our destiny to be the invisible.

The security guards are annoyed of this number of people; maybe five hundred people are waiting. They count us and give us numbers, perhaps they don’t know that each one of has a story, a life, maybe a love, and a home that were left behind … this is not something we have chosen…

Enough! I have a headache… I need to stop thinking and go back to the song in my head… to the silence there… to being someone in the crowd, someone insignificant, meanwhile I will only imagine the smile on my children’s faces when I come home full handed, this will keep my knees stronger, to stand for the next eight hours.

refugees

 

 

A little man

Is the world a good place to stay in?

I’d say Yes without hesitation, I don’t know how it works but I try to see the potentials in every situation I see. I don’t know why I was born in an educated family which believes in women rights and why other people were not. I do not understand its logic but it is our job to spread the word and change the world somehow.

Today I was with a friend in a business trip in a remote city, where there are few Syrian refugees. We were having tea after a long day in a café when he saw a boy he knew when he worked in a camp. The boy rushed to him and hugged him, he was very happy to see him. “Why don’t you come anymore!” he said “I missed you very much”. He was speaking in a very fluent Turkish with the local accent, if you hear him you would think he came from a village nearby. We invited the boy to our table to have tea with us, he was glad to join.

His name is Raafat, and he is 13. He looks like a little man and he acts like a little man as well. He was proud to tell me that he helped my friend in being his Arabic Turkish translator in the camp. He learned Turkish on his own God knows how! the waiter came and gave him a glass of tea, he added one small spoon of sugar, and explained to me that sugar is not good for health so he is trying to reduce his consumption

He told me he has two sisters who are older than he is and one brother who is taller than he is but he does not know who is older. And he is working in a car wash place to be “independent”, he earns 8$ a day which is “great”.

“And what about your school?” I asked

“I don’t want to go anymore; they beat me at school because I don’t know how to read. The teacher once shouted at me and hit me so I stood and looked in his eyes and said: no body shouts at me! Not even my father! Then I left school. I actually lied to him because my dad also beats me, like every day! Sometimes I don’t understand why, so I decided to get off his face and leave the camp so I can work and support my mom and sisters. At least now I am a king!”

“Why don’t you wash your car it is dirty?” he asked

“We don’t have enough money,” I said smiling

“I will wash it for you for free,” he offered with a very proud look. I smiled

He is a boy who loves to talk in a very hyperactive way.

“And what do you do with the money you earn?” my friend asked.

“I am trying to collect a lot of money, maybe 3000 liras (1000$) so I can get married!”

“OH REALLY!” we were both surprised and we laughed at his dream, he is just a child and he is not supposed to be thinking of this now!

“I will marry a girl I know but she is older than me, this will take me maybe two or three years or who knows how long to collect enough money. I was in love with a girl at my school but I was not able to offer her a house so we get married, someone else was. They married her off to that man, but men marry and divorce too many times, some of them even marry two or three women at the same time, but I believe that man should marry only one woman” Raafat said.

I was speechless with the issues this boy is discussing! It showed on my face.

“Aren’t you too young to talk about marriage?” I asked him.

He was too proud to admit that, so he gave me that funny big fat lie “I was older in Syria, but here I am young” I didn’t understand what is this supposed to mean.

Some boys are meant to be men too early. He was speaking openly like these are normal things in life and then suddenly smiled and said like a wise old man “hayat cok zor ya” which means “life is too hard”

The three of us burst laughing! Ironic.

I go back to my first question; is the world a good place to stay in?

I would still say yes it is.

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Raafat

Last Seen: 26/9/2012, 8:28 am – by Levantine

This is a post I wrote two years ago…
for the memory of Maya. It is 26 – Sep – 2016
September is still my favorite month, and its rain is still my ultimate joy.
unlike what I thought before; I am still alive, I can enjoy the small things in my life and I can breath from the bottom of my lungs.
We are stronger than we think we are…

The Seeker's Dungeon

Today I am honored to bring you a guest post from the courageous Batool Zalkha, also known as Levantine.  She runs the blog Levant Woman, a sincerely touching site written in the midst of war torn Syria.

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in a parallel universe

Lately, I have watched so many videos about the Syrian crisis..

Seriously that was just five years but I feel it has taken forever. I don’t remember how my life was like before war started.  I don’t remember who my friends were or how I went so easily to university.

In a 60 second film for Unicef they say

Five years is enough time to build a family

Five years is enough time to build a career

Five years is enough time to graduate from university

I wonder how my life would be like in a parallel universe where there is no war in Syria, maybe I would have been married and I would have a kid, or maybe I would have had my own design studio working in the domain I love the most. In a parallel universe I wouldn’t meet the people I know now, and I wouldn’t live where I live now.

In a parallel universe, I want to be who I am now but without the pain and loss I suffered. I want to know the people I know, but I also don’t want to lose the people I lost.

In a parallel universe I want to have this small of my own I have now, and I want to be able to cry openly  when I listen to a touching song, or when an emotional thing happen to me. I want to visit new places and meet nice people. I don’t want to waste years of my life waiting for something good to happen watching my life fall apart not able to do anything about it. I want to be a successful person.

In that parallel universe there are million possibilities for who I would be and what I would be doing. I always wanted to leave Syria even before the war, I thought I could be more free anywhere but home, and I always wanted to disappear somewhere in this world and cut all my roots, but what really happens when we have the opportunity to do that! We don’t do it, or at least I myself don’t do it.

If I can create a series of one day of my life in a parallel universe, I don’t know if I would choose to live this or not. it is hard to imagine how much you can bear until you live it.

I can’t focus on one idea related to the possibilities, because this takes me between my past and my present back and forth like the needle of a sewing machine. I feel now we are two separated people, I can’t relate to that girl.

The problem is, after five years people in my country still care who was wrong and who was right. I wish I can scream like a thunder and let them all remember it is their life they are losing. I wish I can remind them that our lives are more precious.

I was watching a great short film you must see as well, it made me think of parallel universes and me.

 

Can’t we be who we are without the pain?

I would love to answer this as yes, but that is not right.

 

happy past year? doesn’t matter now. happy new year!!!

I have always wrote from Syria and always wanted people to read my posts because they were honest thoughts from someone who is in Syria, someone who no one actually cared about what she is thinking or what she is suffering… now, I am not in Syria. I ran away from that place that made me suffer a lot. The place that made me lose some precious years without even noticing. But just this morning I was thinking of my life since 2011… since I graduated as an architect, I could do nothing really valuable neither for my career nor for my future in general. But however, I am proud of myself. Actually I am very proud of how I stood strong, or how I faked being strong until I could actually be strong even if this strength is built over a pile of fragile moments.

Let me tell you something my friends; we all need love, depression, and war in our lives to peel our skin a layer over another, and to tear our hearts into pieces until we are nothing but a lonesome weak naked soul standing face to face with itself… then this soul must make a decision, what is it actually that you want in this life… what is it that missing piece of you that makes you don’t want to wake up and live another day…

On September 2013 after a whole year of depression and lack of enthusiasm, I was sitting on a balcony gazing into the horizon and listening to Frank Sinatra. It was drizzling and the breezes came straight from heaven, it wasn’t hot or cold. For a long time I thought I didn’t breath. I inhaled all the air in the balcony. My lungs expanded until I felt all my body is lungs now, it is all full of this air, and it hits me in the core that I am alive.

I WANT TO BE HAPPY!

That was the thought I had in my head back then. Life is too precious to waste such a heavenly breeze go without being taken by its beauty. I want to breathe. I want to inhale all the happiness in this world and not exhale it until maybe I explode of happiness!

That is a decision you make. It is something that enlightens you and once you reach the happiness you were looking for you don’t regret any of those moments when you were dead inside, because out of death comes an enlightened  life only when this moment of clarity soothes  your body.

I tried to do everything to set me free from all the shi* around… I created my own bubble and lived in ignorance about everything happening around. I don’t need to know about people dying by poverty or war or anything. I meditated, I expanded, I made my self be aware of my soul and how I can be in control of my destiny which is something I wish I knew a long time ago, but this is how I was supposed to learn…

Was living in this bubble enough? Yes for a while but then war is like water, unpreventable and unstoppable… In one week I decided to pack and leave this country torn into pieces before I am torn like it… I don’t know where or how I am just looking for happiness… not the fragile happiness I am making up, No , a real one, an unbreakable one…

Now that I left, and found a job and bla bla bla … am I happy? Am I a “Runner away” ? do I always run away thinking I will find it? I don’t know… is this an unbreakable real happiness? I don’t know. I think happiness is also like water, it doesn’t have a shape, a smell, or a color and as a group of small drops make the river, so is happiness, a series of warm moments. sometimes it is to catch a beautiful view while walking.

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it is the end of the year and I was just arranging some memories and thoughts from the past few years in my head trying to come up with a conclusion, but as always I am not sure of anything, I am still composing my theory about happiness, and I know it will never be complete… Never.

Happy new year my friends!

 

 

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First thing you get to learn through crisis is to let go To let go of your memories … you start to forget your old friends, the faces of your neighbors, the phone number of your first love, the promises you have made for them…
If you are lucky enough you then let go of the memory of your pain. You look back and just see vague images in your mind… like a gathering you and your friends have had in a cheap restaurant back in the days when you were all students. An image of the person you were. But with no pain.
To let go of your friends, of your beloved ones. To let go of your lovely things, of your properties.
To let go is a virtue, that can make one understand the abstract meaning of being one. We most of the times have a misunderstanding with our own selves about the meaning of being.. are we the things we have ? are we our pain? Are we our memories? Our hope ? our love? Our friends ? or are we the things we created ? I have no clue actually what am I and it always thrills me in any job interview that question “please, tell us about yourself” Letting go of everything may get you closer to who you really are. But I know one thing , that through this journey, Never let go of your dreams, and your smile.
In this occasion, I am letting go of these 2 paintings that really mean a lot to me and that I always refused to sell. I always thought that these paintings are me, the image of the inner me. Now I am letting go of that old me. I think I am free now. I am unattached. If anyone is interested contact me on my Email: btoolzalkha@gmail.com
name of the painting: me and my city

   name of the painting: me and my city

oil on canvas

oil on canvas