Susan, 35, an English teacher from Ras El-Ayen Al-Hasakah, left Syria in 2012

Palmyra, Image taken from an old Syrian postcard.

What makes you proud to be Syrian?

I’m proud to be Syrian because Syria has been always an important country since the beginning of humanity.

Syria is a secular country. Can you explain what this means to a non-Syrian?

As a Christian, I can say that in Syria I lived the same life I’m living in Italy and I had the same freedom. In Syria, everyone there could live the way they wanted, to practice their religion, to wear the clothes they chose.

What does the concept of personal freedom mean to you? What about political freedom?

Personal freedom for me is when everyone can live the way they choose, to worship who they want, pray the way they like, dress in a way that makes them feel good, but always without interfering in the freedom of others. Political freedom is being able to live free from the force of others when we have different political points of view.

What have you learnt about life, people and yourself since the start of the crisis?

I’m so sad for the tragic end to which children, innocent people and intelligent youth have suffered. In Syria now, there is only death, poverty and sadness.

What can fill you with despair?

I despair seeing innocent people dying everyday in a very cruel way. I despair seeing young people leaving Syria everyday.

What can give you hope?

I have hope knowing how strong Syrians are and how much they love Syria.

How do you find the courage to go on and stay sane in the face of great hardship and pain?

If I watched all the types of crimes happening against my people, it would definitely make me insane, and maybe shake my faith. For this reason, I don’t follow the daily news.

Local glassware, Straight Street, Damascus, 2009

Can you talk about the freedoms women have enjoyed in Syria?

Women in Syria are equal to men; they have the same rights, can work in all fields, can dress how they want and can move freely everywhere.

How can political problems, such as corruption and nepotism, best be tackled?

Corruption can be tackled by offering a good life to all the population, applying strict rules on everyone who is corrupt, without discrimination, teaching children at school the values of life, and giving equal opportunities to all.

What is your image of a new Syria?

I hope Syria can turn back to how it was with even more freedom and equality.

“Before the war everything was going well between us, but when the war started outside it started even inside, everyday stronger… life became intolerable…”

Have you experienced anything since the start of the crisis you would like to recount?

In 2011, I was a teacher in Al Hasakeh. I was living with other teachers, Alawi and Sunni. Before the war everything was going well between us, but when the war started outside it started even inside, everyday stronger… life became intolerable, and I decided to go home. I took the train but for the first time in my life I was so scared; I couldn’t stop crying till I arrived home. It was a big relief arriving home at that moment.

From ‘Beloved Syria – Considering Syrian Perspectives’, Sept – Oct 2016 Edition

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