In the Western world, the term ‘refugee’ has become synonymous with terrorism, extremism and Islamist Fundamentalism. As the conflict in Syria continues to produce more refugees every minute, the future of those displaced is filled with uncertainty. Refugee camps like Za’atari, in Jordan, have been continuously inhabited since 2012; generations of Syrians have lived and died in these camps and an equal number of stateless infants have taken their place.
Children born to Syrian refugees in 2012 will be 8 years old this year, and when they reminisce about their childhood, they would have tales of hardship, poverty and statelessness to tell their own children – that is, if they make it out alive. Their parents’ memories of home will have to suffice them for years to come. Furthermore, the psychological trauma experienced by Syrian children has left permanent scars, and war zones have precedents of post-traumatic stress disorder in order to verify these claims. Isolation, a lack of identity and distress can barely sum up the lives of these children.
Are these refugees, stuck in limbo for eight years, willing to return to Syria after Bashar Al Assad emerges victorious? Where, if they were to return, would they be repatriated? Who will take the onus of rebuilding Syria? What good is victory in a broken nation, amidst an obliterated society and international scorn? These questions have created an economic vacuum which must be filled with investment, lest the Islamic State gains control on the promises of financial security and discipline. Women have been raped with impunity; men have been radicalized to take on the fight against Westernization; young boys have been trained to fight in the name of jihad; and Syria’s natural and cultural resources have been mindlessly plundered. Palmyra, Aleppo, Idlib are only a few out of all the cities that have been reduced to rubble. This debris has produced refugees; innocent people who have been buried under the rubble and saved by the White Helmets.
Populism in Europe; Donald Trump and Islamophobia in the United States; and economic constraints arising from immigration have been cited countless times as viable reasons for the vilification of Syrian refugees. As spectators of the Syrian conflict, we are equally culpable for this racist onslaught on asylum seekers. The interstice between ‘Old Immigrants’ and ‘New Immigrants’ has widened and there is a general disregard for those who wish to lead better lives in the ‘first world’ and build educated futures for their children. There has been no repatriation framework forthcoming from the UN or the EU, as neither body has reached a consensus on matters regarding immigration and asylum. Syrian refugees must begin to create new lives in tents across Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, rapidly learning necessary skills of survival from Palestinian refugees who have dwelled in camps since 1948.
The future is bleak, one could say, for those who have had to leave their destroyed homes and shrapnel-ridden lives, but Syrian success stories offer hope all the way from Berlin, London and Toronto. Chefs have opened restaurants, doctors who remained in Syria and operated in bunkers have documented lives through movies, journalists continue to report through all the bombings and raids. Hope persists amongst the Syrian community; they still strive for better lives outside of refugee camps. The scars of war will never disappear, and neither will the insecurity that comes with leaving home empty-handed with just the clothes on your back, but lives can be rebuilt, and the Syrian community must persevere in this time of adversity.
Their strength resonates with millions across the world. Syrian children will soon be the architects who rebuild Aleppo and their parents will return to the garden they so lovingly planted. Syrians shall, once again, be buried in the graves of their homeland and their past will not haunt generations to come. We, in our capacity, must help Syrians find solace in the justice that still prevails, and Assad must not be their destiny.