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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Army draft or jail is bleak future for the young if they return

Despondency felt by refugees deepens with little chance that their situation will change 

Portrait of F Saad, Abu Dhabi,UAE, Vidhyaa for The National
Portrait of F Saad, Abu Dhabi,UAE, Vidhyaa for The National

Young see no silver lining in returning to their homeland with military conscription or a life behind bars as their only future, Syrians in the UAE said.

“Nothing will be good in Syria for young people who are 18 to 24-years-old. For boys or girls of that age it is not suitable for them to go back specially for the boys because if they are not in school or college, they will have to go to the army. The fighting that is the main problem,” said F Saad, a photographer who ran her own studio in Damascus, and is looking for a job in the UAE.

“In my country the number of women and girls is more than boys and men. For the girls, they must do everything, all the work, because the men are either outside Syria or they have died.”

Ms Saad has been taking photos for free in the hope of finding work and lives in Abu Dhabi with her husband and eight-year-old daughter, with two older children studying in Germany.

While she understands why young Syrian refugees would not want to return permanently to their home, Ms Saad would go back if the conflict ended.

“I will go back because there is no place like my country and my home. I will go back if the war stops, if everything is better, if my country is like it was before the war. But before that I cannot go back to my country.

“I want peace for my children and my family to live like all other people in the world,” said Ms Saad, who came to Abu Dhabi three years ago to live with her sister-in-law, the only one with a permanent job in the UAE.

Responding to the survey, Albadr Al Shateri, a professor at the National Defence College, Abu Dhabi, said most people would expect refugees to yearn to return to their homes.

“It is, however, quite understandable and reflects the level of despondency the exiles have reached. Syrians have seen much of their hopes dashed throughout the years. Their trust in the outside world is diminishing by the day, there is no end in sight and no light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“Syrians by now have grown cynical to rhetoric from the outside world. As any human who has been through a great deal, they start blaming themselves and their country and become single-mindedly obsessed with the war and its denouement. Everything else, the economy, patriotism, politics, are relegated to a second place. The game is survival and survival only.”

Lawyer Thaer Al Bahar too questioned what the young would return to and echoed the frustration felt by the refugees surveyed in the camps in Lebanon and Jordan about the future.

“If anyone goes back, which village will they go to? Where will they go? So many people don’t have their house, they don’t have food, they don’t have any salary. What will they do? Do they sit on the sand with the sky to cover them?”

Another Syrian, who did not want to be identified, said it was natural that his countrymen were divided about the impact of Russia and Iran on the war.

“They have all killed in Syria, they are all the same. If the young go back, they will be caught and put into the army first," he said.

"Those who are not caught will be sent to jail because maybe they had written against Bashar (Al Assad) on Facebook or Twitter. There is no guarantee that if the war stops that the police force or security will not catch them and ever let them go."