Latest in Syria Displaced

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #10: No Room for Everyday Grief

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—“I was 13 when we got married. We didn’t know anything about life. My husband was five years older than me. He’s very handsome, my husband….God have mercy on his soul.” Hala’s eyes fill but she does not cry.

She types “hahaha” in Arabic on Whatsapp to her mother-in-law, who has just made a dark joke about not having money to get to Turkey from their hometown outside Aleppo.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #8: Syria’s Other Government

GAZIANTEP, Turkey—”This looks so much like the countryside around Aleppo,” says Dr. Diaa Abdullah as we drive past green and rust-colored hills and olive groves between the Southeastern Turkish towns of Gaziantep and Kilis. While in Istanbul or Izmir, the war in Syria feels very far away—more than a thousand miles in fact—here there are street signs that point the way to Aleppo. “The culture of the people here reminds me a lot of Syria,” he adds.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #7: Traces

CESME, Turkey—The Instagram handle “mr.masih.razavi” is scrawled on the wall of a half-built beach hut in which, until about a month ago, smugglers held refugees before loading them onto boats bound for the Greek island of Chios. I now follow Mr. Masih Razavi. Six days ago he posted a photograph of himself in a wine shop—presumably not in Afghanistan or Iran where Mr. Masih, a Farsi speaker, is likely from. It would appear that he made it.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #6: At the Smugglers’ Table

IZMIR, Turkey—“500 to Chios! 450!” shouts Abu Ahmed in the direction of a neighboring table, where a corpulent bald man is deep in hushed conversation with what appears to be a family of refugees negotiating their passage to Europe. The family has the telltale black bags under the table next to them. Abu Ahmed is referring to the price of a passage for one person (denominated in dollars) from the Turkish coast to the Greek island of Chios. The average price is about $700 for a place on an inflatable boat. Abu Ahmed is a smuggler and the fat man, Abu Hassan, is another.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #5: Aksaray and Fatih Neighborhoods

ISTANBUL, Turkey—The Aksaray metro station opens onto a concrete square. All day long, young men and families crisscross the open space. You can hear every dialect of Arabic spoken here: it’s mostly Syrian and Iraqi, but sometimes also Egyptian, Libyan and Moroccan. Men sit the entire day around the edge of the central fountain, waiting—it’s unclear for what.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #4: Don’t Forget the Men

ISTANBUL, Turkey/BEIRUT, Lebanon —An ironing board stands in the corner of the room, behind a television set showing Spiderman with Arabic subtitles. A 17-year-old Syrian smokes shisha on the couch in his undershirt and socks; his next coal glows on the stove. Another young man meticulously wipes down the kitchen counter and places dishes on the drying rack with care.

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #3: The Strange Sectarian Peace of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Not so very long ago, during Lebanon’s civil war, the way a person said the Arabic word for tomato was enough to get him or her killed. In at least one instance, Phalangists (Lebanese Christian militia members) set up a checkpoint, asking people to give the Arabic word for tomato to pass. The answer could win a reprieve — if the person used the Lebanese pronunciation: “banadurra.” Or it could spell a death sentence — if pronounced the Palestinian way: “bandora.” The difference is that of a short vowel. Most other Arabs say “tomatim.”

Syria Displaced

Dispatch #1: Tragic Choices in a Lebanon Overwhelmed

BAALBEK, Lebanon — The mud is red and deep this morning in the Bekaa valley. Children, undeterred, giggle and slide in their UNICEF-issued rubber boots. Snowy mountains rise out of the mist at the edge of the plain. Beyond the snow is Syria. This summer, 40 miles from here—in Lebanon’s Anjar, known for eighth century Umayed ruins—families dining in open-air restaurants could hear the gunfire as rebel forces battled the Syrian army and Hezbollah for the town of Zabadani.


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