Why do not Syrian refugees return to their homeland?
Why do not Syrian refugees return to their homeland? A question that swaggers off from some neighbouring countries, which kindly host Syrian refugees, their officials, some of their media professionals and artists from time to time. A bitter naive question that tastes hatred and racism. Yet, I will answer it. It is doubtless that all of us who were forced to flee our country, would rather have stayed. Nevertheless, we simply have the right to live; we do not want to die. Refugees merely want their children to experience the taste of sleep without the sounds of explosions and explosive barrels that may scatter them at any moment. Parents want their children to breathe oxygen, not chlorine, like all the children outside their country. Our youths want to learn, work, have families and lead a normal life instead of being dragged to military service, which is intended to defend the throne of a dictator without their least advice and consent. Their blood is being sucked to kill or be killed in an absurd war driven by dozens of internal and external forces for their own interests and not to serve their homeland! In Syria, the internal collapse of society is not less dangerous than the economic, security and services collapse in the country. Social collapse in Syria is reflected in the vertical and horizontal disintegration of society and the resulting crisis of loss of identity experienced by Syrians in a state of fragmentation and distrust of everything.
Syrian families in my country share death... Syrians have lost the crème du la crème of their youths due to death, trying to escape death, arrest, torture, kidnapping, being herded into military service or enforced disappearance. Some of them suffer from drug addiction and lack of opportunities of a better future.
Syrian society is bleeding the best of its sons and daughters who have fled the country and are scattered around the world as refugees. While trying to stand on their feet and make new beginnings in these countries, the world sees them as a burden and a threat. Sometimes they are used as political cards by one state against another, where some countries threaten to send them back across the borders. Other times, funds from the international community is being demanded in return of allowing them to stay in the hosting countries, which is understandable in light of the large number of refugees in countries that were not ready for such sudden population inflation. However, the problem is bogged down when these countries started to link all their problems to the mere presence of the refugees in an exaggerated and sometimes hideous manner. The politicians of those countries try to blame Syrian refugees for their failures at politics, providing services, dealing with the economic deficit, sorting out garbage collection, controlling pollution, and even the increase of cancer!
What alleviate the pain the Syrians are suffering is the support of the population and intellectuals have in most of these countries have expressed; it is a wonderful humanitarian position in standing up for the refugees and rejecting all sorts of racist discourses.
Within Syria, a terrifying phenomena of violence, kidnapping and drugs is spreading. The society within Syria is divided into two basic classes; one of which is poor and destitute, and the other is obscenely wealthy. They are kind of war profiteers who exploit people’s needs mercilessly. They are directly or indirectly related to the Assad regime’s security services and his popular committees or the merchants of war.
Between these two classes lies another segment of Syrians who are low paid. They cannot afford their rent or the basic needs of their families —a life that is closer to dying than being alive.
In Syria there are children who have not received vaccinations nor education because they live in besieged and uninhabited areas. There are cases of marriage, divorce, birth and death that have not been registered due to the war conditions in these areas. This has created legal chaos that will inevitably affect the most basic rights and needs of those individuals.
It is not possible to start with comprehensive strategies and plans for the reconstruction of the Syrian people and society in Syria unless this political stage ends and a new one begins; one that guarantees the rights, dignity and freedom of individuals. Hence, the Syrian refugees can return to rebuild their land fearless of being arrested, prosecuted or killed by a stray shell or a sniper bullet.
Changing the present political situation in Syria is crucial, if the international community wants this humanitarian disaster to end and this society to settle and the refugees to return. The stability of Syria and rebuilding it ‘stone and human’ requires ending this political impasse and starting a new phase that can rassure Syrians at home and abroad. It must also ensure effective mechanisms for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country on two levels; infrastructure and institutions on one hand, individual and society on the other. All this must be achieved through human development strategies and value citizenship, human rights and dignity in the society under the rule of law.
Restoring the social fabric in Syria demands an immediate launching of transitional justice mechanisms, and the achievement of qualitative leaps at the level of the humanitarian disaster with its core issues such as the file of the disappeared and the enforced disappearances. These issues should not be related to the political course of negotiations. They are directly linked to human rights which should not be subject to negotiation and political blackmail.