Rural people

Written by :
Marwa Melhem

For me, I never liked being outside, whether outside house, neighborhood or city, I preferred to stay in an inner small circle as possible, accompanied by people I know well, my family, relatives or close friends, in an old Damascene neighborhood, I lived my childhood and youth and got to know the world through the eyes of my mother, father and brothers, I used to see what they saw, believe what they were saying, and accepted what they considered as postulates.

When we entered school, my brothers and I used to choose our friends carefully so that they would be from our neighborhood, considering with complete conviction that we were more advanced and civilized, and it was impossible to make friends from other neighborhoods, as for the people of the countryside, we used to spend our time mocking them, without anyone stopping us or telling us otherwise, we mocked their accents, their temperaments, and their dress, with a foolish superiority for the reason that we come from the city, we were kids of course, we cannot be completely blamed for our childish foolishness, even one time we got into a fight with two boys in the class and beat each other so badly, when our beating did not stop them, we insulted them, saying jokes and laughing out loud at their rural origins, even when my father found out about it, after they were called by the school administration, he did not did not scold us, and I heard my father repeat what we said to my uncle: “the kids had a fight with some country boys.”

We grew up and life changed, then I went to college and started working, I met all kinds of people, all origins, and all religions, with different professions, the people of industrial labor, the merchants, the civic activists, and the world of art, literature and culture, my work in the media and the press required me to see many people and learn about their different affiliations, and to be friendly, receptive and respectful; therefore, this has changed my character and personality, gradually it changed to curiosity towards others, and then admiration and love for them, I met people from all the countryside of Damascus, and the countryside of the coast, from Daraa and Suwayda, each had his own dialect, dress, and characteristics that was different from others, I met girls who do not wear hijab, unlike all the women in my family, I learned to respect their beliefs, I clearly understood that faith in God is not confined to our own way of expressing it.

I was not aware of the changes that occurred to me, what alerted me was a talk I recently had with my brothers whom the war had sent them abroad, my brother in Turkey described to me many painful incidents he was exposed to, because he is Syrian and a refugee, exactly like the treatment we used to treat rural children at school, he told me how humiliated and hurt he was, it affected me deeply, my God, what have we done, by what right and for what reason, now we are homeless around the world and we are looked upon as inferior, only because we are outside our home, my brothers now are looking for any Syrian companion, regardless of their religion or affiliation, as soon as they hear an Arabic language or words in the Syrian dialect, they rush to get closer and get to know them, how did we not realize this before? 

It is not about loving and accepting others for me anymore, but I am determined to transfer this to my small environment, I insist that my mother knows that her neighbor is a beautiful woman from the countryside with her character, accent, and the taste of the food she prepares, the people of the coast that you bump into in transportation are nice and light-hearted people, I insist that people from my neighborhood appreciate people who were forced to leave their war-ravaged countries, this was my intention, I can no longer bear the repetition of the cycle of social injustice towards each other, now I see clearly, that it may be difficult or long, but it is not impossible

I can no longer bear the repetition of the cycle of social injustice towards each other

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Marwa Melhem