I Am From There

Written by :
Anwar Alabdullah

June 2001

We met discussing exam questions saying goodbye to each other at elementary school yard,

We were talking about what we were going to do and bring, and where would we go with an eagerness that is mixed with the ecstasy of endings and longing for the days to come, but it was near future for children’s imagination which that time it was the limits of the world they drew with every chance they had.

Jafar said: my brother and I want to leave to our dad’s village at Tartous, and my sisters are going to Jableh with my mother.

He continued laughing: although my mom’s hometown is quite better, but I am not going I am from Tartous they do not like me.

We all laughed, we were laughing and I wondered about many questions, why do not they like him, is it because he is from Tartous?

I figured out this question’s answer later, among these questions based on delusional conflicts, the dual between Tartous’s people-Latakia’s people, in other words, Barcelona’s-Real Madrid’s fans.

Ismail continued talking and said firmly: I want to go to our village for sure, cherry season is coming, my mother, my brothers and I are helping my grandparents with the provisions, and we will come back before school.

Ismael was attached to his village, talking a lot about its beauty and its gardens, and told us his adventures in pomegranates and cherry orchards, and the “disobedient” Jamal who learned to swim last summer, I was little jealous, not because he only learned to swim before me but spending his vacation in this part of heaven in rural Idlib as he liked to call it.

I was listening to them, and silence tied my tongue, I slipped out with a bunch of questions in my head.

Why I do not have a village to visit in summer?

Where is our village?!

Is this my village?!

But how is that, and the people in this town call us “refugees”

Why do we have our private gathering, and there is school for refugees and school for “peasants”(like original people call them)

Questions in my head became like splitting cells reproducing quickly, until I found my small world that I see the universe boundaries is dividing, in time, I realized that a few meters and only one street made the two parts: “us” and “them”

Even after realizing the reality of this spatial-social divide did not concern me, what really mattered was, how our village looks like?

What would my vacation be like if I could go there?

What would my father grow the fields if he was “there”? And he is the one who is fond of farming and peasant life

My center of attention was “there”, I recalled some memories from my grandma’s speech and try to connect it together, I imagine my grandpa’s old stony house, the vineyards in front of it and the olive trees widespread, and the stove which my grandma still misses with every loaf of bread she eats from the modern neighborhood furnace.

My grandmother has a detailed memory of the “Golan Days”, she describes to us accurately her home “there” her favorite dish and her daily chores, their weddings, especially when Fahd Ballan sang. 

These recollections enlighten my childhood memory which has not completed ten years old, I repeated everything I heard about “there”, like I am trying to engrave it in my mind, the human memory is like a flat white room with extended walls to infinity, we color it and draw it with every situation, incident, and small talk, that shape our own memory to become a part of the whole memory, the memory that was supposed to unite us and introduce us to others, but in vain, it was shattered with the first wave that struck us on June War, 1967, this date is mentioned in books and streamed in broadcasts as it is an Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and displacement of its people, end point…

I am almost certain that no Syrian or Arab person knows more than this, only the individual efforts or by coincidence, and media absence is clear and shocking in the case.

I have always searched the media about us and our features, but I could not find anything, the only TV series that talked about the emigration story was (settlement men 2009) but did not speak in our accent so it was boring and weird.

It was like June erased everything has passed, and gave us one piece of paper and wrote in the top right angle of it ”refuge”, the word I hate.

June 2010

My first year at university, my first step towards the big wide world, my first departure of my town, my first direct contact with others, I never knew the world like this before.

I liked different accents and habits that I discovered in every new friend I meet, every one of us was a messenger to explain about his affiliation, so I introduced myself in an honest way.

At college campus, I met one of my friends with a girl company, we greeted each other and had a small talk, she told me: I am from Homs.

I said: I am from Golan.

She looked at me with discomfort and said: excuse me! Why are you wearing hijab!? I know that all women in Golan do not wear hijab? 

I laughed from all my heart when I realized what was wrong, a big amount of Syrian people do not know that Golan has a denominational diversity (Druze- Alawites- Sunni) and ethnic diversity (Arab- Turkmens- Circassians) and different social origins (Civilian- Farmers- Bedouin)

I do not blame them because the last 50 years was a false image about the people living in occupied villages, who are Druze, and still living in six inhabited villages until today, because media has published this false idea for Syrians which almost wiped out the rest of Golan’s society components.

Repeated situations like these made me ready for any question, or correction for any information or description about anything related to us, but the funniest incident was, when I met someone and after I introduced myself ” I am from Golan”

He said: ooh! God helps you, how often do you travel to Golan?! Where are you living, at university residence?!

I answered him: ” I left Golan from 67.”

He said: ” why did not you say you are a “refuge” I thought you are from those students who come from Golan to study here.

I cannot deny that he irritated me back then so I told him: and you are also a “refuge” from Latakia, as you said, your father came to Damascus in 1995, so you are also refugees.

June 2020

Ten Years of Unjust War changed everything, wiped out concepts, principles and ideas with it, and recreate another, the word “refuge” is not a reference to a specific group of people anymore, because here is a refuge from Homs and another from Ghouta, and on the other side of the city a group of Deir ez-Zur refugees.

We equally suffered harshly, to be forced to leave your home your street your memories, in the place you lived for years, it is like you are skinned alive, so they wear you another skin, to force you and give you a life and nickname you did not choose, whenever you arrive to a new place, you find them already prepared for you a stereotypical life.

June has changed to me, there is no more special memory about ”there”, it no longer concerns me, here became like “there”, any place where I find mercy and love is “there” for me.

Anwar Al-abduallh

Anywhere I find love and compassion is ‘there’.

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Anwar Alabdullah