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My Days in Damascus: The Wounds of War and a Kiss Goodbye

Farah is a young woman living in Syria’s capital city, where she faces the daily struggles of trying to maintain a normal social and professional life in a country being ripped apart by war.

Written by Farah Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
A wall covered in paint and handprints in Damascus, Syria’s capital city.Farah

DAMASCUS – Last month, I was in a bar with a friend, and I met a nice guy who, a long time ago, I knew only by name. We exchanged numbers, and after a couple of random meetings I could sense his interest in me, and his willingness to take things to the next level.

I don’t hide the fact that I’m in need of a partner and a happy relationship, regardless of where it might go.

He is an educated writer, feminist and artist – in short, this person just had it all! Except for one detail: He used to be strongly loyal to Bashar al-Assad and his regime. He used the term “shabih” to describe what he used to be; he was fiercely against the revolution and would defend the regime in any way. No wonder we never met over the past years: we had different circles of friends and acquaintances. We lived in different worlds.

When I became curious enough to ask him about his views on the situation in our country, he told me, “Only when the war reached my neighborhood in 2013 did I realize that both sides were liars. Today, they both mean nothing to me.” He was very aware of my political views and my history with activism, so we didn’t take the conversation any deeper.

We never talked about it again, avoiding any “bad vibes,” but I must say that his words stuck in my head. They resurfaced every time I pictured us together and left me with no choice but to erase that picture completely.

After five years of living in these circumstances of war and political conflict, I have reached a point where I can easily be around people who may not share my way of thinking, but only as long as we meet occasionally and don’t have to stay together much.

But, with this man, I couldn’t reconcile with the idea that he had been so loyal to the regime and so misled. I couldn’t see where his educated brain and artistic soul were back then. I simply couldn’t go on.

After three weeks of dating, I called him, and we met for lunch in a restaurant near his workplace. Although I spent hours before our meeting rehearsing the speech I was planning to give, I lost all my words once I got his attention, and just said: “I can’t see us together. I am unable to start any relationship in the current period. I have tried but we can’t be anything other than friends.” I couldn’t tell him the real reason.

He smiled and gave me that look, the one full of anger and questions. But as we continued to talk, I eventually told him the real reason: I’m currently unable to deal with this moral problem. I apologized if this seemed, perhaps, immature. He expressed his disappointment, but we ended up shaking hands and kissing goodbye.

Now that I think about it and put myself in his shoes, I find it unfair to judge our relationship according to his history. But the Syrian revolution has been so deeply ingrained in us that we can no longer deal with it as a mere difference in political opinion. We carry a deep wound and an overwhelming feeling of shame towards our friends who have died, gone missing or have disappeared.

My whole mentality is based on these facts that I have seen with my own eyes, so there is a huge part of me that he cannot and never will understand. This same reasoning applies also to me in some way; I will never be able to understand how he, currently, still has respect for certain regime leaders and their actions.

I haven’t heard from him since our lunch. It was my choice to pull back, in attempt to avoid the “bad vibes” again, but I don’t regret anything I did. I know my actions weren’t heroic, but they raise questions that we will all someday have to think about. Are we going to get over all of this someday? Personally, I don’t think so.

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