As part of a collaboration between Syria Deeply and Rookie, we’re publishing the memoirs of a teenage girl living in the midst of Syria’s war. Marah, as she’s chosen to be known, lives in a city under siege. She was 15 years old when the uprising began. This is the second in her series of articles.
I begin my article by asking for help. I feel like I am lost in the middle of a rough sea. I don’t know where these crushing waves might take me – to a safe place or to forgetfulness and loss?
I am very concerned about my education. It’s my greatest priority. I grew up in a family that appreciated education. They enrolled me in a kindergarten that I will never forget. It was expensive, but my parents did not mind because all they cared about was to provide us with the best education from the very beginning.
I excelled in that kindergarten and went straight to second grade. My parents and grandparents were proud of me and reinforced my self-confidence. Middle school was fantastic. I drifted with my friends, and thanks to my always-conscious mom, who was my savior during that critical preteen stage, I was able to obtain my middle school diploma.
I loved my school immensely and I loved my teachers – especially my Arabic teacher. I adored the subject. School, for me, was like a playground or a picnic that I enjoyed with my friends. My parents never hesitated to provide for my school; their goal was that I obtain the best education, refine my personality and arm myself with a degree that would protect me from misfortune.
Then high school took me from childhood to the beginning of maturity and awareness. As the years went by, my fondness for my friends and my teachers had grown. I would see my friends during vacations and share all my secrets with them. My friend Rahaf was the closest to me. After she lost her mother, I watched her way of thinking change. She became like a mother to her little siblings.
One year after the beginning of the revolution, the conditions in my city worsened and the missiles intensified. My father decided that we should move out to a safer place. His only concern was to protect his family. We moved to a completely new area and I enrolled in the local school, which was a bad fit. But we had no other option. I formed some superficial friendships, and during one semester, I did not even manage to open a book. I thought constantly about my old friends and teachers, but staying in this new area was mandatory.
Finally, the condition deteriorated in the area where we resettled, which made my dad decide to return to our old city again. My sister and I were very happy that we were going home. But when we returned to our city, we were shocked by the amount of destruction. The schools were all destroyed, and after a while they turned basements into classrooms so we would be protected from the missiles.
These new schools were dark with dim lights similar to candles, and were smelly and had very poor ventilation. They were hardly real “schools.” They felt more like ponds full of diseases. My father refused to send us to such dungeons, but my mom insisted that we should go. A new phase of concern started for them, right there. Do we invest time in such schools that don’t even have accreditation?
Now I am trying to prepare for Syria’s standardized high school tests, but I don’t know whether I will pass or whether my score will be officially recognized. Will I take the tests in my city or somewhere else? Will my mom agree to let me go? So many questions stop me from focusing on my studies. My mom refuses to send me out to any other neighborhood because she fears checkpoints and the risks that a young lady like me might face. I’ve come to hate the fact that I am a girl.
Can you imagine that my mom, the one who always believed in the importance of education and planted that belief in me, has suddenly changed? Her excuse comes down to one sentence: “I worry for you.” I will never understand that fear or accept what she says. My dream had been to enroll in university, choose a major I like and then start my career. Can I still do that? I don’t know.
What happened? My mom used to push me forward. I want to study. I desire to live. I desire what’s beautiful. I miss my teachers and my friends. They have all left the city. I miss seeing the handsome boys gathering in front of my school. When I was little I liked dreaming big, but now my dreams are fading away. My dreams are limited by the checkpoints. Isn’t there someone to help my voice be heard?
Everyone is busy with the war, and it seems like no one cares. We don’t know how this will end or how it will affect us. I want life, but not this troubled and confusing life that I live now. I want to complete my studies. I don’t want to be a neglected period on the margin. I do not want to lose my dreams. Help!