Monday, May 27, 2024
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Monday, May 27, 2024

Four Syrians walk 160 km in the 105th Vierdaagse in the Netherlands

Credit: World Team

Several free Syrians currently living in the Netherlands participated in an international walking festival and took advantage of the opportunity to raise awareness about their cause. For more than 100 years the International Four Days Marches (The Vierdaagse) has been billed as a means for promoting sports and exercise but for the four Syrians who participated as members of the World Team this year, the event also served as an important occasion for educating people they met along the way about the tragedy of Syrians and what has been happening in their homeland.

Bassam Wahba, who began practicing walking almost thirty years ago in Syria, carried a thought-provoking message on his backpack during the “Four Days Marches” event which has been based in Nijmegen in the Netherlands since 1924. The event, which has been held almost every year (the only cancellations occurred during WWI, WWII, and covid) since 1909, is a global walking festival aimed at promoting sports as well as health awareness. Participants, who usually number in the 40,000s, cover approximately 30, 40, or 50 kilometers each day, depending upon their abilities, and upon completion receive a royal medal.

he [Bassam] wanted to tell the world about the atrocities that have been committed by the Assad regime and its supporters in Syria simply because the Syrian people have been demanding freedom

Bassam told Syriawise that he wanted to draw the attention of the Dutch people and other participants in this year’s event, which saw close to 47,000 participants, to what is happening in Syria. He expressed that he wanted to tell the world about the atrocities that have been committed by the Assad regime and its supporters in Syria simply because the Syrian people have been demanding freedom. Bassam explained that Syrians have the right to live as others do in freedom and security and said that during the march some of the people hugged him, others shook his hand, and some expressed sympathy for what happened in Syria. Some of the people he spoke to were previously unaware of the Syrian tragedy and only became informed through the event.

Bassam Wahba and the other three Syrians participating in the festival; Credit: World Team

The Four Days Marches festival began as a military event in 1916 with the aim of building military fitness but over the years it has transformed into a primarily civilian event. Originally held in a different city every year, in 1925 Nijmegen was declared the permanent starting point for the Four Days Marches which attracts participants from all over the world, including military personnel.

All of the Syrians who participated in this year’s event had arrived in the Netherlands as refugees and all had Syrian freedom flags displayed on their team shirts

The World Team, consisting of Dutch people with roots from other countries as well as refugees, was founded in 2018 to allow more nationalities to participate in the Nijmegen Four Days Marches. World Team members came together this year to raise funds for refugee work in the Netherlands and to strive for better communication with them. Bassam told Syriawise that even though only four members of this year’s World Team were from Syria the festival’s organizers were thrilled to have them and expressed their hope that even more Syrians will join the World Team next year.

All of the Syrians who participated in this year’s event had arrived in the Netherlands as refugees and all had Syrian freedom flags displayed on their team shirts. They also wore signs on their back that said “What does Freedom mean to you?” and Bassam said that the signs did an excellent job of raising the curiosity of others providing him with many opportunities to answer their questions about Syria and the Syrian crisis.

At the Finish line; Credit: World Team

In reality, the four-day event turned out to be much more than just an opportunity to educate others as Bassam expressed his appreciation for the wide variety of social activities the event’s organizers had included for the stops along the way. “I enjoyed every moment of the festival!” he added.

Bassam also told Syriawise that he originally went to the Netherlands “seeking safety, not food” but it seems as if he has managed to find a whole lot more.

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