The barrage of violent acts unleashed upon Syria’s people by the Assad regime since the outset of the Arab Spring in 2011 has seen millions upon millions displaced, seeking refuge near and far. Families have been split between cities, countries and even continents.
…all the Syrian people I spoke with were not prepared to talk about their journey from Syria, their experiences over the last 11 years and the plight of their loved ones…Blanche MICHAEL
The city I live in is home to many Syrian-owned and run restaurants and eateries. In my quest to find out more about the plight of Syrian exiles, I approached the owners and staff of these establishments. Upon attempting to elicit information from the various Syrians I spoke to, I was met with the gentility and cordiality that Syrian people are famous for. In each instance, I was invited to sit down, engage in conversation, BUT all the Syrian people I spoke with were not prepared to talk about their journey from Syria, their experiences over the last 11 years and the plight of their loved ones back in Syria. Not one single person.
After my failed interview attempts, I received a voice message from a young Syrian man who runs a restaurant in my neighbourhood. Laced with a lightly veiled air of sorrow, his message was as follows: “Thank you so much for your offer… I don’t like to discuss my country with anyone. This is not why I am here.” Clearly, this young man (any many others) are here because they cannot be in Syria. Much can be deduced from his silence and that of his fellow countrymen.
Silence from interviewees has long been associated with trauma. Who wants to relive the horror of past and ongoing violence, death and destruction? These ‘traumatic silences’ can likely be indicative of what has come to be known as the Syrian “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD) crisis. PTSD can be defined as a “set of reactions that can occur after someone has been through a traumatic event.” The primary symptoms of PTSD include reliving the traumatic event (nightmares or flashbacks) and avoiding reminders of the traumatic events (including thoughts or feelings that bring back memories of the trauma).
The unseen wounds of PTSD and other emotional scars affecting the numerous silent Syrian exiles and refugees will require increasing support and heightened awareness…Blanche MICHAEL
According to research compiled by Syrian Relief, 99% of internally displaced persons interviewed in Idlib have PTSD symptoms and 76% of respondents in Turkey have shown symptoms of PTSD. This is merely a small sample of the broader research project conducted on their mental health and well-being. Syrian refugees in Turkey have greater access to mental health treatment facilities, whereas only 1% of PTSD sufferers in Idlib have access to treatment for PTSD.
Numerous NGOs working inside and around Syria are trying to provide treatment to sufferers of this silent and insidious condition and hopefully provide the required level of psychosocial support that will be required en masse in Syria.
The unseen wounds of PTSD and other emotional scars affecting the numerous silent Syrian exiles and refugees will require increasing support and heightened awareness from those directly involved in providing aid to the Syrian diaspora.