Friday, June 14, 2024
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Friday, June 14, 2024

Syrians and their everlasting longing for home

The English philosopher Bernard Shaw sees home as “the place where bread is cheap,” while the Spanish philosopher George Santayana considers it as “the place where one feels most comfortable.” On the other hand, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believes that home is “the place where one feels a sense of belonging, but not necessarily where one feels happy.”

Schoolchildren walk home through the rubble of East Aleppo (Jan. 2018); Credit: Susan Schulman

Longing for one’s homeland is seen as a special feeling formed by various factors, including memory, emotion, and intellect. Memory plays a significant role in this longing, as it brings back beautiful memories associated with one’s homeland, such as memories of childhood, family, and friends. Emotion also plays a vital role in this longing, as one feels love, comfort, and belonging when thinking about their homeland. The intellect also plays an important role, as it helps one realize that their homeland is where they truly belong and where they feel comfort and security.

In our fervent search for the precise meaning, and our status as Syrian immigrants, we can distinguish between longing for the homeland as an independent entity, and longing for individuals, memories, and events we experienced in the past. In the Syrian diaspora, there are thousands of families and friends who migrated together, even if cities separated them. The longing and nostalgia for family and friends remain wherever they may be, and the concept of the homeland may not be relevant in this context. To further approach the intended meaning, do Aleppo residents long for the city of Aleppo and its streets, just like the residents of Damascus, Homs, Hama, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and other cities? It is a difficult question with an intermingling of various intense emotions.

There were responses that did not exceed 25% in total that spoke of a continuous longing that never fades in the hearts of its bearers. A significant portion of them are awaiting the right opportunity to return to their homeland, with older adults and women being dominant in this group

Mohamed Berro

In a recent approach, the Sada Center for Public Opinion conducted a pilot survey in various Turkish and European cities, involving more than two hundred samples from different Syrian cities and various age groups. There were responses that did not exceed 25% in total that spoke of a continuous longing that never fades in the hearts of its bearers. A significant portion of them are awaiting the right opportunity to return to their homeland, with older adults and women being dominant in this group. On the other hand, there were responses that exceeded 60% indicating an absence of a feeling of longing, or its existence at a minimal level, that rarely surfaces. There was also a small percentage that remains undecided.

One of the friends said, “Just for clarification, I do not long for anything called a homeland. There are many geographies in Syria that do not interest me at all, and I do not know them, and they may not matter to me. But the longing here is for the past life, acquaintances, specific places, and special memories… only that. I might be more interested in the city of Rosario in Argentina than any Syrian or Arab city I have never heard of before and do not know anyone from.”

longing for the homeland is a personal experience influenced by many complex and diverse factors, closely related to one’s personal journey. However, it can be safely said that many, if not the majority of Syrians, no longer feel this longing

Mohamed Berro

Through many dialogues, we discover the most impactful aspect of the sentiment, which is the matter of survival for which those who still reside in Syria envy the immigrants. As it appears, the idea of loving the homeland and longing for it needs to be reconsidered. Today, due to the possibilities provided by globalization and the communications revolution, any place that offers a person a decent life with reasonable personal freedom and sufficient resources is far more important than sticking to the concept of the homeland. Perhaps the concept of longing was originally related to the land inherited from one’s ancestors and the meaning it held in terms of sovereignty, stability, and dignity. All of this has dissipated today and has become nothing more than the tales of the past.

In conclusion, longing for the homeland is a personal experience influenced by many complex and diverse factors, closely related to one’s personal journey. However, it can be safely said that many, if not the majority of Syrians, no longer feel this longing. Nonetheless, this does not deny the fact that many Syrians abroad still yearn for their homeland, whether that longing is a source of pain or hope, or both together. This longing reflects a deep love and a desire to return to a normal life in their homeland, and it is a feeling that deserves respect and appreciation.

Mohamed Berro
Mohamed Berro
Director of Sada Center for Public Opinion in Istanbul, Turkey; Researcher; Former detainee at Palmyra and Sednaya prisons in Syria

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