Civil war not in the past for senior


Perry Mellone

Working on a calculator in her math class, senior Masa Arnaoot and her family left Syria for the United States just after civil war engulfed the country.

The Syrian Civil War, a conflict that takes place nearly 7,000 miles away in the Middle East, is a world away for most students on campus.But for senior Masa Arnaoot, the conflict strikes close to home, real close. The war has escalated to a point where the Syrian regime is accused of using chemical weapons against civilians and children, with the most recent attack being in Douma.

“Where I would live and where my aunt is living and everything, they all live in a place which is not that bad, which is Damascus,” Arnaoot said. “But we can still hear the bombs and stuff it’s really strong to the point where we can hear it but we can’t see it. And, it’s all on the news and everything. When I was there, it was like a daily life. Everyday we had to turn on the TV and hear the exact same stuff and hear it because it’s like really strong and stuff. We live in the center. It wasn’t really bad in the beginning but then there’s some parts where it was really really bad. My dad didn’t want any part of my family to have to deal with that, and there’s a lot of people who went missing, and he didn’t want to deal with that. That’s why we had to leave.”

Noor Zulghina
Residential block in downtown Damascus looks peaceful despite a civil war raging in Syria’s countryside.

The conflict in Syria erupted just before Arnaoot and her family left Syria to live in the U.S.

“It was like the beginning of [the civil war], almost not a year, less than a year. I just saw the beginning of it,” Arnaoot said. “Also, we had planned that I was going to have to go to college in the U.S. because we have our house here and my dad graduated from here so he had the idea of it and he said that I might go to high school and get adjusted to [school in the U.S.] and then go to college and stuff.”

Arnaoot’s father got his education in the U.S. before moving back to Syria, and he wanted the same for his daughters.

“For our family my dad was like I really want you all to get education — we had liked the idea but we just didn’t know when,” Arnaoot said. “Since the war started he’s like okay now [the U.S. is] going to be a safe place and also a place where you can get a good education.”

Despite the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Syria, Arnaoot says that when she left, she felt somewhat safe in her home town.

“Where I lived, I wouldn’t consider it the most safest place, but it was like safe, because it was in the center of Syria, which is really hard for people to get in because where the president lives is where people live,” Arnaoot said. “So, if he’s safe then everyone around him should be safe because in Syria there’s two types of people — the ones that support him and the ones that are against him.”

Family left behind

While Arnaoot’s immediate family moved to the U.S. when the Syrian civil war broke out, some family members on her dad’s side remain in Syria.

Noor Zulghina
The Zulghina family still lives where Arnaoot and her family used to: the capital of Syria, Damascus.

“My dad’s side is the people that are like ‘we are going to stay in Syria until the end and let’s see what’s going to happen like if you’re going to die like everyone is so let’s just stay in our country,’” Arnaoot said. “My aunt and my cousins are living, they have a really good job even though there’s war, they still have a way of getting their money, which is not living a bad life but kind of like surviving.”

Noor Zulghina, Arnaoot’s cousin who still lives in Syria, says that their family has become accustomed to living in war conditions.

“We have become used to this situation, before when we heard the sound of bomb, we ran into any safe place,” Zulghina said. “Now we just stay and continue our routine.”

Zulghina says that despite the harsh conditions brought about by the war, it has managed to bring out the good in people.

“It is true that we are living in a war, but it brought people together and made them more generous,” Zulghina said. “We share everything we have with each others just because we know and feel what need and necessity truly mean.”

The Zulghina family still lives where Arnaoot and her family used to: the capital of Syria, Damascus. However, Noor says that staying in Damascus is worth it.

“Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world and if anyone would see the beauty of this country they would never want to leave,” Zulghina said. “On the other hand we have the best international education and international schools that can teach the hardest subjects. But the war was a barrier for the world to see all of that.”

The war continues to be a barrier for the Arnaoot family, as the family says they have planned to return to Syria to see their family again, but have been dissuaded from going each time by events from inside Syria.

“I’ve been begging my parents to go there for like the summer and stuff,” Arnaoot said. “Like we were going to Syria this summer, but then after the bomb and stuff and the chemicals and stuff, we keep on regretting it because we can’t.”

Hope not lost

This year’s reason for not going to Syria was the sarin attack on April 4 in the town of Khan Shaykhun, a rebel held territory a little over 50 miles from Damascus.

Noor Sulghina
An outdoor fountain park in Damascus Syria still brings some locals outside despite the 5 year civil war raging outside the city.

“I feel like [the chemical attack is] really horrible, it wasn’t the first time,” Arnaoot said. “[Bashar Al-Assad] dropped it, and like two years ago he dropped chemical bombs and it wasn’t something new, like I wasn’t surprised at all and he’s really bad to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened again.”

Arnaoot said she supported the actions President Trump took when retaliating to the most recent chemical attacks.

“It was a good idea for someone to move since the United Nations did not do anything and everyone’s like ‘oh we have to move’ but no one did,” Arnaoot said. “I feel like it was a strike and like a notice for [Bashar Al-Assad] to know that you can’t do anything like that because someone over there is watching you.”

With the Syrian Civil War nearing seven years of existence and the conflict having no end in sight, Arnaoot hopes people realize that despite the war, Syrians did not lose their humanity.

“It’s not like what they think,” Arnaoot said. “They think that people coming from war like are probably full of bad ideas in their head, but that’s wrong, like it’s true that we are living in a war but people still care about each other.”

This story was originally published Nov. 16, 2017 but has the story been reposted in light of recent events.

Syrian Civil War by deamallika.divi.835