Photo: panorma of Damascus circa fall 2010; a young girl we met at the church of St. Simeon, outside of Aleppo; a young man at his scarf shop in the grand souk, Aleppo; another young man in his newly-opened jewelry store in the souk.
I haven’t posted any of the above photos before–I feel that going somewhere as a traveler/tourist, taking photos of “locals,” and then posting them online without permission is problematic and possibly an intrusion of privacy. However, at troubled times, there is a need to humanize conflict.
My favorite travel experiences and memories were in Syria. I had no idea that so much history could fit into such a small place without the fabric of time breaking, and no idea I could have such intimate experiences with people with whom I shared little culture and no language. My friend MR and I still have in-jokes from this trip, like the old man in Aleppo who hollered at us in the street, “Silly girls, what are you doing?!” while we wandered around in circles seeking an Internet cafe. Then he and MR proceeded to converse warmly and trilingually, in a combination of Turkish, French, and English. There was also the woman who, after we got lost in the souk, went 15 minutes out of her way to lead us out to the meydan. And there were the Damascene locals who showed us around the city in the dead of night, and we all had to hide at intervals in cemeteries and behind cars to avoid notice by local police enforcing curfew. And there was the man who gave me a free cup of Turkish coffee and the woman who let me coo at her baby. And so on.
I wonder where these people are. The current conflict is heart-wrenching because it not only involves Syria, of which I clearly have fond memories, but also Turkey, which is my second home in the world.* My thoughts and prayers go out to all the warm, wonderful people we encountered during our travel there two years ago, and to all the people of Syria and the region. May peace come if not today, then soon.
Below are some aid groups I researched a while back that are working in Syria, feel free to add more if you know of any.
- Islamic Relief has a fund earmarked for Syrian humanitarian aid: here or here
- Zakat Foundation also has a fund for Syrian aid: here or here
- Some kind of new UK charity founded in response to the Syrian conflict: here
- UNICEF doesn’t have a special fund just for Syria, but they do work there and have a general humanitarian relief fund: see here or here
* Although since writing this piece a couple weeks ago, Turkey seems to have stepped down its rhetoric and backed off a bit.