Importance of Reading and Bonding as a Family

I was born in Aleppo on February 01st 1984. We are a family of seven siblings, our oldest is 34 and the youngest is 17 years old. All of us have university degrees in different disciplines.  I studied law and worked for five years in a private company which specialized at intellectual property protection. Now, I am preparing for an English exam in order to qualify for practicing law internationally. I also teach Arabic to the children of expats in Athens whose Arabic are not advanced enough.

Although my family live in different countries today such as Sweden, Germany, and Greece, we are always in touch thanks to the smart phones. My mother is my hero, I pray God that I will become like her one day when I have my own family. She is my role model. If only she had formal education, she would be a prominent figure in society, maybe the prime minister. Before the war broke out, we all lived together and shared everything including our salaries. Our friends envied this special family bond, and joked about us being like a small kingdom: The King and the Queen, we as children are the soldiers of their castle. We take decisions together and respect our parents dearly. Even today, whenever my father arrives home, we get up to greet and kiss him no matter what we are doing or with whom we are chatting.  My parents are open about men-women relations as long as they are conducted legitimately and that we inform them about our male friends. If a young man wants to know me better, he needs to be comfortable with meeting my parents and then continue with my friendship. I got engaged three times and my parents supported me when I took the decision to break the engagement.

My mother is a housewife and my father is a retired officer. We are thankful to God that he reached retirement before the war. He went to Mecca to perform Hajj and began a different life with his family. We used to have midnight picnics in the mountains of Aleppo when he was finished with his shift on Fridays. The city was safe and lively then, and we never felt distressed about driving from one city to another at night time. In Athens, I don’t feel safe after dark. There can be drunk men or people sleeping on the streets who have no fear from the police unlike pre-war Syria.

I consider myself a devout Muslim, but have not given much consideration about the practices of Islam before we were displaced. Since I got to Greece, I have been asked many questions about Islam and the need to provide logical and clear responses became important. To give you an example, one day, an officer who was processing my paper work in Athens, commented on my headscarf. He began with a compliment: “You’ve got such as pretty face,” before posing the question “but why do you cover your hair?” immediately after. I told him that Mother Mary covered her hair as well, asked him whether he would dare to pose her the same question if she appeared in front of us. He wasn’t expecting this response. After a brief silence, he objected, saying that times are different now. There are many other issues that I am constantly interrogated about, abstaining from pork, alcohol, and premarital sex are among the most popular ones so far. My reference person has been  Zakir Neik, a Muslim scholar of comparative religions. He can be found on Twitter and YouTube. We are like messengers here in Europe. People hear a lot of bad things about Muslims. I keep telling them “Read, read… Don’t remain ignorant.”

Lifelines: Syrian Womanhoods in Transition | Ozlem Ezer | Berkeley CMES