Washington Post: Normalization of UAE relations with Damascus has led to an influx of young Syrians in Dubai

Ibrahim Darwish

London – Al-Quds Al-Arabi: The Washington Post published a report by journalist Sarah Daadoush in which she noted the increase in the number of young people coming to the UAE from Syria after the state of opening between the two countries. Young people who were destined to leave Syria find a world different from the world they lived in, without electricity and lack of basic materials.
Young Jimmy Al-Jiji, 30, said he was shocked when he moved from Syria to Dubai: “Honestly, there have been times when my eyes hurt.” His first night in Dubai, he could not sleep. “I kept thinking, ‘Oh God, am I really here?’ The influx of young Syrians came after the Gulf state eased visa restrictions for Syrians seven months or more ago. She adds that the clearest example of improving relations is the reception of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on his first visit to an Arab country since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The visit angered opponents of the Syrian regime and created a disruption in their international campaign to ensure Assad’s Syria remains a treacherous state.
For the millions of ordinary people living in Assad-controlled areas, Assad’s visit to the UAE represented a kind of breakthrough and raised hopes of ending their long isolation as well as an escape from Syria, where people are suffering. from lack of optimism. , work and need, from electricity to water.

The UAE turmoil, along with the soft attitudes towards Syria by some of the Gulf state allies, have sparked debate over the effectiveness and ethics of normalizing relations with a government that has committed scandalous human rights abuses.

The change in the Emirates position comes after Abu Dhabi backed the Syrian opposition aimed at overthrowing the Damascus regime. And she reopened her embassy in Syria in 2018. Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s foreign minister at the time, described the decision to reopen the embassy as a step towards ending the civil war and stressed the importance of maintaining “a A united, capable and Arab Syria. “
The paper notes that the UAE turmoil, along with the soft attitudes towards Syria by some of the Gulf state allies, have sparked controversy over the effectiveness and ethics of normalizing relations with a government that has committed scandalous violations of its human rights. The UAE justifies its tendency to open relations with the Syrian regime as a step towards ending the civil war, although the regime’s isolation, which was also partially confirmed by international sanctions, is helpful in ending the conflict.

“We can never reach the step,” said Ammar al-Rijl, 23, who arrived in the UAE a few weeks ago. “You think we have lost Syria.”
The newspaper says that Gigi, who worked in restaurants in Syria, after arriving in Dubai, found a job as a waitress in a restaurant run by a famous Syrian chef. Every morning, he calls his closest friends home and tries to get him to leave. “Your presence in Syria is a loss of yours,” he says. Gigi’s prayers have lost some of their urgency recently: after seeing photos of Assad and the ruler of Dubai, he no longer worries that the UAE will stop issuing visas to Syrians. He said the visit “shows that there are relationships that have been under the table and are now on the table.” Gigi described life in Syria as cold and the constant work to stop life. And he suffered greatly when he refused to leave the northern city of Aleppo, and stayed there during the fierce battle that lasted for years between the rebels and the regime, and Farah when Assad recaptured the city in 2016. That was not the end of trials in his country and recent years brought waves of economic collapse.
Across Syria, in areas controlled by rebels or the regime, residents have learned to live in need, including a lack of gas for cooking and gasoline. Historically, the country was a breadbasket and today suffers from a collapse in wheat production due to a combination of drought and high prices. The costs of major culinary products like tomatoes, cucumbers and lemons have almost doubled in the last two weeks.
Gigi said surviving what he called an “economic war” – a reference to Western sanctions – was very difficult. This is why he began to value his life: for his modest salary, he could not buy a car, a new phone, or a birthday present for himself. Even when he had money, worries about the future kept him from spending. “You can not spend like this in Syria,” he said, “for fear that the other will be worse.”
Hassan Diop, 27, stayed in Syria to prove one thing: that there are still hardworking and curious minds there. Diop, who studied control systems engineering, set up an AI club and in 2018 he was invited to an internship in Lebanon – a trip that gave him a first look at how far Syria is.
He arrived a day late for the training course after struggling to raise $ 2,000 in cash that border guards are asking Syrians to take before leaving the country. When he arrived, he says, he felt “like I went to another planet, but it’s a planet that works.”
Diop returned home full of energy. The augmented reality project was launched, in partnership with a Syrian University, to help dentistry students learn applied skills. However, emerging technology business opportunities in Syria are limited. Diop, like many Syrians, did not have a bank account. The internet in Syria is famous for its weakness. And online payments are difficult because of the fines. “In Syria, you sell apps the same way you sell a pair of shoes: come in person to pick them up and hand over the money,” he says. He questioned the need for sanctions affecting ordinary citizens – for example, blocking access to Syria in Coursera, a US-based online provider of courses. He asks how this can help someone.
Today, he works 12 to 14 hours at his new company in Dubai. He believes Assad’s visit gave the Syrians a glimmer of hope, but he was not sure if we should be optimistic. “There is no answer,” he said, “because when it comes to Syria, everything is conjecture.”
Ammar al-Rijl’s story is no different from the rest, he left Syria after high school and moved to Malaysia, which is one of the few countries that does not require Syrians to obtain a visa. The 23-year-old returned to Damascus in 2019 due to problems staying in an unknown city. “Electricity, water, gasoline, fuel, oil, all these basic things, all are no longer available,” he said.
Last month he traveled to Dubai, a place he felt was the future. Wi-Fi is available in most countries. Solar charging stations are available on public beaches.
Ammar visited Dubai Expo 2020, which was held in a large venue hosting pavilions from 192 countries. The Syrian pavilion was surrounded by large wheat sculptures: it was once the country’s outstanding production and has now become a symbol of its former glory, due to the war. “My problem with Syria is that you feel like we are still living in the past, where everyone says ‘we have been’, ‘we had good things’ and ‘we had a life,'” he commented.

Leave a Comment