The Washington Post published a report in which it wrote that the Syrians started flocking to the Emirates, after the resumption of official relations between the two countries.
When he moved from Syria to Dubai, the newspaper says, young Jimmy Al-Jiji was shocked by the amount of light in the city: bright buildings, street lights and rows of bright cafes and restaurants.
It was not like home, a place that lacked electricity and everything else. “To be honest,” he said, “there were times when my eyes hurt.” His first night in Dubai, he could not sleep. I kept thinking, ‘Lord, am I really here?’ he says.
Jiji, 30, is part of a wave of young Syrians, mostly men, who have flocked to the UAE from Syria over the past seven months as the Gulf state eased restrictions on Syrian tourist visas and normalized relations with the government. Bashar al- Asadit.
The clearest indication of the warming of relations was last month, when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, received Assad on his first visit to an Arab country since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011. The visit angered opponents of Syria government and formed a rift in their international campaign.To ensure that Assad’s Syria remains an unfavorable state.
But for the millions of ordinary people living in Assad-controlled areas, the president’s visit to the United Arab Emirates represented a kind of horizon, raising hopes of ending their long isolation as well as fleeing Syria. where people suffer from a lack of optimism and work. and needs, from electricity to water. .
The UAE, along with other regional and Western countries, has supported Assad’s opponents for years. But the Gulf state signaled a shift in its relationship with Assad in late 2018, when it reopened its diplomatic mission in Damascus. The decision to reopen the embassy was hailed by then-Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash as a step towards ending the country’s civil conflict, stressing the importance of maintaining “a united, capable and Arab Syria”.
The UAE turmoil, along with the soft attitudes towards Syria by some of the Gulf state allies, have sparked debates over the effectiveness and ethics of normalizing relations with a government that has committed serious human rights abuses.
At the heart of the debate are arguments over how to end Syria’s long civil war and whether the country’s isolation – implemented in part by crippling Western sanctions – advances that goal.
But lost in controversy, ordinary Syrians seeking progress. In interviews, Syrians who moved to the UAE describe a difficult life at home, focusing on survival and nothing else.
“We can never reach it,” said Ammar al-Rijal, 23, who arrived in the UAE a few weeks ago.
He pursues postgraduate work and hopes to find a job in road engineering, his chosen field – deeds that were impossible before his move.
“I think we have lost Syria,” he said.
After arriving in Dubai, Gigi, who worked in restaurants in Syria, found work as a waiter in a restaurant run by a famous Syrian chef. Now, every morning, he calls his best friend home and tries to get him to leave. “Being in Syria is a loss on your part,” he says, instead of a good breakfast or welcome.
Gigi’s prayers have lost some of their urgency recently: after seeing photos of Assad and the ruler of Dubai holding hands, he no longer worries that the UAE will stop issuing visas to Syrians. He said the visit “shows that there are relationships that were under the table, and are now on the table.”
Gigi said living in Syria felt like it was frozen in place and working tirelessly just for her sake. He has endured much – refusing to leave the northern city of Aleppo, throughout the fierce, years-long battle for the city between the rebels and the government. He rejoiced when Assad recaptured the city in 2016.
This was not the end of his country’s disasters and recent years have brought waves of economic collapse.
Across Syria, in rebel-controlled or government-controlled areas, residents have learned to live with shortages, including cooking gas 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.
Read alsoIsraeli criticism of Assad’s whitewashing in exchange for Iran’s expulsion from Syria, Lebanon
Gigi said surviving what he called an “economic war” – a reference to Western sanctions – was very difficult. He began to value his life: he could not, for his modest salary, buy himself a car, a new phone, or a birthday present. 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 his first look at how far behind Syria.
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.
But opportunities for emerging tech businesses in Syria are limited. Diop, like many Syrians, did not have a bank account. The Internet is known for its weakness. Online payments are difficult due to penalties.
“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.
Now, he works 12 to 14 hours at his new company in an incubator in Dubai. He said he believed Assad’s visit had given the Syrians a glimmer of hope, but was unsure whether we should be optimistic. “There is no answer,” he said, “because when it comes to Syria, it’s all speculation.”
Ammar al-Rijal left Syria after high school and moved to Malaysia, one of the few countries that does not require Syrians to obtain visas. 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.
He traveled to Dubai last month, a place he felt was the future. Wi-Fi is available in most countries. Public beaches have solar charging stations.
Ammar visited Dubai Expo 2020, which was held in a large venue that hosted pavilions from 192 countries. The Syrian pavilion was surrounded by large wheat sculptures: once the proud production of the country, now a symbol of its former glory, because of the war.
“My problem with Syria is that you feel like we are still living in the past, where everyone says ‘we have been’ and ‘we have had good things’ and ‘we have had a life,'” he said.
He added: “Now, our generation, what we have done, what we have, we have nothing to speak about.”