For Syrians fleeing their war-torn country there’s hope here in Dubai through an online platform which is helping put their lives back on track.
Many are finding jobs, places to reside, even compatriot friends who are supporting them through a new website, as their country remains engulfed in a long-drawn civil war which shows no sign of abating.
Dubarah.com is a small venture based in Dubai with a larger humanitarian plan for the forgotten victims of the bloody conflict which is taking its toll on the region. Some reports say over five million people have escaped the conflict which threatens to divide the nation. Two years after the strife began, more than 100,000 people have been killed, and the numbers are rising by the day.
But the bloody statistics in Syria haven’t driven the founder and partner of Dubarah, Majd Khanji, to despair as he strives to help his compatriots rebuild their lives here in the UAE and all over the world. He says the initial plan was to find jobs for Syrians, but it soon transformed into a mission for those in need. He became a virtual enabler — connecting his compatriots from across the globe. ‘‘Through the war and this unfortunate situation, there is always hope, no matter how small it is. People sometimes seek us out on Dubarah to get motivation or encouragement. We tell them that it’s not over yet and they can start all over again,’’ he says.
He says the site has become an online society. Over 8,000 jobs have been found for Syrians. ‘‘It’s a small number but a good start. It shows we have become a beacon for many through this turmoil,’’ says Khanji.
Fellow Syrian and business partner of Khanji’s, Ahmed Edilbi, says Dubarah came into being after they received calls from compatriots and friends who had arrived in the UAE looking for jobs. “Due to the current situation in Syria, the number of job-seekers had increased, and we felt we needed to do something about it,” says Edilbi.Dubai is the best place to start such an enterprise as the government provides all facilities and is considerate to the plight of the refugees, he says.
In the first hour of its soft launch in February, the site garnered 3,000 clicks. The duo say they are neutral in the conflict and the challenge is to stay apolitical and not be swayed by the Syrian government or opposition point of view. This means turning their backs on business backers who have political affiliations in Syria. ‘‘The only funding came from our salaries. We refused many people who wanted to invest money because they had an agenda. We just want to help all Syrians regardless of their political point of view,’’ says Khanji.
There are 11 full-time staff, including the founders, who are known as ‘Dubarji’ — with 400 volunteers across 32 countries supporting the core team.
‘‘Our vision is to be the first thing that comes up for Syrians when they click for information, jobs, freelancing offers, even to find a roommate, or volunteer in helping others,’’ says Khanji, who’s been living in Dubai for 10 months, and works as a marketing manager. Edilbi works as an art director.
“All our services are provided free of charge. We have listed over 400 investment, partnership opportunities on the website and many of our compatriots are finding the UAE a good place to set up businesses,’’ says Khanji, who claims they reach over 250,000 Syrians around the world through social media. There are over 7,000 daily visitors to the platform, which is the perfect place to hangout online for young Syrians, say the founders. But the question is how the venture will fare in the long-term. Online donations are being considered. Wikipedia is a great example of getting it right, say the founders.
“Advertising on our website or social media is not an option now, although we get many good deals. But we don’t want to ruin our website with unrelated ads.” Dedicated Syrian volunteers are developing mobile applications which will be rolled out soon and this too will be free. Dubarah has proved freedom from the Syrian bloodshed does not have to come at a price.
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