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10 years of Syria war: Expats in UAE recall how they fled

Dubai - 'Syria will bloom again; it's a land of love, creativity and opportunities, not war'

By Saman Haziq

Published: Tue 16 Mar 2021, 6:33 AM

Syrian expats in the UAE are praying that peace returns to their beleaguered nation, as the conflict crosses the 10-year mark.

Life may have changed for the better for several Syrians who found a safe haven in the UAE after escaping the worst refugee crisis in the world in 2011. However, with no end in sight to the crises in their homeland — which was aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic — expats hope and pray that everything would get better for their nation someday.

Sharjah resident Majd Al Khatib, whose family fled their Damascus home overnight around eight years ago, still remembers the day her family landed in the UAE after a 16-hour ordeal.

“I was in Abu Dhabi at that time. My parents, brother and sister had to flee our family home in Damascus after the war started. They witnessed the bombings from close quarters…and managed to flee at the right time. They rented a car and travelled through Beirut in Lebanon before they reached the UAE borders safely after undertaking a 16-hour journey from Syria,” she said.

Al Khatib’s parents and relatives were among those who were granted the short-term conditional visa for refugees. “Although I am so glad my family made it in time and that they are now safe here with me and leading a good life, I worry and pray for my country-people who are still struggling with the conflict.”

Al Khatib said her house is still safe in Syria and although none of them can think of going back, they miss their homeland.

“My father is gone, but my brother and mother now live here peacefully in Sharjah and my sister got married and moved to Egypt…I especially miss the hustle-bustle of the streets of the old city of Damascus, the warm sun and the cool breeze…my childhood memories…I hope and pray the destruction and bloodshed ends so we can once again visit our beloved country and meet our friends and relatives still surviving there,” she said.

Reminiscing about the country’s glorious past, Syrian national and Dubai resident Ruba Nesly is not losing hope.

“Syria is not a land of war, it is a land of love and creativity and opportunities. It is the land of history and future … and after living in the UAE for the last 10 years, I have gathered the courage and inspiration to think and imagine that we can rebuild our Syria again,” said Nesly, who arrived in the UAE in 2010.

“I haven’t lost hope ... Syria was blooming like a shy flower before war...I hope and pray peace prevails in my home country so we can build it again with love.”

Nesly came to the UAE after getting married to her husband who had been working in the country since 2000. After the uprising in Syria turned into a violent civil war, the couple’s extended families also moved to the Emirates.

Syrian expat Faris Satli moved to the Emirates before the war started, but his heart goes out to his people and country.

“Although I came to the UAE in 1991, I still hold Syrian nationality and I feel for my people and my country. A decade has passed and yet we see no end to this conflict; all we see are images of destruction. I hope one day I am able to see the people of my country living in a safe and peaceful Syria, a reputation it had from olden times. As the Syrian conflict crosses the 10-year mark, my heart pains to see the troubled faces of widowed mothers and orphaned children … I wish more effort goes in to bring about peace in Syria,” Satli said.


Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

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