Syria: Celebrating Eid at a time of conflict and COVID

By: 
CARE
“I look at these orphans. On Eid, I could not buy new clothes for them. It was very difficult. Young children, what are they guilty of?” – Amina Al Ali, who has lost her husband and three of her sons to the conflict in Syria

Eid al-Adha would normally be a time of celebration for Muslim communities.

But these are not normal times for Syrians, who for nearly a decade have endured conflict, displacement, and exile – and now, like the rest of the world, face the added threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here, Syrians – both inside Syria, and in the Syrian diaspora – share their memories of Eids past, and their hopes and fears as they celebrate Eid al-Adha this year.

Dr. Ihlas

2004: It is Eid again and at least 35 to 45 of our family members are gathering in my mother’s house.

“They are spread everywhere; in the living room, in the bedrooms, in the kitchen, and even on the roof, and the lucky one is the one who can find a chair to sit on. Food, sweets, gifts, and money amounts that are given by the eldest person in the family to the crowds according to age, and the lucky family is the one with more children so they get the largest amount.

“Surprises, laughter, cries, small fun incidents and fights that we keep talking about till the next Eid, and the lucky one is the one who is remembered with a funny anecdote.”

Dr. Ihlas Altıncı is Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Adviser, Cross-Border, for CARE Turkey. She is from Aleppo city in Syria. Dr. Ihlas is a family doctor, mother of four children and works with CARE in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Amal

2014: It is Eid again and it is only the six of us; my husband is missing and five of our seven children and I are sitting in the living room watching some news on the TV, and the lucky one is the one who gets a ‘hi’ on WhatsApp from the distant relatives and friends who have left the country.

“Food, sweets, gifts and money amounts are just another distorted memory of past happiness that has vanished from our lives, and the lucky ones are those who have an impaired memory, so that they don’t cry over killed or missing family members.

“Surprises, laughter, cries, small fun incidents and fights are replaced with anger, frustration, fear and isolation, and the lucky ones are those who have totally surrendered to their destiny and don’t argue anymore.”

Amal, 50, is a housewife from Aleppo, Syria, and a mother of seven children. She used to feel like she was a queen in her house and among her family; now she is described as a ‘superwoman’ who supports her family on her own.

Sharif

2020: It is Eid again and the eyes of little boys and girls are glittering with joy, while dancing in front of those crowded tents they call ‘my house’; not because of happiness, but because they were told to fake happiness, otherwise, they will not receive sweets while the cameras are still on.

“Consecutive Eids will be coming and going as life goes on, and the lucky ones are those who can take a closer look into those children’s eyes, where under that bittersweet smile that they carry on their faces, you can see wisdom, hope and determination of having genuine happy Eids and bright futures built by their own little hands the way they know is better.”

Sharif, 35, is a father of two children and a humanitarian aid worker in Idlib, Syria. He provides health services to displaced Syrians in camps in northern Idlib, where the humanitarian situation is dire.

Hussein

When I was in Syria, everything was beautiful. I don’t know why, but maybe because it became part of the memories I cling onto, especially when I think about how all my family members used to wait for this special time of year.

“For me, and since I worked in another city far from my hometown back in Syria, Eid was the best holiday that allowed me to see my mother, my brothers, relatives, and friends. Although the celebrations were simple, everything was delightful and special in my eyes. I can’t forget the smiles on the children’s faces and the joy in each home in my neighborhood.

“Everything has changed now. Eid seems like a usual day. Nothing is special and even worse, it reminds me of people we have lost or haven’t been able to meet for a long time.

“I try to be happy just to make my kids feel happy and celebrate Eid. I try to let them look forward to this day by buying them new clothes and counting down the days to Eid. Yet, each Eid, we feel that something is missing and keep talking about those days, when we were in Syria.

“Each day, and especially during Eid, although we miss Eid in Syria, I keep thanking Allah that my family and I are still alive and I can work to provide a dignified life for them. I still dream that one day we can go back and celebrate the end of the Syrian war. I hope this day will not be far.”

Hussein Araban is WASH and Shelter Program Manager, Cross-Border, for CARE Turkey.

Nisrine

Since my departure from Syria, I no longer feel the spirit of Eid at all but I try to convey it to my children.

“[I am] telling them all the time: ‘We are going to clean the house and everything for the Eid, we are going to iron the clothes for the Eid.’

“Since I have been in Lebanon, everything has changed. I am the only one in my family to be in Lebanon and my house is no longer open to everyone. It’s because I don’t know many people here.

“I can no longer afford to bake pastries or buy new clothes for my children.

“This year also I am really worried. In Damascus, almost my entire family is infected with the coronavirus. My mother is 65 years old, she was rushed to hospital yesterday. My older sister is sick too. May God be with them; I am extremely scared.”

Nisrine is a 29-year-old Syrian refugee living in Tripoli, Lebanon with her two children.

  • In Lebanon, the economy is in freefall, with the Lebanese pound losing 78% of its value since October, causing widespread hardship and hunger.
  • Inside Syria, the recent UN Security Council resolution cut access to humanitarian assistance in half for 4 million Syrians living in northwest Syria. It’s estimated that 91% of displaced people in the area do not have access to soap.
  • Syrian families need your help now. Please help CARE to reach refugee families and people inside Syria with urgent humanitarian assistance.

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