Syrians and the Tribulation of Emigration

The Relation between people of Salamiyah and the forcible emigrants

Research team director: Sabr DARWISH

Research supervisor and editor: Yousif FAKER AL DEEN

 Consultants

Dr. Youssef SALAMA, the academic director at the Democratic Republic Studies Center.

Mr. Anwar AL-BUNNI, director of the Syrian Center for Legal Researches and Studies.

Dr. Azzam AMIN, University Leon 2-France, member of the board of trustees of the Democratic Republic Studies Center.

Dr. Khaldoun ALNABWANI, university of Sorbonne-Paris, director of the Democratic Republic Studies Center.

Abstract

The city of Salamiyah was, over time, a destination of various groups of people who left their homeland under the pressure of insecurity or poverty and hunger. The successive batches of emigrants contributed in forming the identity of this city and defining the nature and culture of its people; the openness one could observe in this city could be the output of this demographic feature and its impact on the social texture and the general nature of the inhabitants of this city.

It could be absolutely true that Salamiyah resembles the majority of Syrian cities on the level of public social culture; however, the particularity of this city relies in the dominating cultural amalgam! Such culture was the output of intermingling of various groups of people resided in this part of the world and produced what could be seen as a unanimous agreement on the necessity of openness and acceptance of social and cultural diversity as a vital/crucial prerequisite for these groups to continue living together.

With the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, thousands of Salamiyahns rushed behind the dream of overthrowing oppression, exploitation, marginalization, and poverty, and to build a democratic Syrian State for all its citizens. These were not only the common goals they shared with millions of Syrians, but also the promising indication of breaking through the situation/reasons of estrangement between Syrians, as a perception generated through direct activity.

In fact, distance between Salamiyah and Hama was diminished when Salamiyah activists joined the enormous demonstrations in Hama! Activists from both cities co-ordinated their activities up to the point when Salamiyah received with open arms the displaced people of Hama, and later on through the conflict between revolution supporters and the representative of Al-Assad regime in the city not only to prevent the latter from harming the emigrants, but also to provides their needs.

Yet, the requirements of the revolution, including the patriotic intermingling, were too many that faced bloodthirsty authority that has a history of dividing the Syrian society and that has its expert tools for this purpose. Not only that, but the patriotic conversion propagated by the revolution, needed a political body that both the opposing national counsel, and the coalition (that followed later) have failed to be. And only to make it worse; the practices of the dominating powers in both of these, were discriminating and more like dividing that looked not in the least like the revolution while the effect of the other opposition bodies was very week if any at all!

Between the destructive practices of Al-Assad regime, authorities, and representatives on the one hand, and the mal-practices of the dominating powers of opposition on the other, the social movement, that was still in the interaction stage (that was hoped to be a step towards the national intermingling), relapsed into a pre-national social condition in order to seek protection. In the process, Al-Assad regime suppressed Syrian society victimizing thousands of individuals – along with the hopes of change – and fracturing the confidence established among the majority of the components of the Syrian society. This outcome was not limited to Salamiyah or the relation between the Salamiyahns and the displaced people; feelings of insecurity and suspicion towards others have become a common feature shared by Syrians for various reasons related to the practices of a tyrant regime, and the performance of an opposition that can be described as being way below the level of the Syrian revolution, to say the least.

There is a bright side despite the seemingly dark general scene today: it is the experience of unprecedented forms of coexistence and solidarity between Hama and Salamiyah, and from which these cities have learnt how to establish a collective national unity. Such experience proves not only that no features can defy time and history, but also that in the appropriate conditions Syrians, like any other people, would march towards building a firmly connected society where individuals as well as groups practice their roles within the general Syrian panorama.

The ongoing war has forced thousands of Syrian families to leave their homes and relocate in new more secure places. This was the case of approximately 50,000 displaced persons who left the cities of Hamah, Homs, and Aleppo, as well as the Eastern Rural of Salamiyah, to settle in the latter city. In many of these displacing cases, emigrants have relocated in culturally, as well as, religiously different environments as was the case of the city of Salamiyah. Syrians of different inclinations and trends have mingled together; which raised a set of questions regarding the impact of this social mingling and communication on the mentalities and behaviors of individuals.

Within this context, a main question might be raised about the relation between people of Salamiyah and the people forcibly displaced to the city. Such question has its own digressions that relate to the following: First, to the nature of the socio-historical texture/component of the city. Second, to the mentality that originated from this nature, through decades, and facilitated the development of cultural political trends with various extents of democratic patriotic characteristics. Finally, to the interaction of this texture/component and the remains of these trends with the revolution; specifically with the displacement condition resulting from the tyrant authority oppressing the revolution. This question is raised only to consider next the relation originated from the interaction of features (the features of the city with that of the displaced people), the hopes and disappointments of this interaction under the shadows of an open conflict, and Al-Assad destructive administration which spared no effort in order to turn Syrians against each other. Despite the difficulty (that turns into impossibility in certain aspects under security conditions that would victimize the research team in case their goals were revealed) of conducting this research, and despite the severe shortage of documentation of information and details; the research team committed themselves to this hard task considering that it is a preliminary attempt to explore a new territory, and hoping that their work will help other researchers bear the burden of the exhausting exploration of a domain where only little has been revealed; and also hoping that the Democratic Republic Studies Center will continue, through consecutive researches, what they have started.

Research Methods and Goals

This research paper aims to produce a descriptive study of aspects of changes in the Syrians’ perception of and attitudes towards each other – with a focus on the extremely critical circumstances under which these changes took place – as a necessary stage in approaching their definition of their collective identity. The research team carried out this task by raising such questions as: “how well do Syrians know each other?” which answers might otherwise seem quite axiomatic if raised with regards to democratic countries! However, we find out that Syrians lived under the yoke of a tyrant regime that turned them into cantonal isolated groups that have little, if any, knowledge of and information about each other. This gap of knowledge has been filled with fallacies and myths that became a main component of the dominating social culture in Syria. This rift might have been partially healed through the openness of social relations between and the intermingling of the components of the Syrian society that could have never took place if it weren’t for the eruption of revolution and the Syrians’ attempt to open a window for social and political change, before the deviation in the course of conflict which forced them to retrograde. Despite such deviation and the resulting retrogression the experience of knowledge and intermingling, with all its pros and cons, has actually taken place. We will have a deeper look into some aspects of this experience.

The research drew upon direct observation and testimonies due to the impossibility of conducting any public opinion survey including questionnaires; and in severe security circumstances, the research team compiled testimonies of the civilian activists (revolutionary and aid activists, and intellectuals), displaced individuals, and people of Salamiyah (of different strata including teachers). Despite the shortage of the sources on this topic, the research team also saved no effort to supplement the data through library research where they reviewed all the visual publication, photos, statements of activists and intellectuals of the city, and all the available published texts on the research topic. The research adopted a descriptive analysis of the testimonies; references were sometimes added in the body, and often in the footnotes to avoid any distraction to the reader.

Research outline

Chapter One

Forcible displacement to Salamiyah under the rule of Al-Assad dynasty.

People forcibly displaced to Salamiyah under 2011 revolution

People displaced from Hama.

People displaced from Homs.

People displaced from the Eastern Rural.

Chapter Two

Promising/optimistic beginnings.

Changes/conversions.

The impact of extremism and lack of an opposition patriotic plan on the people of Salamiyah.

Available in Arabic

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