Abdallah Burgul moved with his family to the city of Saraqib, his mother’s hometown, in 1953. However, his love and attachment to Kafr Nabl always caused him to return to visit it during summer and school holidays.
“In the beginning of the 1950s, Kafr Nabl was a small village. Its inhabitants depended on growing fig and olive trees. We used to cover our basic needs by exchanging eggs instead of money. People lived in extreme poverty, and very few of them pursued their education,” says Abdallah.
Women in Kafr Nabl suffered from abuse and mistreatment. For instance, a woman wasn’t allowed to walk beside her husband but had to walk behind him, keeping a distance of a few steps between them. It was also shameful for a husband to call his wife by her name.
Abdallah says, “During spring, women wake up at the crack of dawn to start their day by feeding livestock, baking bread and then plowing the land with their husbands in the field until sunset. After that, they return home to cook lunch. Women work more than men, especially during harvest season. Some of them even give birth while harvesting, including my mother who gave birth to my older brother while working in the field. This only got her only one day off work.”
In the late 1960s, many people from the region began working in the civil service particularly in the police force. It even became a requirement for a young man to be a public employee in order for girls to accept him as a fiancé.
“The region witnessed urban development,” says Abdallah. “Villas and castles became more common and were owned by members of the police force, who made a fortune out of bribery and corruption.”
In 1967, after obtaining his high school diploma, Abdallah enrolled in the University of Aleppo to study Arabic Literature and graduated in 1970. The country at the time was witnessing political movements and cold conflicts between 3 groups: the governing authority represented by the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party on one side, and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Communist Party on the other side. Abdallah admired the Communist Party and was friends with many Communists, whom he describes as highly educated and selfless. He says, “The opposing parties were working in secret, meeting in houses, distributing brochures, and so forth. The security grip at the time was still loose since Hafez al-Assad was still in the period of establishing good governance. Thus, he acted so as not to antagonize or oppress citizens.”
While studying at the university, it occurred to Abdallah that there should be a uniform for students in order to avoid embarrassing the poor students or exposing differences in class. So, he submitted his suggestion to the university’s presidency, and it was approved. The university issued a decision requiring its students to wear a uniform on campus, and the decision remained in force for about 20 years.
After his graduation, Abdallah joined the mandatory military service. In 1973, he participated in the October War as an enlisted soldier. He says, “I was witness to Hafez al-Assad’s biggest lie in history, the October Trigger War and not the October Liberation War, which demonstrated the army’s sectarianism and politicization. This is in addition to the confusion in managing operations and poor training of the military personnel. I remember an officer called Mahmoud Humaidi who launched a heroic operation with his soldiers in which they destroyed 6 of the enemy’s bunkers. Instead of being honored for his courage, he was discharged from the army and then worked as a simple administrator in al-Orouba Community School in Aleppo.
After completing his military service in 1975, Abdallah worked as a teacher and was able to obtain a secondment to teach in Morocco, where he pursued his postgraduate studies. He worked abroad for a period of 23 years.