Abu Hashim

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Peaceful Coexistence in the Diaspora,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Beirut, Lebanon
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Abu Hashim has visited Syria every week since his early childhood days. Therefore, he understands the nature of Syrian society well because of the cultural and geographical rapprochement with his own society in his hometown Baalbek.

He says, “I spent a lot of time in Syria during my childhood. We have a house in the Mezzeh area of Damascus where we used to play soccer in the neighbourhood. I remember the first time I broke my hand there. It did not happen in Baalbek. I do not distinguish much between Baalbek and Sham due to the demographic-cultural cohesion and the convergence of ideas, customs and traditions. The Beqaa Governorate was once considered a Syrian province when the Grand Liban state existed.”

He continues, “The idea I have formed about Syrians is that, frankly, they are much more diligent in their work than the Lebanese. The former would accept a reality that a Lebanese person would not. This sentence carries two opposite meanings, one negative and the other positive, because a Lebanese person may aspire to be at the top when sometimes he does not deserve it, while a Syrian may accept his current situation while working to go higher.”

Abu Hashim can interact with Syrians more easily than with the Lebanese to the point that he speaks with the Syrians in their dialect and with the Palestinians in the latter's dialect as well. The Syrian person, as he says, is a social being by nature, opening up rooms for dialogue, much like his cousins and clan members in Baalbek. While a Lebanese person has some barriers, one must break through them before one can have a strong relationship with him. Abu Hashim believes that the Lebanese governmental institutions did not deal with Syrians in a fair manner. The Syrians were displaced to many countries of the world but they have not been so humiliated anywhere as they have been in Lebanon. He does not know why this is so.

He says about this, “When any discussion is opened between male and female students at the university, I tell them that Syrians welcomed us into their country during the July [2006] war so we have to receive them. They tell me that they received the Lebanese for a limited time but Syrians have been staying in Lebanon for 10 years. I then reply that when they welcomed us they did not force us to sign a hosting contract for 32 days only; they greeted us on the basis that it was an open war that may have extended up until today. Unfortunately, government institutions have treated Syrian refugees with the utmost ingratitude. Unfortunately, you may see a banner in a Lebanese village posted by the municipality that forbids Syrian refugees to travel after a certain hour.”

Abu Hashim moved from Baalbek to Beirut in 2013 to pursue his studies at the Lebanese American University. The University holds an annual event called World Heritage Day, which includes several cultural clubs among which are the Palestinian, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Brazilian Cultural Clubs. Abu Hashim participated in this event for seven consecutive years and in almost half of those participations he was included in the Syrian Cultural Club's activities. He has been fond of Damascene folklore since his younger days and performs the sword and shield dance, even taking the dance lead, having memorised its words and movements.

He carried those words and movements from Syria for those Lebanese university students who consider themselves somewhat separate from the social class to which he belongs, and so that they get to know them.

Abu Hashim concludes by saying, “This kind of cultural activity increases the cohesion and familiarity between people so that they can understand each other more. Syria is not what we have come to know today, just destruction and bombing. Aside from siding with the regime or with the opposition, I speak about the Syrian people who are no different from our people, if only a little bit in terms of dialect. They have an upscale class like ours - we all know the merchants of Aleppo and Syria - and they have a middle class like we have. They have poverty as we have and we also have the same pain and fate.”