Caroline is a 41-year old from Damascus. Her mother is Armenian and her father is from Hawash. She was imprisoned in Syria for one month then had to leave the country. She gained asylum in France and has lived there for the past seven years. She broke ties with many friends and even family members who support the Syrian regime.
In 2012, she started a radio station called SouriaLi with three other Syrians in exile. It grew to a team of 25 people living in 13 different countries. It offers alternative news covering the situation in Syria as well as cultural programs. They have had difficulty obtaining sufficient funding to keep a full-time staff paid and Caroline feels bitter that they must all work second jobs to make ends meet. She used to work 15-17 hours a day at first to launch SouriaLi. Now she works fewer hours but they all work with little or no financial gain. She decided to develop a project beyond radio, to create work for herself.
She learned French in school and college in Syria and did not have difficulty communicating from the time she started living in France. She spends most of the day working for SouriaLi from home, speaking Arabic with colleagues in other countries. She therefore has had little opportunity to make French friends, integrate into society, or use French consistently. She uses Arabic and English every day for work and knows English better than French (she says that French people judge and correct if there are mistakes while the Anglophone world is more tolerant with non-native speakers).
She feels “my home is my shelter,” an “emotional shelter,” and used to stay at home for weeks, feeling she did not need to leave at all if she had food. However, after a certain point she felt she must leave the house and studied for a Masters’ degree for a year in Aix. She found it quite difficult despite her French literary studies in Damascus. She tired of the younger students who had mistaken ideas about Syrians and asked lazy questions about her origins when they noticed her accent. But at university she made one close French friend who was “like a sister” and started offering Caroline her lecture notes.
She felt that in her studies in International Human Rights there was too large a gap between theory and concrete realities. She noticed how many students study human rights not out of altruism but because international jobs in this domain pay well. She compares this with her aunt and others in Syria who fed tens of refugees a week with no support and no funding.
Since she has taken up daily exercise classes at the gym, she has made some friends who she there sees regularly.