Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Syrian Histories,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Turkey
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“I applied for the public employment competition but was assigned to the water corporation. It has always been the case that new graduates are vetted in a random fashion and not according to their wishes.”

Nada* was born in 1974 to a father from as-Suwayda' province and a mother from Aleppo. Nada grew up in Aleppo, studied there and then continued her secondary education in as-Suwayda', before going back to Aleppo in order to study civil engineering. She wanted to study pharmacy, but since her baccalaureate general average did not permit her to do so, she chose to study engineering at the University of Aleppo. "In Syria, a baccalaureate student often studies in order to get the grades needed to enter a faculty that guarantees a good income and a respected social status," she says. "This has nothing to do with the student's real desires or inclinations."

Nada graduated in 1998 with an excellent grade and achieved first rank in her class. "I wanted to pursue postgraduate studies, obtain a doctorate and teach at the university but this would have required me to get a security clearance, something I could not have. This is why I applied for the public employment competition but I was assigned to the water corporation in as-Suwayda' province. It has always been the case that new graduates are vetted in a random fashion and not according to their wishes. I remained there until 2006."

Nada continues her story by saying, "I worked at the Studies and Implementation department, or what was known as the engineering section. My salary was 3700 Syrian pounds. There were a large number of engineers, although there was no need for more than four of them in order to complete the required work, which was limited to digging a well here, or building a water tank there, or extending some water pipelines in some village."

In 2006, Nada traveled to Kuwait and worked at a private company for two years. "As-Suwayda’ is famous for its large number of emigrants who reside mostly in the Gulf and Venezuela. I went to Kuwait to work there in order to improve my financial situation.  I had the opportunity to do so through one of my colleagues."

During her stay in Kuwait, Nada met a colleague from Daraa province and later told her family that the young man wanted to marry her. Nada's parents preferred her to marry a Druze but respected her desires and gave her free choice to do what she wanted. She got married in Kuwait. Nada says: “In general, my family members were pretty understanding although I faced rejection and boycott from some, such as my aunt and my grandfather's wife. As for my grandfather, who was quite old, they did not tell him about it out of respect for his feelings. They did not want to trouble him in his last days." She continues: “As far as my husband and his family are concerned, he is a liberal and secular person who left Syria in his youth and, therefore, was not very attached to the community in Daraa. His family did not reject me because his parents had passed away by then. We only spent a few days in Syria during summer holidays.”

Nada does not recall hearing of any major problems or killings as a result of a mixed marriage between the sons or daughters of as-Suwayda'. “My cousin married a Christian girl from Qamishli. The parents did not agree. The dispute was resolved and the girl returned to her city after divorcing. The matter ended at this point. My cousin's daughter married a young man from Homs without the consent of her family but her father forgave her and her family was reconciled with her. She now lives a normal life together with her new husband and her children.”

After giving birth, Nada settled in Syria and returned to her previous job for about a year before she started working in an engineering bureau with a group of colleagues that included her sister and her sister-in-law. She says: “I did not wish to stay in Kuwait because of the long working time and because of my inability to raise my daughter in those circumstances. I did not want to leave her with the nanny as most women there do. My mother's presence in Syria also reduced the pressure I felt during work. This way of life is not unusual to as-Suwayda' families. Since my early days, I have seen many families living in similar situations wherey the man works outside Syria while the wife and children live in as-Suwayda'.”