Marah's Syria Diary: A Wartime Proposal From My Father's Friend

Syria, an older man, an impossible choice.
Syria, an older man, an impossible choice.

DAMASCUS — As part of a collaboration between Syria Deeply and Rookie, we’re publishing the memoirs of a teenage girl living in the midst of Syria’s war.

Marah, a teenage girl from one of Syria's besieged cities, shares her stories of life in the war. She recently moved to Damascus to continue her education, in the face of the ongoing war that has destroyed her local schools. Her father was killed in the violence and she now lives with distant relatives in the capital. Earlier installments can be read here and here.

He is a handsome man in his 50s, with a white face and green eyes. A gray line passes through his hair. He is well educated, and has never been married. He is an old friend of my late father. He even resembles him, inside and out. He lives far away, in Sweden, and we call him Uncle Amjad.

He told me he'd send me money to help us. I refused and swore I'd send the money back. He praised how my mother raised us. He said my father was lucky to have had her as a wife. At that moment, he started thinking about this young girl who enchanted him with her strength, her pride and her mind.

Later, he asked me if I would marry him. He told me I'd be his spoiled princess. He said he'd make all my dreams come true. I'm seriously considering it. I feel he is my savior, the man that would take me on a magic carpet from a land of despair to a land of wishes and ambitions.

Why not? I could go to Sweden. I could study there and have a good life and Uncle Amjad would take care of me and treat me like a princess, being so many years younger than him. It sounds so much better than staying here, in this country that is falling apart.

Mother knows best

I told my mother about it. She was furious. She yelled at me for a long time. And then she calmed down and started explaining to me how dangerous it would be for me to agree to his offer.

"He is 30 years older than you," she said. "You won't be able to understand him. He won't understand you either. Try to find your own way. Don't let anyone take you into a fantasy that's not for you. You're still young. Please, don't waste yourself like that. You'll regret it. Marriage is not about relying on someone else completely; it is about sharing. Such a relationship will never be balanced. He would just be like a financier for your ambitions, instead of being a life partner."

Despite everything I think I always trust my mother, no matter what. So now my notions of Uncle Amjad have been dashed, and I am afraid of a potential union.

Would marrying this older man when all other options seem so bleak be really that bad, like my mother thinks it is? Or is it, in fact, a step towards a peaceful life, with no problems, no pain? Is that too much to ask? I need your advice, please.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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