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No Fairy-Tale Wedding In War-Torn Syria

A young couple celebrate their wedding
A young couple celebrate their wedding

HAMA — Most young women in Syria probably grew up dreaming of someday having a beautiful, magical wedding. But in wartime, many women, assuming they are able to wed at all, are settling for ceremonies that are a far cry from what they imagined.

“My biggest fear was that we would book a restaurant and no one would show up,” says Sarah, a newlywed from Hama.

She had planned to get married at the end of the summer. But plans are hard to make in Syria these days. Roads are so dangerous that chances are slim a mailed invitation will actually arrive at its destination.

“I was really scared that something might happen and we would have to cancel the wedding. I kept praying that my wedding day wouldn’t turn out to be a jinx or become a bad memory,” she says.

Sarah’s sister was married three years ago, before the conflict erupted.

“My sister’s wedding was a magical night celebration. All my relatives from different cities traveled to Hama to attend. But for my wedding, none of the relatives outside Hama could make the dangerous and time-consuming journey,” Sarah says.

For her own ceremony, she and her fiancé chose a small restaurant in Hama, close to both her home and those of most of her relatives. It was scheduled for the early afternoon because Sarah and her groom didn’t want anyone to cancel “because of the distance or lateness.”

The young couple was also obliged to lower their expectations for entertainment. There is no money for extravagance, given the country’s stalled economy.

“Since the war began, the prices of everything increased — from booking a restaurant to hiring a band and anything between — so my options became limited,” she says.

A lucky girl

“We wanted a five-tiered cake but settled on a two-leveled one, a band was scrapped for a mix CD, and a big fancy restaurant became a small one. It was a summer wedding and the weather was hot, but thank God there was electricity at first and I was able to have my first dance. I was so happy about that. It felt like God had answered my prayers, and I was able to get more than what I imagined. The heat didn’t stop anyone from dancing.

“Of course it was not the magical night I had dreamt of when I was a little girl, or like any other wedding I went to before. Later, there were electricity cuts and the generator couldn’t handle the air conditioning, so I was sweaty, but that never made me stop smiling. I consider myself a lucky girl to be able to have a wedding party while others marry in silence or just sign papers without any kind of celebration.”

After Sarah and her new husband cut the cake, she felt relief that nothing had gone wrong.

But she was also aware of what waited for her after the party was over. “I couldn’t ignore the fact that outside this door was the start of my new life … as well as a war that doesn’t look like it will end,” she says.

“I am happy and grateful that I am going to start my own family, but I am also scared that I don’t know what the future will hold for us, and how to start a family in war time. The idea of raising my children in this brutal war and environment of hate kills me, but Syria is my home, the place where I grew up, and where my parents live.

“I really hope I get the chance to relive the Syria I knew before the war — or even a better Syria.”

*Adam is the pseudonym for a Hama-based Syrian contributor.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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