What a Syrian Refugee Can Teach Us

Couple of days ago I decided to learn Arabic, one of the most difficult languages on earth. After posting a request on Facebook and asking for someone who was willing to give me some advice on where to find a school to learn the language, I received many messages of refugees living in the city I am living in.

One of them, a 32 year old guy, asked me to meet and I went in order to see what he could offer me and what I could do in return. He asked me to visit him once a week for 1-2 hours and practice dutch with him, his wife and mother. I thought it sounded like a very fair deal.

We sat at Starbucks for hours, talking about how he used to teach Arabic  in Turkey while being a refugee and he showed me some videos he made himself in order to make learning more fun. He is such a motivated guy who speaks english perfectly.

Starting from there we continued talking about him, his story, and his dreams. Even though he had suffered a lot and still was, lost a lot and seen so many traumatizing things, he still made jokes and had such a positive energy: an open-minded, non-religious, and outgoing man who loves talking (a lot). He is very knowledgeable man, who knows many things about medicine, law, computers, electronics, politics, and so on. A well-travelled man who has lost his home. Who left everything behind in order to survive. A man who came by boot with 500 other people, who got robbed several times, and had to work in refugee camps in order to keep himself busy and make sure he could go to the next country as soon as possible.

“I urge you to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of refugees past and present.” » Kofi Annan

Today, he is being judged by people in Europe and gets humiliated so many times. People do not understand that he did not come to Europe because he wanted to, no there is war, there is death, there are bombs in his home town. He wanted to have the quality of life he used to have and therefore he had to go to a country, where the country really did take care of them. He could not just stay in Turkey where people were corrupt and quality of life was even worse than back home.

He told me a story which made me angry and sad at the same time. A story I had to ask 5 times if this was true because it sounded too ridiculous.

When he arrived in The Netherlands 2 year ago, he was asked to translate on regular bases to the new Syrian refugees at the introduction events. The first lecture he had to translate to them during this meeting was: How to use toilets!!! Can you imagine how humiliating this is? As if Syrian people live in caves and went to poop on the floor. The second lecture was about traffic, cars etc. because Syrians came on camels, and left their camels at the Syrian border and needed to be taught how traffic works. It was so shocking to hear how little Europeans actually know about the world!!!!

Before judging people, ethnicities, and cultures please hold on for a second… ask yourself what your ideas are based on? Have you ever talked to those people, have you ever visited that country?  Stop thinking of yourself as the privileged one, know that refugees do not come from caves and are poor, most of them are highly educated, smart and used to be very wealthy back in Syria. Those people do not need people teaching them how to use a toilet.


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