Hafez al-Assad’s son Bashar initially seemed to embody a new era of freedom and opportunity. The young eye doctor was untested, but Syrians were so starved for change that they chose to believe that a new generation of leaders, who had lived and studied abroad, would be likelier to set them free.
Riad al-Turk lived a life of great personal sacrifice in the struggle for a free and democratic Syria. He suffered greatly but was not broken. His long periods in prison, and his unwavering commitment to freedom, earned him comparisons to Nelson Mandela. He leaves behind a rich legacy.
When he became a pilot in Syria’s air force, standing in front of my mother in his green military uniform, I thought no one could be braver or stronger than my brother. But Syria in the 1960s and ’70s was a dangerous place, changing month by month, and navigating its treacherous waters often proved fatal, even to the strongest.
When my parents gave me my Kurdish name, their choice was not a casual decision but an act of preserving their Kurdish identity. The forcible changing of names is not a minor alteration; it is an attempt to unravel parts of the cultural tapestry binding all Kurds together.
While news outlets often turn refugees into faceless numbers and politicians weaponize their struggles to fit their own agendas, I find nothing more powerful than individual stories, and the way each of us tries to make sense of the burning question: What is home, when you can no longer return?
The petite, preserved eggplant serves not only as a marker of memory and nostalgia but also as a gift to loved ones, a means to pay off debts, a touchstone for marriage proposals and a tether to the homeland. They are interpreted in dreams, used in jokes ("Did you hear the one about when the makdous met Ronald McDonald?") and can even be used to describe a state of being.
In a story with eerie echoes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Benan Grams tells New Lines magazine’s Rasha Elass the story of how cholera changed the face of Ottoman Damascus.