one to one with a Syrian aid worker

It was in late June, when in the evening after a long day of training I sat with Rash (name changed) in the lobby of hotel in Gaziantep, Turkey and had a long chat. He was telling me about the charity organization he works for, which helps orphans and widows in Aleppo, Syria with food, shelter and education. His eyes were really sparkling when he was telling me about the widows his organisation was supporting and of whom about 80% were illiterate. “We are teaching them to read and write. This is very important. There is no other way.” With great pride he was showing me on his organization’s Facebook page pictures of the library they had built. Also, their bread factory not only employs displaced people, but it uses the local ingredients to produce bread, which is then distributed as part of their food aid.

He was telling me how important and useful our humanitarian training was and he was encouraging my organization to deliver various training courses to as many Syrian aid workers as possible.

He was also telling me with great humbleness about the scholarship he received to study French and biotechnology in France. He had only 2 months to wait until he would travel there. He told me about the danger he was facing every day when doing his work in Aleppo. Some time ago their office building was bombarded but he, what a miracle, did not got even injured. But he keeps doing this work. He said “i have to do it. There is no other way. And, if i die, I die.”

And here i am – a week ago I found out that he has been killed by death barrel. This young, bright, smart, brave and hardworking man lost his life when saving others’. His dream about studies in France and living in a peaceful Syria will be left unfulfilled. Like many other dreams.

Brutality of this war is mind-blowing. During our Personal safety and security course, after talking about communication in conflict situations, our trainer showed a short film about European journalists kidnapped by militants in Cambodia. When introducing this film, trainer warned participants that there will be some violence, therefore if anyone feels uncomfortable, should let trainer know. Once the film finished, many of the participants laughed. “There was no violence”, they said. “Do you want to see what violence is?”, one of the participants, a young NGO worker in his late 20s working in Syria, asked trainer. He took his smart phone and showed some photos he had taken some time ago in his city. There were tens of killed dead men laying on the ground in blood.

I looked at each of the participants. Though they looked calm and relaxed, they carried memories in their minds and images on their smart phones, which were shocking to me, but ordinary to them. It reminded me of a frog in boiling water. They probably do not realize how resilient they have become and how their understanding of concept of ‘normality’ has transformed as a result of the increasing insecurity and political challenges.

Hundreds of aid workers die every year. But he is the first one i have known personally. I will remember him as a real hero. …. Life is a gift. Cherish every day. Dont waste it.

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