Mike and I have just returned from a walk in the Old City area of Damascus where we’re staying. This happened – we got chatting to some lovely young guys in their teens who were fascinated that we were from London. They were so charming and funny and kept saying ‘you are welcome in Syria!’ They didn’t have a lot of English so we couldn’t do a proper interview with them but we did video briefly.
They all said they love Assad and that ‘Trump is crazy’. When we asked them if they were afraid of their president they started laughing,and through chuckles one said, ‘I am not scared, no’. Then they said ‘come to our school! Come! Come!’ and led us round the corner where a big group of other boys were milling about. They all rushed over to greet us, firing questions at us in Arabic. Then they introduced their teacher who was standing by the open door, a friendly young woman who invited us into the school saying, ‘you are very welcome’. We were taken into the head’s office, also a woman, and offered biscuits and coffee by the boys which they rushed off to get.
Then the boys ushered us into the inner courtyard and introduced us to their other teachers saying we should ‘take picture!’ So all the boys lined up excitedly and I joined then as Mike took a pic, then I took a few with Mike and the boys. The young woman teacher then asked for my number so that ‘we an chat later’ and we were taken back into the head’s office where she was asking us where we were from and why we were in Syria.
We explained that we were independent journalists who wanted to find out the truth that our western media doesn’t tell people. She asked us if we like our government? and, of course, we said no. She said ‘the people are not the same as their governments’ and we agreed. She was so courteous and friendly and her conversation was interspersed the whole time with ‘welcome, welcome’. We then said our goodbyes and left with friendly words ringing in our ears.
Can you imagine being invited into an English school on the spur of the moment and getting a welcome like this? You’d need a DBS check for a start that would take weeks and I can guarantee the welcome wouln’t be half as enthusiastic. It was very moving. This is Syria. No wonder we keep coming back.
We received this wonderful reply from Razan Alkheshen, the supervisor who works at the school:
سررنا جدا بالتعرف عليكم سيدتي
شكرا لنقلكم الصورة الحقيقية لحياتنا في سوريا .. نحن شعب نحب كل الشعوب .. ولكننا نكره الحكومات التي تتدعي أنها ديمقراطية وهي بالواقع عدوانية
نحن في سوريا نعشق رئيسنا الدكتور بشار الأسد .. ونعشق جيشنا العربي السوري .. لقد رفعوا رأسنا عاليا ودحروا الإرهاب .
أنوه .. أنني حين سألتكم عن الشعب والحكومة في بلادكم .. كنت أعلم أن شعوبكم لا تتفق مع حكوماتها .. وأن أغلب الشعب البريطاني ليس كحكومته .. فهو لا يريد العدوان على سوريا .
ولا أخفيكم سرا أنني ماكنت لأرحب بكم في مدرستنا .. لو أن جوابكم كان أنكم متفقون مع حكومتكم .
أنتم على الرحب والسعة دوما .. نتمنى تكرار زيارتكم .
This is the rough translation from Facebook:
Very nice to meet you, ma’am.
Thank you for transferring the real picture of our lives in Syria.. We are a people who love all peoples.. but we hate governments who claim to be democratic and are actually aggressive
We in Syria love our president, Dr. Bashar Al-Assad.. and we love our Syrian Arab army.. they have raised our heads high and sailed
Note.. that when I asked you about the people and government in your country.. I knew that your peoples did not agree with their governments.. and that most of the British people are not as his government.. He does not want to aggression Syria.
And I do not keep you secret that I would not welcome you to our school.. If your answer was to agree with your government.
You’re always welcome.. we wish to repeat your visit.
Alison Banville is co-editor of BSNews