Pioneers of Memory of Place and Man by Ahmed Assili
At the end of June 2012, I visited Arwad for the last time, the island that embraced my childhood and part of my adolescence. I did not realize at the time that it was a farewell wave, the choice of travel and immigration was not part of my plans, especially in those months of political events. Like other young people, I dreamed of a free, rich and democratic homeland…. The country itself became just a dream after several months!
Maybe now, 10 years after that trip, I look at this island, my childhood, my youth and even the Arwa community and everything that happened, a different view.
Through this article (and perhaps later articles if circumstances allow me), I will try to go back a little, in sessions closer to disclosure, perhaps to reconciliation with oneself and personal history, and also to go about this island from within speaking, and here I do not mean only from within it as one of its children, rather from my soul and consciousness, and as I saw it as a child and a boy inhabiting it, and a young man had it left, but he visited it constantly. , and then a man who a few days ago was older than forty-one years ago, and still, despite 10 years of exile, maintains a strong bond with this island through the smallest details of her news on to trace, through most of her Facebook pages on the one hand, and through my family and some of her social relations, on the other, is still steadfast. So let’s start
Start: Arwady, father, uncle, grandfather!
I am Arwady. Yes Arwady, I wear this adjective casually, but with all force, with all rootedness. I was born on 11 July 1981 in Arwad, to an Arwadi mother and an Arwad father, to a grandfather and a great grandfather from Arwad and from both sides, and referred to by my nickname (Osaili) as some say , after rose honey in the countryside of Damascus, I am not sure, but what I lived was only in Arwad. And I have never once in my life visited these roses!
Growing up in Erwad, she learned her own distinctive dialect, which for reasons I don’t know is very similar to the Aleppine dialect? Some may find this strange, so what is the connection between this island and Aleppo so that we have similar dialects? I don’t know, but we both say: “Echo” this is our special. We both speak with exaggeration and amplification of words, to the extent that many residents of the Syrian East think when they hear our dialect that we are from one of the countryside of Aleppo!!!! In any case, the similarity is not only in dialect, but in many things about which I will tell later.
Black Days Birth!
So I was born in the early eighties, in one of the worst periods of Syrian history, the regime’s war with the Brotherhood, the politburo of the Communist Party which aligned me with the opposition, the youth activity of the Communist Action Group, but all these events were very far from Arwad, as if we were living in another country…
She was born in a simple family (like all Arwad families) and poor (like most Arwad families too).
I used to think that the difficulty of obtaining bread was an obvious one of the difficulties of life, and here I do not mean getting it because of material poverty. My father was a hard-working fisherman, always able to secure what we needed financially, but bread simply did not exist.
Fortunately for me (with all the selfishness in this word) I was the youngest among my brothers, and therefore I have no responsibility, but all responsibility falls on my older brothers (4 and 7 years old) to stand daily at the oven door for hours and hours, and also at the door of the established Consumerism for days and days, to get bread, tea, sugar and rice!
Those days were a chance for me to play and stay out late into the night, as long as my brothers only stood at the oven door all night for a batch of bread!
She was then born to the father of a fisherman and an intellectual, who experienced the disappointment of political work after being imprisoned on charges of belonging to the Syrian National Party, so he decided to leave public work sailing and turning to the family. since this is his first responsibility, and he did not have (the luxury of political arrest).
The tribal and northern neighborhood
Our house is located in the northern neighborhood, so here I also gained an additional new identity, albeit a very local one. I am from the northern neighborhood, so Varwad is divided into several neighborhoods, but we are two main groups, northern and tribe, and every Arwad must identify himself with one of these two characteristics, to the extent that I When I was a child, I thought the whole world was divided into northerners and tribe (maybe I wasn’t wrong) I didn’t know how and why, but we were developing a very sub-identity rooted, in the game, even in belonging within this infinitesimal place, I’m an Arwadian From the northern district, when I’m in the tribal district go for a walk, I really think I went to (there) in the distance.
I remember that one of our neighbors refused to send her son to school because the school is far in Qibliya, and she said that she was not ready to send her son (there). Can you imagine that (there) is a 10. -minutes walk away!!!
Administrative problems for renovation and construction prohibited
My eyes opened to a relatively large house, my father inherited it from my grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his father, and with each transfer of the house between generations, its space decreases a little, but we were the last family to inherit it and live in it, because my family moved to Tartous later in 1998, with a wave. The moving of the Arwadian families to the city in light of the small area, and the administrative problems with the restoration and construction, because the island was officially considered an archaeological area in which restoration is not allowed?
We left our house empty for several years (like most Arwad families) to later turn the ground floor into a kindergarten, after the issuance of the laws of private schools and kindergartens, a strange and difficult feeling to understand, when I saw the living room turned into a school administration room, and the salon into one of the classrooms, and the garden of the house The background is to a courtyard to play….. but it is also an advantage that until now I can see our house daily through the kindergarten page on Facebook… and you don’t think when I say the ground floor my house was a skyscraper, it’s only two floors, built on an island higher It exists from only three floors, and I don’t think there is a building in Arwad that is that far taller than this (in my childhood, when we always said a tall building, the first image that came to my mind was our neighbor’s 3-story house)
Primary school: a prison without toilets!
In my childhood we didn’t have a kindergarten, but one room that received children under the age of 6 for a fee, in the same building as the primary school, which is a big school (or maybe that’s how I saw it had in my childhood, as long as the high building consists of 3 floors), With a construction very similar to the construction of prisons, like most of the Syrian school buildings in that period.
I see the subject very normally. The school is a daily prison for children, construction is closed and entry and exit are prohibited. Strict laws, dilapidated building without toilets or drinking taps.
We always came to school with each pupil with a bottle of water, and in times of heat and when we drank the bottle, we had to fight a violent battle during the break to win a sip of water, and we everyone hoped that job would end without us feeling like going to the bathroom because the situation was so miserable.
Now when I look back at these years, or when I see some schools in France, I realize how much our childhood was stolen, maybe our parents tried their best to give us love and attention, but that the children from their first school years living without bathrooms or water, studying in prison-like buildings, and school books Theoretically it was free, but we all had to buy a new copy at the beginning of each school year, it’s a theft of the most beautiful details of our memory!
Mosques: Al-Fawqa and Al-Tahta!
Since I was aware of this world, and on our island there are two mosques, their names are simply Al-Fawq Mosque and Al-Taht Mosque!
And because the street that separates them is the central market in Arwad, which is more like the foot of a low hill, they became: top and bottom!
In addition to these two mosques, which are necessary to go to them or pray, there are two prayer corners, which are simple rooms, which are often visited by the elderly because they are on the ground floor.
Mysterious Christian exodus!
Perhaps I forgot to tell you that the people of Arwad are all Sunni Muslims, even though the names of some neighborhoods indicate a previous Christian presence, in an era (Martgla area). My grandfather, who as a judge in Arwad worked, about some disputes and some contracts for the sale and purchase of some properties in the early twentieth century, under Christian names (George for example), but I don’t know what the circumstances were that made everyone leave, and I think that it was really a loss for the pioneers of Christian emigration from them. , and I tried a lot to know the historical circumstances of this migration, but I did not get an answer, or maybe there is no answer at all. Arwad is a small island, which may have had 5 or 6 families living in this Martgla area, then migrated as most of the people from Arwad migrated to Tartus and Lattakia. And then Tripoli and Beirut, and then later to Greece and Cyprus in the mid-nineties of the twentieth century, these migrations, which greatly changed the structure of society, its way of thinking, its economic level and the nature of work among its members will affect, a migration that I think deserves a separate article.