Photos of urban walks and quotes from SYRMAGINE

Fieldwork in Tripoli and Beirut and beyond (© Lea Müller-Funk)

I didn’t want to carry arms, I had two choices: to carry arms with the Free Syrian Army in the Ghouta , this would have been very easy, or that I am with the regular army, but I didn’t want to carry arms, so staying in Lebanon was the best.‘ (interview Beirut, April 2018)
‘First of all, I wish I wasn’t born into this world. Sometimes I sit… I wish I was still in Syria or I wish I wasn’t born into this world at all which is only exhaustion. Until now, I sit and think it’s only worry and sadness on this world when we left our country. When we were in Syria, our situation was better, our life was better. True, our life was simple but it was sufficient, there was no one bothering you. Now here, we are living in a way that people look at you in a way like “you are a refugee, you occupied their country”. As my life, as my emotional state, at the moment, it is nothing.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘I did my papers and I wanted to register my son in a public school in the morning. They told me we are sorry but because he is Syrian, we cannot register him. What about him being Syrian? Did you do an entrance exam to know if he is eligible or not? He was in a private school for three years, they didn’t even try to see if he had talents.’ (interview Tripoli, March 2018)
‘Now, when we came to Lebanon first, UNHCR helped us a lot, with electricity, food, according to the number of people in the house. This helped us a lot but they cut it when Yusuf was born. Now, every year, the expenses increase, they stopped the assistance randomly.’ (interview Tripoli, March 2018)
Now I arrived at a point where I just work so that I have a monthly income. Apart from this, I stay still on a particular level because chances here for Syrians are very low, the chances that they employ me in something good, or that you have insurance, you have to work two or three things at the same time to have a monthly income from it. In regards to work I do not see myself here in the future, even in regards to studies, I don’t see myself here.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
I swear, I don’t imagine anything, every day that comes is worse than the one before, we are afraid about the days to come. We are afraid of the days to come. Because there is nothing good coming, the worst is coming. (…) We got depressed, it’s hard psychologically, thinking, thinking, it doesn’t help us with anything.‘ (interview Tripoli, April 2018).
Me who has managed to work here in Lebanon for two, three years, of course, I won’t have difficulties to find something there in Canada (laughs).‘ (interview Beirut, April 2018)
‘Life here is… you run, you run, and nothing follows, here is nothing towards the future’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘If I had the chance to travel… but it’s God who chooses our destiny, I wish to leave from here, anywhere, even China, I wish to leave from this place. And if I leave from this place, I am going to expose their disgrace. Wherever I go, I want to expose Lebanon‘s disgrace.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘Until the last day I hoped to work at his place for a month, I have to, I need to work there. I was afraid that he would get me into trouble because my papers are not in order, I did not renew my papers, so the situation of my papers is crap, they are not renewed. I am suffocated. Suffocated in this area. I cannot leave from this neighborhood. If there is a check-point, they take you and put you in prison for three days.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘If the war ended, what would suit me most is to take my business from here to Syria. I would take my money and I would return to Syria and do the same thing there what I am doing here now. Because of my family and people there, and this isolation. I would do the same work as I am doing here. Here I am isolated, isolated from my country. […] If things were okay, I would go back. I don’t wait for a particular result, regardless of who wins and who looses, who the president is, I don’t care. What interests me is the end of the war in Syria because Syrians want to rebuild their lives fast.’ (interview Beirut, April 2018)
As long as Bashar al-Assad is present, we won’t return, there is no safety. If they said “Bashar will be removed from power,” we would all return. But if there is no security, how should we return? They say “we will repair your houses, we will rebuild,” but it’s all a lie. There is no safety.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2020)
‘In general, if we speak frankly and consciously, Lebanon is financially very, very weak, industrially weak, in everything it produces. There is no money. The Lebanese people are very exhausted, below zero. A Lebanese manages to bring two loaves of bread home, he cannot help you with your bread. […] Economically, Lebanon, can never, never support it. Lebanon has no oil, no agriculture, nothing, no tourism, it doesn’t have anything, there is no work. We don’t blame the Lebanese because they are exhausted. We came and exhausted them even more and they started to hate us, a hate developed. And now they hate everything which is Syrian.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘We thought about leaving to Turkey and we tried, but it was too expensive. Now we are here, there is nothing towards the future. Financially, it’s zero. This is our story.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘There was no other way or choice for us other than Lebanon. It was the closest, and the travel costs were average. If we were financially more comfortable, we would have come to any other country. Turkey or countries which value people, children, their education, their work. This is the future of a large generation. How you bring a person up, he will grow up. By raising a person with knowledge, with culture, by raising him up with wisdom, he will become wise. If you leave him like this, he will become abandoned, failed, homeless. This is never good.’ (interview Tripoli, April 2018)
‘I passed it somewhat… There are always times when a person must remember things. It could take about a week or two, I feel the pressure… but in the end, what makes you love this place… it is not the place but the people living here. Which means that I do not like Syria because it is Syria. At the end, I consider myself to be a Syrian by coincidence. Any other country could be my homeland. So, I don’t care. I do not have loyalty to the place because it is a place. But my loyalty is to the place where the people are who I love. Because all my cousins and my family are here, that’s why I love Syria, for them.’ (interview Damascus, January 2020).
‘The feeling which I miss most is living under the roof of my house and knowing that the roof belongs to me. That is what I miss most’ (interview Damascus, January 2020).
‘This is the ugliness of war, revealing the real things. The worst thing in a person appears. You discover that there are many people who you did not expect to stand with you but they stood beside you. And there are many people who you expected to stand by you but they didn’t.’ (interview Damascus, January 2020)

Fieldwork in Istanbul and Izmir (© Lea Müller-Funk)

We are accustomed to life that is cut and connected (laughs). The story of safety is… you feel that your life is already fucked up, I mean, I was raised without a father, the revolution happened and the revolution failed, and we emigrated and we stayed, what do you still want to happen? Will I get arrested or not? Everything possible already happened. From what should Europe protect me? From time to time, I wanted Europe to protect me, that they don’t take my father, that this would not happen, now there is nothing left (Beirut, April 2018).
The most terrible thing is that she will change her ideas on her own, and I am here and that I am changing my thoughts on my own. For example, I came to the association alone and she was not here, imagine, I am working in an association, and she in another, we would learn together. At the end of the month, when the salary comes, or if it doesn’t, we would experience this together. If our thoughts change and our traditions are broken, we are not breaking it together… Now, if I go to her, maybe she will be surprised by who I have become (Tripoli, April 2018).