A scenic song by Fairouz
It was a nice spring night in Istanbul, when after 12 hours of work, I wanted to enjoy the weather, and have my first meal of the day at 10 pm. I went to nearby restaurant close to the center where I teach and sat there watching the wealthy Istanbulians having a night out.
While I was eating, a young gypsy girl came to me, trying to sell me some tissue. She actually never cared about the “sale” itself as much as she wanted some money. She had a nice smile, and she seems like she has the potentials of becoming a great young woman in the future, but she’s roaming the streets of Istanbul, asking for money, making nice gestures and jokes, and thinking that life is good this way.
The careless gypsy girl ruined my meal, she took away the five minutes I thought I would spend relaxing and eating. Not because she was annoying, but because her calm smile and swarthy countenance reminded me of Diyar, a young Kurdish boy from Syria.
Two years ago, I saw Diyar, the 10-year old Kurdish boy in a café in Damascus. Knowing that he’s Kurdish, I didn’t even dare to ask why he was working that late on a school night. Syrian regime didn’t at any point before the revolution acknowledge the existence of Kurds in Syria. They even changed some names of places that were commonly known to people by their Kurdish names, Rukn al-Din, is a neighborhood in Damascus that was known to the people by, “Hayy al-Akrad” or the (Quarter of the Kurds). Most of the Kurds who immigrated to Damascus inhabited that area, along with some other areas around Damascus.
Diyar has this strange energy aura around him – a charming little boy with potentials but without any piece of official documents. To the Syrian regime, to the world, Diyar didn’t even exist, but he was there, in that old café in Damascus, waiting on people, and cleaning tables until 3 am in the morning.
It was early 2010, long before the revolutions in the region. I was already subject to the regime’s monitoring because I had worked with the Iraqi gay refugees in Syria before – something I had to give up for my own safety at that point. I already knew that changing the regime’s policies regarding the Kurds would be almost impossible, but I couldn’t stand the idea of not trying to help. Selfishly or selflessly, I can’t even tell, I decided to take care of Diyar, in order to feel that I was at least doing something.
At the start of 2010, al-Hijaz café became the “Gay Café” in Damascus. Diyar was working there, waiting on divas until 3 am in the morning, and having to hear all the dirty and sexual talk during his working hours. This idea to me was disgusting!
Even though I was getting more and more busy at that time, I became a frequent visitor to that café at late nights. I wanted to spend some time with Diyar and teach him how to read and write, Arabic and English. I used to tip him sometimes 3 times more what I used to pay for the drinks there. He was 800 km away from his mother, working late nights, in a gay café in Damascus, thanks to the Assads.
Late August 2011, Diyar told me he that he would go to visit his mother for the Eid. She lives in Qamishly, an area inhabited by the Kurds in northern Syria. I said goodbye to him, and told him to show his mother that he’s able to write in Arabic, and that he had been trying to find a way to improve his life. He never came back!
Kurds in Qamishly are protesting against the regime, and there are many killings being reported from that area. I don’t know what happened to Diyar. I asked everyone about him, especially his friends who used to work in the same café, no one knew anything about him, and like Shadi to Fairouz, Diyar is still 12 now to me, on his way to visit his mother.
The longer this situation lasts, the more we deprive children from their childhood, from their rights to play and enjoy the careless moments they need to enjoy. I don’t want all the children in my life become those still images in memory, I want to watch them grow up and learn.
I didn’t have dinner last night. I gave that young gypsy girl the change I had on me, and looked for Fairouz’s song on my mobile while I was on my way back to my small room. On the way, on the bus, I was crying. I couldn’t keep these tears from coming out. Someone tried to talk to me asking me what’s wrong. I answered in English, I lost a son, I lost Diyar!