When the war broke out in 2011 and many of us quickly grew accustomed to its horrors, programming my days around the possibility of rockets or mortar shells falling around me became increasingly ordinary, like picking clothes appropriate for the weather.
And when I had to escape, it was just another thing that I had to do. The night before I left, I went to the bar, raised a glass to the good old days with the two friends who had not yet left the country and then embarked on a journey with neither a guarantee of a safe exit nor a clear ultimate destination in mind. It was not practical or ideal, yet hardly extraordinary or unheard of.
I stayed for two months in Sudan, with little money and no work, then decided to move to Lebanon, where I would get stuck with no asylum rights, no residency permit, no work authorization, no job security, no social security and no medical insurance. But I heeded the words of the song I had learned as a child and counted my blessings, which included being around close friends and being able to work for prestigious international news outlets.
Yet, every time I stepped out of my apartment, I risked being swept back to an untimely demise in Syria. On top of the threats that any undocumented Syrian in Lebanon faces, my work in journalism continued to put me in danger. After moving to Lebanon, which is under the control of allies of the Syrian regime, I forwent the secrecy that I had maintained in Syria and started using my name when writing or contributing to articles.
On reflection, it is hardly surprising that when I finally found myself in a safe and secure environment, all my emotions bubbled up to the surface. [Continue reading…]