Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis.
I feel like I am lost in the middle of a rough sea. I don’t know where these crushing waves might take me—to a safe place, or to forgetfulness and loss?
I am very concerned about my education. It’s my greatest priority. I grew up in a family that valued education; their goal was that I arm myself with a degree that would protect me from misfortune. They enrolled me in an expensive kindergarten, where I excelled enough to skip the next grade. My parents and grandparents were proud of me, and that reinforced my self-confidence. Middle school was fantastic, too. School, for me, was like a playground or a picnic that I enjoyed with my friends.
Then high school took me from childhood to the beginning of maturity and awareness. As the years went by, my fondness for my friends and my teachers had grown. I would see my friends during vacations and share all my secrets with them. My friend Rahaf was the closest to me. After she lost her mother, I watched her way of thinking change. She became like a mother to her little siblings.
Then a couple of years ago, about a year into the Syrian revolution, the conditions in my city worsened, and the missiles intensified. My father decided that we should move to a safer place. His only concern was to protect his family. We moved to a completely new area and I enrolled in the local school. I formed some superficial friendships, but I no longer enjoyed my classes. My whole first semester there, I don’t think I cracked a single book. I thought constantly about my old friends and teachers, but I knew I could never return to them.
Then the fighting intensified in our new town, so my parents decided to move us back to where we used to live. My sister and I were very happy that we were going home. But when we returned to our city, we were shocked by how much it had changed. The schools were all destroyed; in the new structures we had our classes in the basement, where we would be protected from the missiles. These new schools were dark and smelly and had very poor ventilation. They felt like cesspools.
Now I am trying to prepare for Syria’s standardized high school tests, but even if I pass, I don’t know whether my score will be officially recognized. Will I take the tests in my city or somewhere else? Will my mom agree to let me go? So many questions stop me from focusing on my studies.
Can you believe that my mom, the one who always stressed the importance of education, now doesn’t want me to go to another neighborhood to take the tests that would lead to my getting a diploma? Her excuse comes down to one sentence: “I worry for you.” She fears checkpoints and the risks that a young lady like me might face. I’ve come to hate the fact that I am a girl.
I will never understand that fear or accept what she says. My dream had been to enroll in university, choose a major I like, and then start my career. Can I still do that? I don’t know.
I want to study. I want to live. I desire what’s beautiful. I miss my teachers and my friends. They have all left the city. I miss seeing the handsome boys gathering in front of my school. When I was little I liked dreaming big, but now my dreams are fading away. My dreams are limited by the checkpoints.
Everyone is busy with the war, and it seems like no one cares what happens to me. We don’t know how this will end or how it will affect us. I want life, but not this troubled and confusing life that I live now. I want to complete my studies. I don’t want to be a neglected note on the margin. I do not want to lose my dreams. ♦
Translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.