To my Syrian friend,
You and I met in 1999 when both of us were visiting the magnificent citadel at Bosra, Syria. You were on a school trip with other Syrian teenage girls, and I was with a group traveling through Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine.
I was walking separately from my group on the stage of the citadel when I suddenly found myself surrounded by you and your friends and classmates. You were the one who spoke the most English, and I will never forget the conversation that we had:
“You from America?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Why America hate Syria?”
I was stunned by the question, but answered as best I could. “I don’t know, but I don’t hate Syria!”
“You come back to Syria?”
“I will try to come again.”
“You tell others in America to come to Syria?”
“Yes, I will tell other Americans how wonderful Syria is. I will tell them to come to Syria.”
At that point you and the other girls wandered away, and I didn’t know that one of my travelling companions had taken a picture of us as we were talking with one another.
You were a teenager when we had that conversation. You would be almost thirty years old today. Are you a wife, a mother? Are you safe with your family in your home, or have you had to flee your home and your country to somewhere else, a relative’s safer home or maybe to a refugee camp in Turkey or Lebanon. Where are you? Where are your classmates? Are you alive?
I loved Syria when I was there. The people that I met were interesting and caring. Above all, I loved meeting you and your friends. All of you were so sweet and so brave to ask me those questions. I wish I could have had better answers. I have told many people here in America about my visit to Syria and I continue to tell them. Every person that I have spoken to about Syria cares deeply about what is happening in your country and wants peace to come again, but we feel so helpless. Many of us have joined groups working toward peace throughout the Middle East, but it never seems to be enough.
I do not believe that American hates Syria. I have never, ever gotten that impression. Our government does not hate Syria and neither do our people. The conflict in Syria is internal and that is one reason that America has not become involved openly. Another reason is our war against Al Queda in Afghanistan and other countries that is costing us so much in American lives and in money. Unless America can form a coalition with other nations that care about Syria’s people (and many do), we may not be able to help in any immediate way.
It breaks my heart.
I hope you, your family, your classmates and their families are alive and well and safe. I think about you every day. I hope that I will be able to come back someday to a safe and peaceful Syria.