G. is a young professional that I hired as a consultant a few months back in my office. She is highly educated, ambitious and very talented. She works hard and delivers good quality results.
S. is a talented and cheerful musician that I meet every week for violin practice. Besides the fact that she has the patience of a saint, she truly is a great teacher. She studied with a Russian professor, and has an opening to continue her studies in Germany starting this summer.
What do these two young women have in common? They are both from Syria.
G. visits her family in Damascus a couple of times a year, especially for weddings. She drives there from Beirut (just for a couple of hours, really) and says that besides the checkpoints, the drive is actually not that bad. She tells me with a melancholic air in her eyes that there are fewer and fewer places in her city left to visit. She tells me that she had a successful business back home and shows me her portfolio. When I confess that I never visited Damascus, her eyes widen and she exclaims, "The old Souk in Damascus is the most beautiful place in the world!”
S. was not her usual cheerful self the other day during class. When I asked her what was going on, she told me the German embassy had not been giving appointments for visas for months. Weeks later, she announced that she didn't get her a visa and hence would have to decline her attendance to the German music school. She asked me if I knew anyone who needed a secretary.
In conversations, they both have told me about their friends, cousins and other young people who are not as lucky as they are. They tell me about the countless times that after a job interview, a talented young professional is told "We don't hire Syrians here".
It is sobering to realize that when their country is at war and they have left everything behind, these young people have to deal with the stigma of being Syrian on top of it all. And they will probably face it for their entire lives.
I know these two young women will prevail no matter what life throws at them. However, I wonder how many of their dreams, hopes, plans and projects have been put on hold, perhaps indefinitely.
No matter what people say, no one will ever convince me that anyone gained anything from this war. If young people lost, so did everyone else.