Idlib Calling | 19 maart 2020 | by Evert-Jan Grit

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Meet Ahmed, theater producer from Saraqeb, and friend and partner of PAX. His life is no bed of roses. Saraqeb is in the Syrian province of Idlib, in the northwest of the country. Idlib's future is, to say the least, uncertain.
Every day, people get killed in air strikes and shelling by the Syrian and Russian armies. Children die covered in dust and debris. The war in Idlib is primarily a war against civilians.
A couple of times a month we speak with Ahmed to hear how he and his family are getting on. He says its important for people in Idlib that we here in the Netherlands hear about what's happening. It makes them feel like they haven't been forgotten.

Idlib Calling: Ahmed’s tips for getting through quarantine

People in Idlib are also following the news about how the corona virus is spreading across Europe. On Saturday I got an anxious message from Ahmed asking if we were OK in the Netherlands. Since Ahmed’s an expert in dealing with crises and threats, I thought I would ask him if he has any tips for us.

“Hi Ahmed, thank you for your message asking about us. It’s OK here. Strange, and everyone’s a bit worried, but so far, it’s going well. How is it with you? ”

“It’s been quite calm – there’s a truce. We know about the virus, but we can’t afford to have a lock down like yours. We have to go outside to try to make money, to get food. I do notice that some people aren’t taking corona too seriously. That’s understandable given what we’ve been dealing with every day for years now.”

“Ahmed, this may sound a bit crazy, but do you have any tips for us?”

“Haha… because I am an expert, right? I’ll try. When we were in the bomb shelter, we made sure we had enough food and water. I can especially recommend having a good stock of chocolate. It’s compact, nutritious, but also very tasty. I must say that in Saraqeb we never had to take shelter for a long time. Two to three days maximum. We always knew the bombing would stop for a while.”

“Another tip: take care of each other and keep in touch, and make sure to be gentle with each other. The internet is a godsend, but be careful what you write and send. I speak from experience. I heard that Corona is particularly dangerous for older people. So keep in mind that you have to think carefully, and choose your words carefully. Imagine you are an older person and you read messages every day that there is a high probability that the disease could be fatal for you.”

“One more tip – and it may sound strange to hear this from a Syrian: listen to your government and the experts. You have a government that is there for the people, not like our government.  But I guess I don’t need to tell you about that.”

“The most important thing is to stay hopeful. This has always kept me going. The best cure for fear is hope. Often against better judgment. Keep busy and look forward. It’s working. Keep hope and know that there will come a time when everything is better again.”

“Take care, and let’s keep in touch.”

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