2017 年 1 月 28 日，美國第 45 任總統川普的移民禁令正式生效：禁止 7 個以穆斯林為主要人口的國家公民入境美國，其中包括「無限期中止敘利亞難民計畫。」
敘利亞 5 年爭戰，使其成為當今世界最大的難民來源國，500 萬難民在周邊各國流竄，800 萬境內流民流離失所（參考：全球 6350 萬難民破新高，支持難民從現在開始！）。身在和平世界的臺灣人，難以想像長達數載的亂世是何光景，本篇編輯手記即在透過 2 位敘利亞大學生的親身口述，說明一件不可抹滅的事：戰爭的可怖原來不在戰場上，而是在生活裡；不在炮火中，而是在日常裡。
2016 年的耶誕節，我家裡接待了2 位來自敘利亞的大學生，Salam Al-Nutka 和 Eyad Al-Khayat。他們受桃園 TED 之邀，來分享他們的所見。活動結束後，他們繼續留在臺灣 4 天，幾個朋友每天輪番搶著見他們，聽他們訴說世界彼端的情景。
在 Salam 和 Eyad 的居住地，也就是首都大馬士革，情況稍微好一些。家裡偶爾會來 1、2 個小時的電力，每天加起來不超過 5、6 個小時。有些地區，會持續一整個月沒有任何電，衝突區更是徹底黑暗。從衛星地圖上來看，敘利亞像一個被挖空的、深不見底的黑洞。
「我遇見一個 15 歲的年輕人，他放棄念書，想去當飛行員。我問他為什麼，他說因為他想跟爸爸一樣去殺人。」Eyad 說，政府軍沒有強迫年輕人去從軍殺人，許多人自幼被環境洗腦，把殺戮的能力視為一種成就。「沒有人覺得自己被迫，這才是問題所在。」
政府失能的時候，我們寄望於非政府組織（NGO）。然而在敘利亞，NGO 普遍貪汙，吃下去的錢比吐出來的多。「錢從世界各地源源不絕的湧入，能到人們手上的卻少之又少。」Salam 說：「老實說，如果這些錢都能到需要的人手上，敘利亞會成為一個比美國還富有的國家。」
「在敘利亞，NGO 都很有錢。」Salam 笑著說。他們總是笑著。「有時候我們會拿這些荒謬的事來互開玩笑，你知道，包括那些一無所有的人。我們會笑說今天誰又去贓物市場買回自己被偷的東西，哪家的工廠機具又被人熔掉偷拿去賣。我們笑著說這一切，因為除了笑，你沒辦法做任何事。」
Salam 的父親和無數敘利亞人一樣，自 2011 年後就失業至今，只能仰賴過去的積蓄勉強度日。「Salam」這個詞在阿拉伯語中意謂著「和平」，那是現在的敘利亞最迫切需要的，如同 Salam 和 Eyad 這樣的人，是現在的敘利亞最不可或缺的。「沒有人幫得了敘利亞，只有我們自己幫得了自己。」
戰爭前，Salam 和 Eyad 是兩個再普通不過的大學生，5 年爭戰下來，幾十萬人喪生，500 多萬人淪為難民，Salam 和 Eyad 也被殘酷的現實鞭打，急速成長。「沒有人有權利殺害別人，任何宗教都一樣，即使你是無神論者也一樣。」Salam 堅定的說。他們擔任聯合國的志工，為青年及女性權益發聲，積極奔走，投入 NGO 工作，熱切渴望做出改變。他們極欲改變現狀求取和平的激昂，讓自己變得比誰都強大。
臺灣有幸還享有和平，面對敘利亞和世界許多角落的殘酷現實，我們看似什麼都做不了，此外，我們也有很多自己的問題要面對。很多人會說，我們為什麼要知道敘利亞發生了什麼事？確實，我沒辦法為你找到一個關心世界的理由，如同我無法清楚解釋我們為什麼要珍視彼此，為什麼要關心弱勢，為什麼 NPOst 要持續在乎臺灣的 NPO／NGO 在做什麼。
然而，敘利亞正竭盡全力用它的未來給予世界寶貴的一課。它告訴我們戰爭並不僅存在歷史中，其禍害也不只摧殘這一代的人。像 Salam 和 Eyad 這樣的青年，正努力教會我們什麼是和平，什麼是生活，什麼是信任與愛人。如果我們不能因此從不斷奮戰的他們身上學會並嘗試努力什麼、改變什麼，那麼這世上所有的傾頹、失落與犧牲，終將變得毫無意義。
Editor’s Note／22-year-old Syrian university student: “There is nothing you can do but to laugh.”
During the Christmas holidays in 2016, I received two guests at home: Salam Al-Nutka and Eyad Al-Khayat, two university students from Syria. They were invited by TEDxTaoyuan to share their experiences. After the talk, they stayed an extra of four days in Taiwan. Some friends fell over each other to meet the two and to hear them telling stories from the other side of the world.
The situation is slightly better in the capital city of Syria, Damascus, where Salam and Eyad live. Occasionally there is continuous electricity supply lasting one to two hours at home per day, and the total time when electricity is available never exceeds five or six hours. In some areas there is no electricity at all for an entire month, and in conflict zones there is complete blackout. When seen from satellite images, Syria resembles a deep, hollowed black hole that has no end.
As a result, most of the people have no Internet access, and no one knows what is happening outside. Even if the Internet is accessible to some, it is nonetheless under surveillance, and all the news are censored. There is a severe lack of daily necessities, and news sources are blocked. People have nothing — they have no access to adequate electricity and water supply, and nor do they have a shelter, a job, or money.
Nobody dares to talk about politics. Every day there are many children wandering on the streets, some of them barely clothed. Despite the situation, no one would take the risk to give a helping hand; even doctors can’t save people at will, because nobody knows if the person being saved is related to rebel groups. You or your family could be arrested anytime if you say something wrong or trust the wrong person.
We see in the news how Syrians flee their country, how buildings and houses are wrecked, how children are covered in ashes, and how refugee camps are crowded with helpless people. What we did not realize is that war does not take place on the battlefield, but in their daily life. The trust between people is completely destroyed, and higher education has been suspended. There is a gap between generations, and the future of the next generation has ended before it even starts.
“What children can see every day is killing, killing, and more killing. Then you ask them to keep studying, to become citizens that care about the society, and tell them the world is wonderful. Who would listen to you? “ said Salam.
“Once I met a 15-year-old young man. He gave up his studies to become a pilot. I asked him why. He said that he wanted to kill people like his father did.” Said Eyad. The government of Syria, in fact, did not force young people to join the army to slaughter. A lot of people have been brainwashed since they were young, and they see the ability to kill as an accomplishment. “Nobody thinks he is being forced. That is the problem.”
When the world is disputing who is to blame for the nightmares in Syria, whether it is Russia, the US, the civil army or the rebel groups, the citizens in Syria are powerless to distinguish who is right and who is wrong. “We just want to end it all!” To them, the Russian government pretends to be in liaison with the Syrian government forces, whereas the US seems to be in good terms with Syrian citizens. But all these are nothing but robberies of natural resources and distributions of benefits. The citizens couldn’t decipher who is right or wrong, and nor do they have enough information and reliable news sources. The country is even unable to collect its demographic data, since those who are against the government are not allowed to register the birth of their children.
When the government is incapable of normal functioning, we look to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for help. However, in Syria, the majority of NGOs are corrupted; what they take is more than what they give. “Donations flood in from everywhere in the world, but the money that really reaches people in need is minimal,” said Salam. “Frankly speaking, if all the money could reach those who are in need, Syria would become a country richer than America.”
“In Syria, NGOs are all quite wealthy,” said Salam in laughing. They were always laughing. “Sometimes we would joke about those ridiculous things with one another, you know, including people who have nothing at all. We would joke about who went to the swag market to buy back their own belongings that day, and which factory got stolen of its tools to be sold again. We would speak about all these in laughing manner, because there is nothing you can do but to laugh.”
Those who laugh the loudest are those who cry the hardest.
Like many other Syrians, Salam’s father has been unemployed since 2011, and he can only make ends meet with his savings. “Salam” means “peace” in Arabic, which is what Syria needs the most. People like Salam and Eyad are, in a similar way, indispensable in modern-day Syria. “No one can help Syria. Only we can help ourselves.”
Before the outbreak of the war, Salam and Eyad were two ordinary university students. During the five years of warfare, tens of thousands of people have died, and more than five millions are forced to become displaced. Salam and Eyad also had no choice but to bear the whips of life and to mature before their age. “No matter what religion you believe in, no one has the right to kill, even if you are an atheist,” said Salam. They are now serving as volunteers in United Nations to speak for the rights of adolescents and women. They devote themselves to NGO work wholeheartedly, hoping to make a change. I have never seen anyone stronger than they are.
There is at least peace in Taiwan. It seems as if there is nothing we can do to help alleviate the cruel reality in Syria and many other corners of the world. Besides, we have a lot to deal with in our own country. Many people might ask: why should we know about what is happening in Syria? Indeed, I cannot find a reason for you to care about the world, just as I am unable to clearly explain why we should cherish one another, why we should care about minority groups, and why NPOst will continue paying attention to the actions of NPOs/NGOs in Taiwan.
However, Syria is sparing no effort in teaching the world a great lesson with its future. It tells us wars do not exist exclusively in the history, and their consequences do not merely affect people of that particular generation. Young people like Salam and Eyad are trying to teach us what peace is, what life is, what trust is, and what love is. If we fail to learn something from real fighters like them and strive to make a difference on earth, then all the sacrifice and loss in the world will eventually become meaningless.