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Life is sweet again for one displaced Syrian

Abul-Khair busy at work making sweets in Idlib. (AN photo)
LONDON: After leaving their homes against their will, the displaced of Idlib live in sometimes harsh conditions.
The Syrian regime forced them to leave their homes along with all of their belongings.
But for some, like 30-year-old Abul-Khair, opportunity has sprung from adversity.
Finding shelter in an area which is already crammed with large numbers of people has not been easy. Securing work in a country that has experienced six years of a war and decimated the economy, has been just as difficult.
Abul-Khair worked in a sweet shop in Daraya, the location of a massacre in August 2012 when hundreds of inhabitants were reportedly killed by Syrian regime forces.
He fled to Idlib with his family after regime forces took control of the city outside Damascus.
He did not have enough money to start up his own business and as a result was forced to sell a gold bracelet that he had previously gifted to his mother.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview on Thursday that “the regime responded to peaceful protests carried out by Daraya residents at the beginning of the conflict by shooting and killing them, arresting the wounded and preventing them from being sent to hospitals.”
He added: “We took armed action against the regime’s militias and the security forces, we did not allow them to enter Daraya and we resisted them with all our strength.
“In comparison to the Assad regime’s weapons, we did not even have 1 percent of what they did. However – we did possess determination and we fought the regime together.
“As the sons of Daraya, we were united and we did not let anyone who did not come from Daraya fight alongside us in order to prevent security breaches and conspiracies.
“The suburb suffered a lot due to the blockade that lasted years and years. But we were steadfast regardless of the blockade, hunger, killing and destruction.”
The proximity of the nearby town of Muadamiyat Al-Sham, where a truce was in place, allowed the people of Daraya to smuggle in desperately needed provisions. The town was just 800 meters away.
“We tried repeatedly to break the siege, and we have sometimes managed to reach the city of Al-Muadamiyah but the regime waged a very violent campaign to cut the road off again,” said Abul-Khair.
“The siege was enforced again and we started to run out of ammunition and supplies.”
Abul-Khair and his comrades were allowed to move to Idlib after initially attempting to move to Daraa.
“We asked to be allowed to move to Daraa but the regime did not allow us to do this. So we agreed to move to Idlib with only our personal weapons,” he said.
Abul-Khair and the men who fought with him were welcomed as heroes by the inhabitants of Idlib.
“They gave us everything they could. They gave us houses to live in and whole families were moved into furnished houses in Idlib and its countryside.
“My family and I stayed in Idlib for three days and after that we moved to a house near Marat Numan where we still live.
“After about two months, I started thinking about returning to my former profession and I decided to open a business making Damascene sweets. I looked for a shop that I could rent and eventually found one with the help of my new friends in Marat Numan. I bought operating equipment and started making all types of famous Damascene sweets which quickly gained popularity in that region.”
As a result of the success of his shop in Marat Numan, Idlib, Abul-Khair decided to ask “a group of young people from Daraya to work with us. We opened a second branch and thankfully it was an instant hit. We have since also opened a restaurant serving Damascene food.”
Abul-Khair has made enough profit to allow him to furnish his home, pay for his personal expenses and to buy the equipment that will enable him to expand his business and meet orders made by shops and wholesalers.
But one day he wants to return to his home city “pitching a tent over the site of my ruined house and living the rest of my life.”

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