Hi Duncan, you asked me about this article on Syria’s refugee problem.
I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t give a very informed opinion on the topic. Yes, there are a huge number of Iraqi refugees here. There are power cuts in Damascus’s old city fairly frequently, and Syrians do complain about the Iraqis quite a lot. But I don’t have a sense that the country is at breaking point. Always the Syrians I’ve spoken to complain that these Iraqis are too rich, not too poor – they have arrived with suitcases of money and have bought properties everywhere, making the market soar. The tragic parts of the crisis seem personal rather government destroying. A few weeks ago, I met two blonde women originally from Baghdad who very quickly offered to “go for a walk” with my friend Tim and I. Iraqis are not allowed to work here legally.
Syria feels chaotic, but not really tense. The bigger worry is about war with Israel. Stories spread that the army is making moves around the Golan heights. Yet it still seems hard to believe that Syria would initiate a conflict with Israel, as I’m not sure how they could ever attack the Israeli army and hope to win. Of course, I am no military expert.
It’s perhaps shameful that I know so little about the country after almost two months, but this what happens when you spend most of your day sitting over a desk at home, writing short stories about unhappy English teachers. I hope to have more info in the future, now that I seem to have completed most of the arriving rituals, and done enough settling down to put my soul in order.
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