Message from Houda from Homs

3 Dec

This is an announcement. No, not by your local government or the National Shareholders Association, but by a woman called Houda from Homs.
I met her last week in Egypt. I was on a taxi, stuck in traffic, and Houda (white headscarf, long green dress) asked if she could join us through the open window.
The driver, who recognised her accent, wasn’t about to pull over. Just like here, many Egyptians aren’t exactly thrilled about thestream of Syrian refugees entering their country. ‘Like we aren’t having enough trouble as it is’, the driver grumbled through his beard. But I convinced him to stop and let her in. She looked tired.
Houda, as it turned out, had arrived in Egypt with her two sons six months ago, after a long journey. Her husband had stayed behind in Homs and is now fighting with the rebels. Houda chose not to stay, and took the children with her. They have not attended school for one year and a half.
She’s only three years older than me, but she looks like sixty.
‘Is it true what they say about Holland?’ she asks. ‘That there are actually young people traveling to Syria to fight against Assad?’ I nod.
‘Unbelievable’, she says. ‘So they want to become martyrs? Nonsense. They don’t even know what they’re talking about!’ I tell her that Jihad-journeys are now officially illegal. But even that doesn’t stop some young men.
‘Those poor mothers. How worried they must be.’
I ask Houda what she expects from the West. ‘Help!!’ she says in such a loud voice it startles the driver. ‘For our children, so they can go back to school. And safe places where we can wait for things to get better.’
How long that will take, she doesn’t even want to think about. I see tears in her eyes.
‘Listen, can I ask you something? Can you please write a letter to a Dutch newspaper? Can you please write that those boys need to stay home? That school is much more important than dying as a so-called martyr in a faraway country?’
Consider it done Houda! End of announcement.

4 Responses to “Message from Houda from Homs”

  1. Sarah Denie December 3, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Wat ben je toch een bijzonder mens Kirsten. Sx

    • kirstenvandenhul December 4, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      Right back at ya Sarah! xK

  2. Bertan December 3, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Great article Kirsten; Always amazes me how ‘unwelcome’ strangers become a source of inspiration is the most confronting way.
    I hope the taxi driver was eventually enlightened (as I assume you spoke in Arabic).
    Keep up the great work!

    • kirstenvandenhul December 4, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks Bertan! In fact, after one hour of emotional conversation while still stuck in traffic, the driver gave his number to Houda and offered to try and help get her papers so her kids could finally go to school..

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