Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is no longer the only way for Syrians to get closer to God. Syrians have become closer to God through their patience during the scourge of war, by sharing a loaf of bread with hungry people who are fasting and do not know when to break their fast, and by offering their innocent blood month after month.
Ramadan has begun in Syria, as the conflict rages for a third year. Perhaps this year, Syrians will suffer the full brunt of this dawn-to-dusk fasting, as the holy month of Ramadan has become a month of soaring prices.
The holy nights of Ramadan have become a faded memory to many families afflicted by destruction. Other families have been unable to provide food for their young ones who go to sleep with empty stomachs, while thousands have become homeless lacking any shelter to shield them from the scorching summer heat.
“For many Damascenes, Ramadan meals have become more like an illusion or dream. They can only dream of them but never [actually] taste them again,” said Adham, who lives in a small room on the roof of a towering building after he escaped the Yarmouk refugee camp with his four children and wife.
“My children know nothing about Ramadan this year. They do not know when it began and when will it be over. We do not have any television. I do not remind them of Ramadan so I do not have to bear more burdens than I can manage and show them how incapable I am,” he added.
Ramadan tents overshadowed by refugee tents
Aside from the traditional Ramadan rituals — such as visiting the homes of relatives and friends, exchanging greetings, frequenting mosques and praying — Ramadan in Damascus used to be characterized by large public tents for gathering and breaking the fast, and new television series.
This year, however, iftar tents have been overshadowed by tents for refugees and the displaced, plagued by the alarming humanitarian situation. People no longer look forward to television drama series as they have been overwhelmed by real dramatic events affecting their own lives.
“Ramadan tents are no longer put up due to lax security conditions. People have been struggling to spread the festive appearance in light of abject poverty and destitution, which have deprived families from the most basic needs,” said Noura, a housewife who used to go with her families to Ramadan tents.
Ramadan and refugees
Many charities have been working hard to preserve the virtuous aspect of this holy month, despite the lack of resources and difficult working conditions. Charitable organizations have been providing meals to impoverished and displaced families.
“We are doing our best so that the holy month of Ramadan won’t merely be like any other month of the year. That is why we are trying to provide better meals to refugees in shelters and to poor families living with relatives or in rented houses. Yet, security and financial problems have prevented us from catering for a large population,” said Najah.
She added, “Food prices have skyrocketed. … It has now become impossible for us to provide the most basic treats of the Ramadan feast — such as dates, refreshments and other types of beverages like licorice juice, tamarind, berry juice and jallab. This is not to mention meat, which is now a luxury. Even the famous ‘Ramadan bread’ has turned into a pure luxury that only rich people can afford.”
In Damascus, there is almost no sign of Ramadan, as all clerics who once used to wake people up for suhoor, the predawn meal, have either become members of the popular committees or joined the FSA. Instead of sticks and drums, which were traditionally used to wake residents prior to sunrise, they now carry AK-47s and RPGs. Moreover, bakers who sell delicious “Ramadan bread” have become refugees in displacement camps. The Ramadan spirit now lurks in the most simple of features that strive to carry it.
In conclusion, people in Damascus will not be counting on the Ramadan cannon to break their fasting this year, for the continuous battle cannon roars have already broken their will.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly