Adad looks despairing when I ask him about the future. Stuck in Lebanon for 6 months half-way between his home in Syria and his dream of living ‘a free life’ in Europe he now lives by night and sleeps by day.
Each night he is locked next to his wife Lilith facing into their laptops entranced by ‘the Facebook revolution’ which holds them to the fringes of what seems like a faltering Syrian Spring, but despite their despair it offers the only meaning to their lives these days..
Asu aged 5, is used to playing alone, Adad and Lilith both know they should spend more time with him. If Asu is lucky he gets to play with his friends down the road but today like most days he play alone inside the cramped flat they now call home. Adad worries about being 2 months behind with the rent, he also needs a further $100 to get his increasingly serious heart condition checked-out but that, like the rent, must wait. Meanwhile, like many in this neck of the woods, he puffs away on his 40 a day habit, Lilith too is a heavy smoker. A year ago all seemed rosy with the revolution but now Adad has become gloomy about it all, believing that there is a real danger of the Islamist’s stealing the revolution from them the longer it takes.
Sargon was just a boy when I first filmed him some 3 or 4 years ago, he is now 16 and looking all the part an adult. Unable to find a school to continue his studies he’s taken a part-time job in a shop, at first they offered him 6 hours a day but now he’s working 12 hours a day 7 days a week for $300 (plus tips from his deliveries.)
“I feel positive and hopeful for the first time in my life” he tells me. I’ve seen this boy in some sticky situations in Syria, last year he was arrested with his father during street protests trying to get his mother out of prison – he succeeded, only to lose both his parents to the revolution and in the process lose the family life he cherished so much growing-up in Tatous. The new hope he has found in Lebanon comes not just from finding work but also from finding friends in the Jehovah Witnesses – a Christian group banned but still tolerated in The Lebanon. Sargon once dreamed of being political just like his mother but now he hates politics and says he has found new a meaning to his life, but his atheist parents don’t like it and have stopped him attending the Jehovah’s meetings.
I took Sargon for a pizza by the sea the other night, we both had a swim, it was a rare treat for us both “You know Sean I’ve moved house 10 times since I met you, I just want some stability” he confided in me “I haven’t had the chance to be a teenager… I went straight from child to adult”. Sargon looks and acts the adult these days but now and again, fleetingly, I am reminded that he isn’t when he cracks his wonderful childlike jokes, jokes that his father has no time for… he expects him to be an adult now.
After the swim I allow him a bottle of Smirnoff ice – well if he must carry some of the burdens of adult life he certainly deserves the odd drink like an adult. Sargon really is a good boy, smart, honest, and witty despite his difficult life. Even his dream pair of Nike trainer shoes must wait another month as the money he set aside for them has gone to buy food for the family again, just like the rest of his salary. But he doesn’t complain, “We are a family and I must help contribute to it” it is a wonderfully generous statement and quite typical of the boy – Sargon has spent his life putting his family first.
His parents have struggled as the Syrian regime has taken one and then the other to prison. But now, hopefully, they are one step closer to some sort of stability. They are in limbo in Lebanon but relatively safe so long as Adad keeps his head down, as a ‘stateless’ Palestinian he has no papers or passport, Syria has been his temporary home until the issue of Palestine is resolved!
But with this stability comes the pain of being outside of the revolution – it was too much for Lilith, recently she took-off back to Damascus, smuggled herself back into Syria and stayed in-hiding for a month setting up her new revolutionary Youth Organization, but it is all a terrible strain on the family and kids, Adad would like to turn his back on it all and leave for Europe but Lilith cannot leave the fight. And now their existence in Lebanon is made much more dangerous as fighting breaks out in the northern town of Tripoli between Alawite loyalists of the Assad regime and opposition rebels, some news report are suggesting that this “Threatens the stability in the whole country, and could come to Beirut” rekindling old factional enmities and reigniting the civil war.
In the meantime Adad and the family struggles to get-by on Sargon’s wages plus money sent by his relatives in Syria, and some help from charities in the west. His heart-scare is on his mind, as is the unpaid rent, putting the food on the table each week, whether or not the Islamist s are winning the revolution in Syria, and if the street fighting in Tripoli will bring war to Beirut. Outside, the walls of his house are spattered with bullet holes, a reminder of the bitter civil war he was caught up in in his youth and which is now once again so desperately trying to escape from.
Tonight Lilith hears of yet more rapes in Hom’s, and more new videos emerge of tortured corpses, Asu plays on alone in the background, and Sargon returns home from work.
Another ordinary day in the life of a family in limbo, wondering where their place is in the world, wondering how and when it will all end.