The park comes alive around midnight. In the distance on a bench two boys are hugging each other as if they were performing on a stage, they both clearly love the attention they are creating, hugging each other ever more wildly the more stares they get.
I am talking to a 24 year old Kurdish man who has a 22 year old Swedish wife ‘outside’ waiting for him, and, like Nazeem my Iraqi friend who is trying to join his wife and kids in Canada, this man cannot get to his wife in Sweden. Out of the blue the man picks up his Kurdish guitar and starts to serenade me…
Nazeem points to a brand new BMW as it drives-by, he tells me it is the same model that he drove in Iraq – such was the good life he had under Saddam. Nazeem is always well dressed.
He heads off to the shop to buy us all a beer. The three of us drink together listening to the hum of the accents – American, Australian, British, and Arabic. I wonder aloud how long the authorities will tolerate all this drinking in public in this Muslim country, someone says that they won’t stop it because it is mainly Westerners, but more and more I see Syrian’s also enjoying a late-night drink in the park. The nearby shops have started selling a dangerously strong beer 12% and 14% strength sending some kids reeling late into the night. But most evenings pass off without us even seeing a policeman never mind needing one.
To an outsider Syria feels a safe and sensible country, or perhaps there are invisible hands at work stopping people from going too far, I often wonder where the secret police are, are they watching us, or are they here among us? I am assured that ‘as long as you don’t plot or plan against the government you are free to do and say most things just like in any European country’.
The night dusty air breezes around us. The young boys leave holding hands and smiling at us, Nazeem is dreaming of a new life in Canada and of his old life long gone in old Iraq, and the Kurdish man continues singing his song about his Kurdish homeland whilst looking longingly into my eyes. It must be a bizarre and funny sight.