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RAMADAN MUSINGS: Ramadan in displacement

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Kani Hammoush with his parents

Asian Lite marks Holy Month of Ramadan with a special series of Ramadan Musings with Masarat Daud. Today Masarat is focussing on the struggle of displaced people to uphold their faith

Kani Hammoush with his parents
Kani Hammoush with his parents

Kaniwar Hammoush’s happy face does not reveal the painful, abrupt and dizzying uprooting from his homeland. From Afrine in Syria, he lived with his family and studied Archaeology. There was unrest in Syria but it was still much further away than the Northwest side of Aleppo where he had lived. His father left to Kurdistan in 2012 to look for work in a relatively stable place. Kani, as he is mostly known as, did not want to leave Syria.

“There is always something I can do here as long as it does not get too unsafe,” he says. But the day he casually stood in a queue of 50 people, waiting to renew for his next and final year at university, a bomb was exploded less than 200 metres from where he stood. His remembrance of the day is a thick cloud of smoke, flying pieces of glass, wails and shouts. He takes a deep breath before he replays this terrible memory.

In Germany now, having paid USD2000 to do the multi-transport journey through Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria, Kani works as an aid worker with well-known NGOs working towards child protection among Syrian refugees. Eight months later, he is experiencing his first Ramadan.

Kaniwar Hammoush
Kaniwar Hammoush

His Ramadan memory is filled with scents from the local souq market, which would be well-stocked for all Ramadan preparations, home decorations and food-related. He reminisces the challenges with his siblings as to who will keep more fasts than the other. The arrival of his father from work every day, with bags of sweets and edible goodies in hand still make him smile.  The excitement each day of what those bags would contain would be worth the wait.

“What I miss the most is the Musaharrati, walking the streets, calling out people to wake up for Suhoor—the eating at dawn before the fast would begin,” he smiles.

“But I think if I called out on these streets in Germany, people would end up calling the Police!”

His previous Ramadan was spent in a searing refugee camp in the Kurdish region of Iraq. With the tin roof, the small rooms were no less hotter than the 50 degrees sun outside. He joked with his friends that if there is a hell, it is here already!

Now, Kani’s family lives in Germany too, a few hours away from him. Due to work, he lives away from them. He says he will visit them for an Iftar on a weekend but being alone, he has learnt to cook a few dishes. He shares his apartment with two other young Syrian boys and the three of them try to create a festive atmosphere within their home. For the first Iftar of 2016, they have cooked a rice and chicken dish and a soup.

“The German people have been so kind. They have even driven me 180kms and always ask me if I need anything,” he says. But this generosity cannot take away the pain of displacement.

“My wish for next Ramadan is that I want to be in Syria. I don’t care about the politics; even if a stone from my house remains, I want to return and help re-build. The people are nice here but the culture is so different. It is a struggle to accept that this is home.”

Masarat Daud is many things. A cook, a girl’s education campaigner, a TED speaker, a TEDx curator, a recent SOAS MA graduate and a politically-incorrect humourist currently based in London.

Ramadan Musings Masarat

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