My sincerest apologies for such a delayed post on this one. I had the honor of meeting Ahmad and Meriem, a beautiful young Syrian couple, when I visited Kilis refugee camp back in January. I produced the piece for Bending Borders’ Love is Complicated series for the PRX Global Story Project.
Ahmad and I met when I was roaming around the camp, checking out the little makeshift shops the residents had built out of box-springs and tarp. We immediately took to each other, and while we talked about his little business and what he had done before fleeing Syria, he couldn’t contain himself with his news, “My wife’s pregnant!” In that conversation he gave me a little glimpse of how they fell in love, some of the troubles they encountered and the joy that gushed out of him when they did finally get married. We had to meet again.
I ended up visiting Ahmad and Meriem nearly everyday I was at the camp. I met Meriem’s family, who were so warm and welcoming, and Meriem herself, although very shy, welcomed me into her container she shares with Ahmad and his brother’s family. It was just a few days, but we bonded.
This piece is beyond a love story. You know that feeling, when you meet a person and you are so attracted to them there’s almost a literal force pulling you together again? That is what Ahmad and Meriem felt when they met. Anyone, anywhere in the world who has fallen in love knows that feeling. That itch to be next to that person all of the time is irresistible — even when you are escaping a war.
I won’t ruin the story here, just take a listen, but I will say this: what I love so much about Ahmad and Meriem’s story is that they take the listener, no matter how far away, right there next to them, as they secretly communicate without their families knowing, as they struggle to keep in touch as they flee persecution, as they finally meet again, face-to-face. It is a strong reminder that Syria’s war isn’t just between pro-regime and anti-regime “forces” — there are real people, whose real lives are being affected. They want to go on living, falling in love, starting and raising families, working and going to school. Some of those things they simply cannot do, but somehow despite all the cruelty of war, they are able to find joy and compassion in one another. They do what they can to go on with their lives and they do a damn good job of it. Their resilience is inspiring and humbling.
For now, I’ll leave it at that. This story is the first of its kind I have ever produced. I’m proud of it, and I especially thank Bending Borders for all their help in putting it together. I hope to keep producing stories like this one in the future, and each time it will hopefully get better.