The other day the was a ‘traditional’ couple and their new baby on the bus. Hard to asses the slender womans age under her cheap black outfit, but going by her hands, the only part of her you could really see, she was 15 to 20 years younger than the man in the polyester trousers and ugly shoes she was sat next to. It had to be their first child-they had its body weight in toys and stuff for it and they looked quite confused. Nothing unusual about any of this, but then the baby woke up and its mother whipped out her breast, gave it to the baby and rearranged her headscarf to cover most of her chest. the baby didn’t appear to be hungry, it certainly wasn’t interested in suckling. The womans modesty would have been pretty much preserved had the child played ball, but it didn’t. The mother seemed unconcerned about flashing her tit to the bus as she attempted to persuade her kid to eat, eventually gave up and gave the baby her bus ticket which it perversely and happily munched on as its mother put her breast away again.
The week before last I went to Jermanna to see Ullin. The service was slowed by crowds of men who formed half circles round the windows of any shop with a TV in it and spilled off the pavements, blocking the roads as they strained to watch the football. Syria are already out of the Asia cup, so I thought this was strange. As a lone female I was out of place in a bad way so I continued to Ullins without investigating and forgot about it. Only when I left did it start to make sense. The center of Jermmana had become a party. men were driving up and down, holding the horn down. young women in hijab hanging out of the cars, bum on the window, holding on with one hand and waving the Iraqi flag with the other. Women had appeared from somewhere waving Iraqi flags. One, who looked about 50, was crying with happiness. At that point the police terned up to end the party so I hopped on a Bab Tuma serviece.
Jermanna was once a Druez village. When Rami was growing up a lot of it was farmland, when his mother was young she wouldn’t walk where Pauls preferred convenience store is as the were so many trees she was afraid of getting lost. But Syria was the only country in the world which didn’t impose visa restrictions on Iraqis during Gulf War II. Refugees can access primary education and some health care on the same basis as Syrians and illegal buildings have replaced the orchards of Ramis childhood. The Druez are considered heretics, and Syrian Muslims wont live in Jermanna if they can help it. It was, therefore, cheap, and easy as new buildings went up, for Iraqis to move in. Iraqi Christians are particularly attracted to Jermanna as its a non Muslim area, and now they (probably, no one has a proper idea of Syrias population) make up the second largest ethnic group there. Syrias unemployment rates high enough as it is, and it dosn’t issue work permits for Iraqis. Jeramannas now at the center of Damascus’ prostitution scen, though people agree this isn’t as bad as it was*. It was Jeramannas refugees that had been watching their team and celebrating their victory. The Druez are secretive about their religion (What Rami says about it and what the books say are totally different). Traditionally they live in the mountains or pretend to be Muslims if living in majority Muslim areas. While some have made pretty ruthless slum landlords, they aren’t happy about sharing their neighborhood, and the countryside has been lost for ever.
*I asked Paul, theoreticaly, how he’d pick up an Iraqi prostitute. After some deep thought he told me he’d ask Rami to arange it. I asked Rami, who pretty shocked and told me he’d never done anything like that. In my quest for knowlage I asked Deanny, who told me they were girls in Hijab with lots of make up. thats about half the female population. Ullin told me the were resturants with no windows, but that really you knew because of the way they look at you.