Red Jasmine Flowers: Fear and Loss in Syria


Intense fighting in Syria has forcibly displaced more people today than any other country – and there is no end to the conflict in sight. 17-year-old Dia'a recounts his story of loss and fear in Syria. 

“What reminds me of Syria? Do I even need to remind myself of what I can never forget—not for a day, a second, a minute?

What always carries my thoughts far away is thinking about the tender breeze that used to caress the golden cornfields. Later, the autumn leaves would fall down from the trees and cover the ground with their pale red and brown colors. Then the beautiful snow would visit us for some time and cover the hills. The sound of the rains was magical. But there is a memory I indulge in more: the one of the jasmine flowers. They grace my kingdom of thoughts. Yet as soon as I picture those flowers in my head, they turn red and my tears start falling. How? This is where my story starts.

As a child, I used to live in the city of beauty: Damascus. It preserves an ancient beauty that touches anyone who visits. I had no worries and no pain. When I was older, we moved to Daraa, two hours away from Damascus. I saw children who were hurt and who suffered.

These scenes ignited fire inside my little heart and mind. I had not known the complications of life before. But once I did, I went down to the garden that was located in front of my school and sat in front of the jasmine flowers. They were blossoming, and I felt the tender breeze that is stuck in my memory. I smelled the fragrance of the flowers, and tears began to fall. But what would my tears be good for? They would not help.

Destiny hides things from us. It was hiding a very strange surprise, one that turned my life upside down. The crisis in Syria started spreading, until it reached the area of my school. One day at school, we started hearing cheering outside. I was surprised, because it was the first time that tensions were high in the middle of the week. Before that, protests only happened on the weekend. Fear was taking over the school, so the head of administration had prohibited any talks about what was going on. In spite of this, I decided together with my friends to go out as one group to represent educated and sophisticated people who wanted improvement for their country.

There were close to 20 of us, mostly between the ages of 15 and 17. I was the only one who was 13. We went out of the schools, carrying hope for change in our eyes and dreams to build the future of Syria in our hearts.

While we were marching for peace and change, we heard sounds of shooting. I was shocked, asking myself how a sane person could shoot at unarmed, innocent people. But I kept walking, and my voice could be heard louder than all of the other voices. Then I heard more shots.

One of the shots hit my friend. He fell down in front of the garden with the jasmine flowers. His right shoulder was hit, and drops of blood fell on the petals of the jasmine, painting them with pure red. Time stopped for me; I could never let anything happen to one of my friends! I felt that it was me who was responsible.

With the help of friends, I carried him away from the garden where he was hit. But unfortunately it was already too late. We had lost him; he passed away. At that moment, I could not hold myself together. My tears began to flow like a waterfall—a burning waterfall. I blacked out on the ground, completely defeated.

His family postponed the funeral, pushing it to the next day. I did not dare to visit them. I felt guilty, but I needed to get out of the house. I ran toward the garden where my friend had passed away. It was raining, and the blood drops had been washed away. But the rain could not wash that scene from my memory. I sat down and remembered my friend with whom I had spent my childhood—all of our “adolescent adventures,” as we call them in Syria. My tears started running down my face again. Alongside my tears, memories came over me, back and forth, like I was seated in a rocking chair that kept swinging me. I knew this would not help with anything, because my friend would never return. I remained sitting in front of the jasmine flowers until sunset. That day, the sun looked as if it was pulling its burning red hair away. My heart felt even sadder, so I went back home to my parents. They were angry with me because I stayed out too late, but that did not matter. All that mattered was my friend’s funeral the next day. We went to the cemetery, and some older guys covered his angelic face with Syria’s pure soil. I was frustrated and depressed, full of pain, crumbled and broken-hearted. I yelled out loud: “May God be with you, my friend. May God be with you, martyr of dignity and truth.” Life forced the death of an innocent child for no good reason.

The next year, I put flowers in front of the jasmine flowers where he had died and in front of his grave. I thought that his soul was resting in those little petals of jasmine. Every time I smelled the jasmine, I imagined my friend in front of me. I imagined how he joked with me, and that he tries to tell me how much he misses us, and how relieved he feels after his death. My tears have dried, but my wounds have not healed and my heart is not cured. There will always be a scar that nothing can ever cover.

This is not a story about the Syria crisis or about bravery. It is a story about a friend, red jasmine, and my memories of Syria. I wish I could have written more about the beauty of Syria, the sea, the woods, rivers, water wheels, and ruins. But I have nothing but the pain in my heart, red jasmine, and the eyes of you, my Syria.”

Written by Dia'a, 17