Citizen Journalism Summer 2018 Student Stories
The following article was reported by a student in Paper Airplanes' online Citizen Journalism class in the summer of 2018. Subject matter and quotes do not represent or reflect Paper Airplanes' views as an organization.
Eid al-Adha is an important religious holiday for all Muslims. Often referred to as “The Feast of the Sacrifice,” it’s a four–day event and has customs like any other holiday. This year, Eid was celebrated the third week of August.
Still, it has been eight years since Syrians were able to celebrate Eid in peace because so many Syrians have lost their homes, their families, and also are unable to afford the cow or the sheep that is important to celebrating the holiday.
The history of Eid al-Adha goes back to the Prophet Ibrahim who, in a dream, was told by Allah to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of faith. Ismail’s life was later spared, and Ibrahim sacrificed a lamb instead.
Now the custom of Eid is for Muslims to sacrifice cattle if they can afford it and give the meat to the poor.
Syrians and Turks share the same Islamic background so for Syrians living in Istanbul, that allows them to participate in holiday’s many traditional customs. Those customs start days before Eid where Syrians buy new clothes, perfumes, make or buy sweets, and get haircuts.
The first thing Syrians do for Eid is attend Eid prayer at the mosque, where they also greet neighbors. After that, people go home to have a traditional Eid breakfast that consists mostly of various pastries that symbolize the sweetness of life.
Still, for many Syrians living in Istanbul, Eid often feels very different; they simply don’t feel the joy of the holiday and in some cases they would rather to spend their time resting or having some time off from their jobs, says Mohamed*, a Syrian refugee living in Turkey.
“In Syria people used to wait for Eid, but here in Turkey, it is just like any other day of the year,” Mohamed* said. “Syrians here wait for Eid only because they will have a chance to take some time off from their jobs because Syrians can’t do Eid traditions; for example, here in Turkey many Syrians don’t have relatives or friends to visit. When I was in Syria, I used to get visits all the time from my neighbors but not here. In general it is very different between Syria and Turkey.
Eiad*, a Syrian refugee who lives in Istanbul, agrees that Eid feels very different to him now.
“In the past we used to wait for Eid even when we were children or even when we grew up,” said Eiad*. “Eid has special customs, it’s all about joy and happiness, and we used to wait for our friends or relatives who lived in different cities to get a chance to gather; for example, our family used to gather at our grandfather’s house, about 60 people to spend time together, then go to Eid prayer.”
Eiad* also remembers the joy of the holiday.
“I remember when I used to hear the mosques ‘exclaiming God is great,’ you could see the joy of Eid on people’s faces even for old people; it is obvious they were very happy,” he said. “My relatives used to give me Eidia (money for children) and you used to see children playing on swings and slides.
“We didn’t have big amusement parks in my city, but we used to have a lot of fun. But now, I don’t see or feel anything that indicates we are in Eid holiday, and (this year) I didn’t hear mosques. No, I don’t see the love I used to see with people. I don’t know the reason but maybe because we are in a different country or maybe because we are very far from our families and our country, they must be living in fire (very tough circumstances inside Syria).”
Added Eiad*: “Although we have access to everything here in Turkey to do the traditions of Eid, Eid to me is when I am with my family and friends, paying visits or having fun with them, and I hope for the future that people of Syria who are displaced all around the world get a chance to go back to their country when this horrible and dirty regime leaves Syria so people can enjoy their victory. With this blessed revolution, a man without home, family or beloved ones is nothing!”
Syrians everywhere cherish the customs that come with Eid. In Syria, a local butcher would typically come to a family home to collect meat from a cow or a sheep that had been sacrificed for the holiday; he would then give the meat to neighbors and relatives. In Turkey, however, animal sacrifices are not permitted in homes and so Syrians go to places that each municipality has assigned as slaughter houses.
After the butcher’s visit, Syrians typically pay visits to relatives and beloved ones. Syrians in Istanbul would love to keep that custom alive too, but again, most are separated from their families back home or from relatives living in different parts of Turkey, like those living in border cities where the cost of living is cheaper. Now the Turkish government allows Syrian refugees to visit their families in Syria who are living near border towns.
For Rania*, a Syrian refugee living in Istanbul, Eid is also about celebrating gatherings of families and neighbors, and she also remembers the joy in children’s eyes when they would wear new clothes.
“We used to start by cleaning our house, making sweets and pastries and visiting the cemetery to read Quran over our dead beloved ones,” Rania* said. “Most people will postpone important occasions like engagements or weddings (to coincide with) the Eid holiday.”
Added Rania*: “We used to count the minutes waiting for Eid, but now unfortunately, it’s all in sorrow, sadness and memories, nothing is left but memories. I don’t think there is a Syrian who doesn’t cry in the time of Eid, because he has lost someone from his family. The family isn’t in one place, they are in different cities or countries, and there is no joy at all because we don’t have a country, family or relatives anymore.”
“The reason for the difference between the past and the present is the displacement because of the pig Bashar; he didn’t leave anything without destroying it, and he didn’t spare anyone from killing. But I still hope for the future to return to my country when it’s pig-free, thug-free and everyone returns home, although there will be sadness when they return to see everything destroyed and everyone killed.”
For Syrians like Rania*, Eid must never be forgotten.
“We ask God (for a chance) to teach our children and grandchildren the traditions of Eid,” she said.
*Names changed for privacy.