Like many, MB has watched the refugees streaming into Europe on his TV screen over recent months. He didn’t realise until today that he actually knows some of them personally.
About two years back MB departed Saudi Arabia. One of the last things he did before leaving was to accept a lunch invitation from a Syrian friend he had worked with, called Abu Abdullah. As Arabic readers of MB’s blog will know, ‘Abu Abdulla’ is the name a man takes when he has his first born – in this case a boy child called ‘Abdullah’. Therefore ‘Abu Abdullah’ – ‘the father of Abdullah’.
On the occasion of the lunch, AA brought along three of his sons to meet the Irish friend of their dad. The 4th and oldest son, who worked with MB in the past, could not attend as work commitments had by now moved him to Jeddah, for the moment.
‘Keef halik Abu Abdullah?’ enquired MB on arrival (how are you?). MB still remembers his reply. ‘I am very happy that all my sons are with me and all are safe after leaving Syria. We are sad that our 4th is in Jeddah. We miss him very much. His wife stays with us for the moment’.
Out of the blue this morning, MB received a facebook friend request from Abu Abdullah, which he accepted. A brief chat conversation immediately followed. AA informed MB that all four sons are now in Austria, having traveled there recently. The conversation did not go into details on how they got there. MB doesn’t need to be told.
AA was bemoaning the fact that he has not had much contact from the sons since their departure. But one can well visualise the lifestyle since they set out; just keeping safe and getting to the destination being the initial priority. Trying to find a life other than refugee camps, and a decent future, then becomes the even higher priority after achieving the first. All four boys have 3rd level education as it happens (two are engineers and MB can not remember the details of the other two), so will be valuable assets to Austria, or wherever, when the dust eventually settles. Hopefully.
MB can imagine that AA and his wife are now heart-broken. They had the company and comfort of having their children under the same roof with them in Saudi Arabia for many years, having departed Syria a few years before the war, and now they are childless. The future is now very uncertain as they advance into elderly years. There is no social welfare of any sort for non-Saudis in Saudi Arabia. Same as all other countries in the region. What if the sons do not make good in their new home and are unable to send money to their parents? Worrying, to say the least.
You might well ask why young Syrian men who had jobs in Saudi Arabia would leave and follow the dangerous refugee trail into Europe, leaving their parents behind. In the case of the four sons of Abu Abdullah, MB would guess that they just want a decent future for themselves and their families. Simple as that. Saudi Arabia does not offer much other that jobs. Even by ‘Islamic ruled countries’ standards, life in Saudi is very grim, to say the least. And if you lose your job for whatever reason, your residency visa gets canceled within 30 days and you must return to your home country. Syria in this instance. Where 300,000 are dead and 10M to 11M are internally or externally displaced in the last four years, from a 23M (give or take) population. With the situation getting worse by the day.
So young men and women want to depart and find a real life elsewhere. And as ever in such situations the best and the brightest want to leave the most. Just like Abu Abdullah’s boys.
So, that is the circumstance that Abu Abdulla and his family now find themselves in. Wishing them well.