By: Nour El-hoda Fouad
Due to hardships in his homeland, a Syrian Kurdish refugee decided to migrate to Belgium searching for a better life.
Hosheng Ossi, narrates his story after escaping from Syria to Belgium to start a new life and achieve his dream as a poet and novelist.
From harsh conditions, manhunts, threats and political repression, Ossi settled in Belgium to find all decent livelihood. He became a unique novelist who earned the Katara prize; one of the most famous awards in Arabic Novel. Here are the excerpts of the interview that “SEE” conducted with “Ossi”
Q. First of all, why did you migrate from Syria and how were the state’s conditions before the revolution?
14 years before I was born, the Syrian regime had issued a decree in 1962 to conduct an exceptional census in the Kurdish areas in northern Syria.
Under this census, about 120,000 Kurdish-Syrian people were stripped of their Syrian nationalities and since then they were considered as foreigners. As a result, I was born with no nationality and I was deprived of all civilian rights. It was very hard to live in such circumstances that’s why I decided to leave the country and search for better life as well as other Kurdish people.
Q. When exactly did you decide to leave Syria?
I’m a poet and novelist and I was an effective opponent of the Syrian regime who highlighted the country’s problems in my articles. I wrote about poverty, lack of nationality, essential rights and political repression. As my articles were spreading in Arabic, Kurdish, Iranian and Turkish newspapers, I was threatened to be detained by Syrian authorities. One day after a security patrol raided my home to arrest me in 2008, I stayed out of sight for 5 months before I traveled to Turkey. In Turkey, I faced similar problems with the Turkish regime, so finally I decided to travel to Belgium in November 2010.
Q. How did you feel after the revolution outbreak in Syria?
After the outbreak of the Arab spring revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya then Syria, I was so happy as many Kurdish people were waiting for this moment and we hope to have our county’s conditions stabilized as soon as possible.
Q. How did you manage to live in Belgium?
As a political refugee in a European country, I was given a period of 2 to 3 years to rectify my conditions and regretfully I found in Belgium what I’ve missed in my home country. In contrast to Syria where I lost my freedom, dignity and safety, in Belgium I got education and health services beside decent living standards, that’s why I owe this country a heap of thanks and my first novel was about the city I am currently living in.
Q. How do Syrian refugees live in Europe?
It’s a big cultural shock in the first place, as these European countries have high level of professionalism, sharp times and organization. On the other hand, refugees might feel bored for a while as they’re living alone away from their home country but they are able to adapt and go on. Actually, we have a perfect life in European countries compared to previous status in Syria even before the revolution.
Q. As a writer and novelist, how do you keep your career path in Belgium?
Here, I’m free to write my own thoughts and express my own ideologies unlike status in the Middle East and the Arab world, but I finally have to translate all what I write into the language of the country that I’m living in.
Q. How do you see your sons’ future?
My sons have their own choice to live in any country and I think it will be the country where they were born, educated and got opportunities for decent life.
Q. Do you miss your country?
I’ll always miss Syria but I just adapted to the current circumstances and I try to get more involved in my new country. Also, I am no longer a refugee as I got the Belgian nationality so I’m not feeling like a stranger any more.
Contributed by Salma Yassin