Interview with Syrian participant Delgash Hussein
Who? Hussein Delgash
In Belgium since: 2012
Integration programme at bon: 2013
“I have three brothers and five sisters. Two of my sisters are still with my parents in Syria. I myself have fled three years ago. One brother and sister now live in Lebanon. One sister took her husband and family to Germany. Two of my brothers moved to Turkey, one of my sisters is on her way. The war in Syria has been going on for four years now. None of us would have left the country if it hadn't been for the war. Damascus was a very pleasant city to live in: it's always summer. Not quite like Belgium, where you go outside in sunny weather with a pair of shorts, an umbrella and a scarf! We had a great life without the war."
What was life like in Syria?
“I was born in Kurdish Syria but lived in Damascus for 17 years. I had a barbershop which was doing well, working hard but making a nice living. I lived with my parents and we always ate together. Before I had my barbershop, I was working as a tailor. I've been to school from age seven to thirteen, in Arabic. When I arrived here, I had to learn the Roman alphabet. I followed an integration course and then learned Dutch with Brusselleer."
What are you doing now?
“I've followed a four-month basic training as assistant chef at VDAB and am starting the subsequent module. I would like to work in an institutional kitchen."
So you're learning how to cook 'Belgian'? Do you like Belgian food?
“In the beginning I found it quite odd. I still have to learn a lot of new ingredients. I have a picture dictionary that is very helpful: all ingredients and cooking equipment are pictured with their Dutch names. And I do like a lot of the dishes, like mashed potatoes, fish and fish stock, waffles and of course fries. Then there are other things I still don't like: Brussels sprouts, endives and leeks. Maybe one day I'll start a Syrian restaurant, but I need money to do that. I first want to earn some money to help my family."
Do you keep in touch with your parents?
“I bought a smartphone here to be able to call them. But it isn't easy. They have a lot of blackouts due to the many attacks and bombings, often leaving only a few hours of electricity a day. I'm not really afraid something would happen to them; they live in a village, where they are safe. The war and violence happen outside the village. Their freedom of movement is small, but I don't have to fear for their lives."
How did you end up in Belgium?
“It was a long journey. I had a passport, so I could just take the car to Turkey. Once I crossed the border, I took the bus to Istanbul. That was easy enough: I just had to pay the bus fare. From Istanbul I got to Tanzania with some traffickers and after that I went to Kenya. Finally, I came from Kenya to Belgium. It's a strange route, but that's the way it was."
Would you like your parents to come live here as well?
“Not really. I would like to live close to my parents to be able to take care of them, but they are too old to move to Belgium. Their life is over there, in Syria. It pains me that our beautiful cities have been destroyed. And it hurts to think that children die from stabbings. But I hope to be able to return one day, that life in Syria can be beautiful again. All Syrian people are good, it's the war that is ugly."
Thanks to Marianne Buyck