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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 March 2005, 11:34 GMT
Young Syrians: Lives in limbo
As pressure grows on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, its young people are facing their own struggle to forge lives in a country that is stagnating and offers its young people few opportunities.

BBCArabic.com asked six young Syrians for their thoughts on life in the country, and found that many are disillusioned by the limited prospects they are offered and the traditional roles they are supposed to follow.

Sally Greiss, 22, literature graduate, Damascus University

I refuse to sit around waiting for marriage and then become a mere housewife with no concerns other than running the household and raising children.

Sally Greiss
I am totally against this, because girls are not made to stay confined within the walls of their house.

I will only marry a man who will understand my way of thinking and accept it. I will wait for Mr Right as long as it takes.

My sister thinks the same. She declined many marriage proposals until she found the one she always wanted to be with. They now live in the US.

I believe women and men have equal rights and duties and therefore women should rely on themselves.

I would love a career in international relations, I'd also like to work in an embassy or in the tourism industry.

I want to be a successful member of society with many social and professional connections.

I would like a job that will enable me to travel and to get to know people from different cultures.

Yaman al-Hosari, 21, media student, Damascus University

I wanted to study civil engineering but my college marks weren't high enough, so I joined the media department in the Open University.

Yaman al-Hosari
The problem faced by final year college students is that many of their schoolmates enjoy preferential status which enables them to overcome the grade obstacle.

Sons of university professors and people from the Golan Heights can actually join the universities they want without the need for high scores.

But since I started my current studies, I've felt that I have all the required skills to work in media.

I hope one day I'll have my own TV show that will inform the public about cultures and different ways of life from around the world.

I also want to own my own house but the average price of a house in the suburbs of Damascus is around US $25,000, which is a fortune to any young person aspiring to start a family.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that it's the groom alone who assumes all the marriage expenses.

When any young man proposes to a girl, the first question by her parents ask is: "Do you have your own house?"

That's why I'm going to try to find a job in Dubai - where many of my friends work - to make enough money for marriage.

Nada Alia, 22, literature student, Damascus University

I don't want to work in teaching after my graduation from the English language department.

Nada Alia
I don't like teaching. I have no patience with children and have no vocation for that job.

I want to work in tourism, maybe as a translator, or in any profession involving foreign languages.

I generally like travelling for tourism and learning new languages and I would like to visit Italy or Spain because I am currently learning Spanish as a second languages besides English.

I don't mind emigrating, but I prefer Europe rather than the US.

I am not obsessed with marriage at the moment and will not marry until I find someone I really like, knowing that I am extremely picky.

I totally reject traditional marriage. I don't want to turn into a creature whose life revolves only around the kitchen and the children's needs.

Saber Haskoh, 23, journalist on women's magazine

My ambition is to study Kurdish history and society at a Canadian, American, or Australian university, as I am very interested in Kurdish and Persian affairs.

Saber Haskoh
I would like to base my studies on history or anthropology. As far as I know, this research is better funded in America more than in Europe.

My Kurdish origins have a lot to do with these ambitions. I come from the city of Qamishli, a fascinating place because of its position between Syria, Iraq and Turkey.

It is a very special place worthy of study. I can also speak Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish and English, which would help me doing this type of research.

I am now doing an intensive course in journalism after starting to work in a magazine called Thara, which specialises in women's affairs.

I can see that my future lays in journalism and research and I hope that I can add something to Kurdish culture and the understanding of the Kurdish question.

Farah Hwija, 23, science student

I gained good marks in my secondary school, which meant I could register in many disciplines such as law or economics, but I chose the science institute because I love biology.

Farah Hwija
The only problem I am facing at the moment is that the majority of jobs available for science students are in education, and I don't want this to happen to me.

I would regard teaching as a failure. The financial reward of teaching in Syria is very little, except if you give private lessons, which I don't want to do.

After graduation I will try to finish my studies in Germany or Canada. I prefer Germany because I know a Syrian doctor who works there and I am sure that he can help me while I am there. I am already studying German.

I don't want to settle abroad, so I want to come back to Syria after gaining experience.

I am against the old ideas that girls should have simple ambitions and that their essential role should be taking care of their house.

I am against the idea that only men should bear all the financial burdens of marriage, as I believe that life is about sharing responsibilities.

Mohamed al-Haswani, 24, business studies graduate

I work currently as a legal translator in my father's.

Mohamed al-Haswani
I wanted to study economics but my marks in the secondary school did not allow this, so I decided to study business management at the open university.

I dream of immigrating to Canada because it is a developed country and there are lots of opportunities there for new immigrants.

I want to emigrate to the French speaking province of Quebec in particular, because I heard from a female colleague who went there that it is the most developed province in Canada.

I want to be a businessman, but not like my father and mother who haven't finished their studies.

I want to have enough money to allow me to marry and start a family - to have a good life.

That is why I want to emigrate. I want to make money and get the Canadian citizenship, and then decide if I want to come back to Syria or stay in Canada.

Your comments:

I am a second generation American coming from Syria. My father came to the US to become a physician and in doing so, gave me the opportunity to have a good education in the hope of having a successful future. I still feel like my heart is in Syria, but because of the current political and social status of the country I choose to stay in the US until I gain more experience. I hope to find a job in one of the more modern Middle Eastern countries that are just now starting to shine. Unfortunately, Syria does not offer any opportunities for highly technical occupations and the current regime continues to make the country stagnate. Syria is very unstable right now as change is nearing and hopefully it will not take too long for this much needed change to occur.
Ayman Wafai, Dallas, Texas, USA

Why don't these people want to live in their own country and try to make it better? At least their living standards are better than the people of India and China. Nobody here talks about immigrating except as a last resort. What is wrong with the youth of the these countries?
Damini, India Hyderabad

These comments to me only highlight the fact that many young people in the Middle East could actually be allies of the US and Europe and the West in general. They are young, have grown up in a the modern world and have very modern ideas that go against their government and traditional society.
James Rich, New York City, USA

You find these examples in many dictatorships. These countries are heaven to few of its influential people, hell to the vast majority of the hard working citizens who can't get their chance because they are not well connected. My advice to these young people is go on, find better opportunities elsewhere. I'm going there soon, too.
Wesam Elshamy, Cairo, Egypt

I was one like these young people with a great dream. I worked hard day and night so I managed to educate myself in one of the most well known universities in Europe. Now I am 31and feel as if my life was stolen from me. I love my country but I could not tolerate the lack of freedom and justice. What is really the main struggle? Is it to keep a stranger in a strange country or to go back where the struggle for freedom is just hidden?
Syrian woman, Canada

The comments from the young women regarding future marriage prospects are quite refreshing to me. I am a student of international relations with a concentration in the East. These particular young women appear to be strong-willed, determined individuals with clear objectives for themselves and their future generations. I truly applaud their willingness to discuss their views in a world-wide setting such as the internet. Their voices will, indeed, give encouragement to other females in the region. Their honesty encourages me to be firm in my objectives about my own future as a young women in the United States.
Lauren Juster, Minneapolis, US

Many Arabs like to move and work outside the Arab world. They hear the fairy tale story that this will make them happy. I am one of the ones who ended up outside Jordan and I miss it everyday. There has not been a day for the past 27 years where I never wished to sleep under Jordanian sky. Of course, we need to change the Arab world so we provide jobs for our youth. We need to help them control their future and give them independence and freedom they deserve
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan

Why don't these young Syrians try to stay in Syria and work to change their country instead of abandoning it?
Sam Io, New York , USA

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