Kate Chisholm

Home and away | 17 March 2016

Plus: why are we given so little teaching on how to care? And is there some truth to the three-second rule?

Four programmes, four very different kinds of radio, from a classically made drama to weird sonic ramblings, via the best kind of all: first-person narrative, straight to mike. On Syrian Voices this week on Radio 4 (produced by David Prest), Lyse Doucet has been talking to Syrians whose lives have been utterly changed by the war, now passing its five-year mark. On Monday we heard from Sam, a 22-year-old student who lives in the government-controlled area of Daraa and studies English literature at the university. It was here that the uprising began after some students scrawled graffiti on a wall, ‘It’s your turn next, doctor’, calling for their country to be the next in the Arab world to overthrow its government.

There was a very odd disjunction between what Sam was saying and the background sound, which suggested he was sitting in a quiet, almost serene garden, birds twittering noisily. And also between his view of what has happened and the reports we get each night on the news. Sam blames it all on the ‘invaders’ who ‘came from outside’, they were people who were ‘just nothing back then… murderers, thieves’, but through the war, ‘they now became something’. When asked what he thought about the bombing of the country by Russia and Iran, he insisted that these countries were friends of Syria and were only trying to help.

Then, as the birds continued to sing, he told us about the death of one of his friends, who was like a brother to him. They were walking together down the street, talking, about what they might do tomorrow, next month, next year. Suddenly, a stray bullet came out of nowhere, a sniper’s shot. ‘He was down… What the hell happened to him?’ In ten minutes his friend was dead. ‘We lost him…’

Most of Sam’s friends have left Syria but he has no thought of leaving.

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