A flower can’t live in the darkness

Nour

I met Nour outside the half-finishes building, where she lives now.

Behind the black walls of a half-finished building, the heart of a little girl called Nour is buried. Her Namein Arabic means “Light” yet she’s fading into the shadows as the days go by. As we talk under the Lattakia sun, her eyes carry the forlorn traces of a million dreams and hopes – lost in the most dangerous place in the world: Aleppo.

Nour left her childhood behind two years ago, back when she had a real home, and went to school, back when in the green fields the  birds used to sing for the children every morning, so that they would wake up and ‘fly’ in the painted sky. Nour seeks psychological refuge in the memory of how she smiled when sleeping in a warm bed or chasing after her friends at school, back when a child’s tears were rare and sacred, and when their hearts still beat with laughter.

After being displaced for two years now Nour’s dream of being a doctor seems impossible. “I used to go to school every day back in Aleppo,” she recalls. “I remember every classroom and every corner. My dream was to continue studying and go to university but now I have to work to help my family.”

Nour’s family now ekes out a meagre income collecting rubbish after her father lost his job as a painter. “I was always impressed by the way my father painted the houses in my village,” Nour says. “He was the best painter there. White was the colour of my house and most of the houses in the village. I always loved to see my house when I came back from school, especially in the spring when the apple tree beside the door was beginning to blossom.”  She adds: “Whenever I close my eyes to remember that now, I smile; then I cry whenever I open them again to see myself sitting alone in this dark room.”

Children collecting rubbish.

Children collecting rubbish.

If you look at Nour’s hair, damaged by lice, her scared face and her ripped clothes, it’s clear what the war has made of young Nour’s days. There is no place in her heart for a child anymore; now she has to earn money with her family collecting rubbish. “There is a lot of rubbish in this place,” Nour says. “I tried to grow some flowers to add some colour to my room but they kept dying in the dark. I learned that a flower can’t live among rubbish or in the darkness.

I wish I had that photo of me standing beside my house in Aleppo now. I used to have long straight hair and a yellow dress that I liked. I wish I still had that photo because it’s the only proof I had of who we used to be.

schoolgirl

A girl going to school looking at children her age collecting rubbish in Lattakia, Syria

People now despise me whenever they pass by me. I wish I could scream loudly to tell them that I have a lady of colours and flowers inside me and what I have become now is something I never ever imagined and is beyond my control. Her eyes fill with tears.

Observing children collecting rubbish like Nour wistfully watching other children going to school tells the story of how harmful war can be to the life of a child, of how war has stolen the shine of their eyes, the softness of their hands and most importantly the warmth of their hearts, leaving a permanent scar in their memories … In A Time of War’.

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