Inside the Syrian refugee crisis
Friday, July 17, 2015

The stories of two families who left everything behind in Syria to chase a better life only to be part of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War

Rezan Abdou, 35, soft-spoken and a little brooding, sits wearing a black shirt tightly buttoned over his thick chest in an almost empty apartment in a working-class Montreal neighbourhood near the Côte-Vertu Metro station.

He’s lived here for only a couple of weeks, with his father, Zakaria, his mother, Rokan, and his brother Mohammed. Before that, it was the local YMCA. Before the YMCA, less than a month ago, was Istanbul, Turkey, along with his sister, Midya, and another brother, Ali. And before Istanbul was Aleppo, Syria—an ancient, diverse and once glorious city that is now rubble.

It was in Aleppo that Rezan learned to dance.

“It is a world that is different from what I see in everyday life,” he says, explaining what he loved about dance and theatre. “It exists inside your mind and body.”

He was lucky there, to have the freedom and the means to study these arts, to give expression to that world in his mind and body. Rezan’s father grew up poor and never went to school himself, instead working as a shoemaker since the age of seven, when his own father died. Zakaria wanted something different for his children.

“I suffered a lot during my life,” he says, his face weathered, a bushy moustache surrounded by grey stubble. “I wanted to compensate for that by giving education to my children. Whatever they asked for, I worked hard to be able to give to them. And then what happened during these last four years, happened. And almost everything was lost.”

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Source: Maclean's, by Michael Petrou