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Surrounded by Rubble, This Flower Seller's Dreams Are on Hold in Syria

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Nour, 22 years old. Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria. “I took up photography to convey our living situation to the outside world.” 22 January, 2016.

This story was originally published on Syria Untold, an independent storytelling project exploring the Syrian struggle, and is republished on Global Voices under a content-sharing agreement.

Nour, a student of economics at the University of Damascus, used to sell flowers to cover his expenses in 2011. He was 17 years old with dreams of leaving Syria for another country to continue his studies.

At the start of the 2011 uprising, Nour was convinced the end of President Bashar al-Assad's decades-old regime was in sight and that soon Syrians would be able to begin rebuilding their society into a free and democratic one. Like many other Syrians, Nour put his personal goals on hold for the foreseeable future and stopped selling roses to finance his education. Instead, he joined the ranks of the non-violent resistance movement against Assad, changing his life forever.

Day after day, the regime transformed the revolution into a war and took with it a generation of young men, either through compulsory military conscription or creating conditions that made them join the armed opposition.

Consequently, Nour had to hide and move from place to place, all the while planning protests. The following year, the war transformed from simply suppressing the demonstrations to displacing people during military campaigns. Nour tried to flee the country but was unable to. He was blacklisted by the government for his involvement in peaceful demonstrations and his rejection of the military service.

War intensified in Douma, a city that lies six miles from Damascus. Assad’s forces imposed a full siege on the city, starting on October 25, 2012, that was carried out in conjunction with aerial campaigns and a complete blockade. Nour, the flower seller, began smelling death at every turn, seeing missiles kill everyone in the buildings. The questions he began to ask were limited to weaponry and death: “Is that a ground-to-ground missile? Or a barrel bomb? Am I afraid of dying under the rubble?”

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Nour, 22 years old. Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria. “I wish that when the war is over, I can return to pursue my dreams.” 22 January, 2016.

Because Nour no longer sold flowers, he found alternative means of employment; he learned photography. He learned this new skill in order to show the world what is happening in Douma. For the women, children, and the elderly who are faced with these tragedies daily, Nour practices this profession to this day.

Nour still has hope for salvation: he has kept his dreams and plans for the future alive despite the tragedies he has bore witness to during the war. The last five years may have made his soul older than his age. Living in besieged Douma for three years, he has no hope but to one day see his dreams renewed.

Reporting for this story was originally done in Arabic, in collaboration between Syria Untold, Humans of Syria, and Radio Souriali. This story was translated by .

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