(Click here for My Syrian Soul brother, Part I)
“Your brother is in danger,” Lara said. I knew she was referring to Marwan.
“What happened?” I asked. “Why didn’t he tell me himself?”
“He didn’t want you to worry about him; he is protective of you. The regime slaughtered his uncle’s whole family, and now they want to draft Marwan into the army to kill for them and to risk getting killed himself. He must leave Syria immediately.” I’d been trying to convince Marwan to leave ever since he unblocked me. Now he had no choice.
“I’ll open a gofundme for him,” Lara continued. “He has to get a passport and a ship ticket to Turkey, and it’s costly there.” Then she added, “Marwan and I talk every day. When he arrives at Turkey, I’ll fly over there to marry him…we are in love.”
Lara had never seemed very stable to me, so I didn’t pay much attention to her wedding plans. I resolved to deal with it later. I felt in my gut that Marwan had to leave Syria ASAP, but no one donated a dime to her gofundme.
Two close friends, Maria Dangelo and Assor Elkayam, offered to help. They’d met Marwan through me, and they loved him as well. All of us were in a tight situation financially, but we were determined to help Marwan.
Only it was impossible to send money from my country to Syria. And American friends had once told me it wasn’t that simple for them, either: nobody wanted to be on Homeland Security’s radar.
“I was once married to a Saudi man,” Lara said. “I can send money to Arab countries, no questions asked.”
Still, we were relieved when Marwan received the money.
He got his passport a day before it became impossible for men his age to get one. But the regime had closed the maritime border with Turkey for potential soldiers. Marwan had to forget about the ship, find a smuggler instead, and escape via ISIS’ territories.
For a few weeks, he could hardly sleep, and he rarely left his parents’ apartment for fear of getting caught by Assad’s soldiers. Sometimes when I talked to him on Viber, I heard a shell exploding nearby.
“I’m used to it,” he said casually.
Meanwhile, he had no prospect of finding a job in Turkey, and he couldn’t stay at his best friend’s home — it was already crowded there.
Assor, Maria and I asked our Turkish FB friends to help Marwan. Nothing came of it.
“I’ll just go to Ankara and be homeless until I find a job,” Marwan said.
“No brother of mine is going to be homeless,” I said, “and Ankara is freezing cold in the winter. You could die.”
I befriended Elvan, a Turkish FB friend of Marwan. He tried to find a job for Marwan, but a few days later, he said in desperation, “I can’t find anything for him. They hate Syrians here.”
“If people meet Marwan in person,” I said, “they’ll change their minds.” Then I added with chutzpah I didn’t know I owned, “Maybe he can stay with you for a couple days.”
“That’s impossible,” Elvan said. “I have a wife and kids.” (Too bad he forgot to mention that to the women he pursued on FB.)
Nevertheless, my pushy suggestion seemed to work out. “I found a job for Marwan in a bakery, sleeping arrangement included,” Elvan announced. “But Marwan has to leave Syria now, or he’ll lose the job.”
On the following day, Marwan bought an airline ticket from Lebanon to Turkey, which was his mom’s brilliant idea. That way, he could travel to Lebanon in an airline bus with the airline stuff instead of escaping with a smuggler.
It was time to talk to him about Lara’s plans. “Are you in love with Lara?” I asked.
“What?” Marwan cried out, appalled. “She could be my mom. Her son is older than me.” (Unfortunately, it isn’t considered as appalling when men behave like Lara.)
Two days later, Marwan called me from Turkey. He told me that at the border with Lebanon, Assad’s soldiers stopped the bus. They ordered the guy who was sitting next to him to come with them and join the army.
I sent up a prayer for that guy and celebrated Marwan’s newfound freedom. Lara blocked me after I told her to treat Marwan only as a friend – he wasn’t even twenty-one yet, for crying out loud. And I blocked Elvan when he told Marwan to use women in prostitution.
I will always be deeply grateful to both of them for all the good that they did, but I won’t tolerate their harmfulness.
Marwan’s troubles finally seemed to be over. I had no idea then how soon I’d be worrying about his safety again.
(Click here for “My Syrian Soul Brother, Part III: Danger at Sea“)