Feature: Syrian displaced senior longing for retirement after 8 years fleeing

2021-10-13 14:35:10 GMT2021-10-13 22:35:10(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Hummam Sheikh Ali

DAMASCUS, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- It never occurred to the 65-year-old tailor Jamal al-Masri that he would be spending his retire life working hard inside his van at a sidewalk in Syrian capital Damascus, instead of stretching comfortably by a lake, or enjoying the breeze at a park with fellow seniors.

Before the Syrian war erupted more than 10 years ago, al-Masri had been dreaming of a comfy retirement and enjoying the rest of his life with his family. However, the war came, shattering not only his dreams but his house and workshop in the Joret Al Shayah neighborhood of Homs, which became one of the most devastated places during the war.

Like the majority of Syrians who fled their homes, al-Masri, his wife, and two disabled sons left Homs to Damascus in 2012 with nothing but a vintage van that later proved to be the most valuable asset for him.

In Damascus, the tailor rented a house in the densely-populated Rukn Al-Deen neighborhood of Damascus. Not knowing what he would do to make a living, he started walking down the streets in hope that he could find an idea.

One day, he was having his usual morning walk and bumped into a tailor who was working in his car and offering quick fixes to passersby' clothes.

Without hesitating and with a jolt of inspiration, al-Masri removed the back seats of his van, installed a sewing machine instead, and drove his van to an empty spot near a sidewalk in Rukn Al-Deen.

Eight years later, the man is still on his spot sitting inside his shabby old van, smoking cigarettes while fixing clothes for the poor who cannot offer to buy new clothes.

Wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, the man shows some physical strength despite his age and the slight bend in his back due to the long hours sitting in the small car room.

Speaking to Xinhua about his situation, al-Masri released a long sigh with a half-bitter smile, adding that suffering was the title of his life since he got displaced from his house in Homs.

Looking around inside the van, the man said he never thought he would spend almost a decade of his life working long hours every day inside the van, where is too hot in summer and freezing cold in winter.

He simply called his life a series of suffering over the past eight years.

"Men in my age should now retire, but I can not retire because there is no one who can pay for my rent," he said.

For al-Masri, the future seems like a luxury he can't afford. His biggest dream now is returning to his home in Homs.

Still, returning home needs more years because the area is largely in ruins, and the recovery needs time, while he doesn't think he can wait for that day.

"For sure, the past is much better than today. For me, there is no future. The train of life has passed," he said. Enditem