Eastern Ghouta. When someone mentions these two words in front of you, you immediately think of the extent of the destruction, devastation and murder of the war in Syria, but as soon as you meet some young men there, those who daily death did not prevent from continuing their lives with courage, you will inevitably be mesmerized by their unrivaled and true simplicity in a fake world that conspired against them, describing them as extremists or terrorists.
"When I was hungry, I would manage to eat anything, and in some cases, I was forced to sleep hungry," Mohammed from the city of Douma in the countryside of Damascus says.
"Now, after I was married, it became more difficult, so on many days I go to work in the morning without eating under the pretext that I am fasting, in order to leave something for my poor wife to eat during my absence," he adds with an eternal smile. "My wife thinks I am a saint or something, while in fact, I would live on a cigarette and a cup of coffee that I prepare in my shop".
Despite the continuous bombardment and siege in Eastern Ghouta, particularly in Douma, some of the young men are still refusing to surrender to the inevitable, preferring instead to live a noble life, practicing their profession, and carrying out the adventure of marriage under very difficult circumstances. Many here consider work and marriage to be natural and legitimate human rights, whatever the circumstances. Mohammed, a nineteen-year-old man from Douma who works as a carpenter in the city, spoke about his profession and the enormous difficulties he faces after being married for almost seven months.
"Because of the war, the siege and poverty, people no longer need a carpenter. Nevertheless, I will never give up my career. My dad passed it to me, and I too will pass it to my children, God willing, when they grow up," he says.
Every day, Mohammed wakes early to sell wood in the center of Douma, he buys large timber with his earnings and then transports it to his shop in the city’s downtown district, where he begins the cutting process. He said: "Currently, I am working as a wood salesman more than a carpenter. People need wood daily for cooking and heating, so I cut the wood timber."
When asked how much he earns, Muhammad replied: "Brother, you should not ask me how much I earn, you should ask me what can I buy with what I earn." Mohammed stopped talking, offering a sarcastic smile, "my wife would divorce me if she were to have nothing to eat."
His mother's insistence, and his conviction that he is wanted by the Syrian regime for mandatory military service, prompted Mohammed to settle down and marry, despite the conditions in his city, Douma. "My mother always insisted that I should marry, she kept repeating the proverb ‘The dish from which one eats, two can eat.’"
Muhammad got married, only to discover shortly after his wedding that his burdens were now heavier, but his noble nature pushed him to double his work in order to carry his new responsibilities. "Now I must buy more wood and chop it in the shop to sell it to people afterwards."
Everyone has their own passions, inclinations and whims, but for some, who have not had the opportunity to choose, who are only left with moments of simple happiness, for them, these few moments are a great reward by which they may forget their daily tragedies.
A cup of coffee and a cigarette are the only reward for Mohammed after his day of hard work. Following his insistence, we allowed Mohammed to prepare a cup of coffee for us. On a small fireplace, where he put some newly cut pieces of wood, he prepared a coffee.
As we were drinking coffee, a military aircraft raided the city, causing some panic, but Muhammad looked towards the aircraft with somber eyes even after it left our view. His usual smile returned again, "is it a Syrian or Russian warplane? Everybody is bombing us, then they say they are targeting terrorists."
Mockingly referring to the head of the Assad regime, Mohammed says: "My god, that throne is killing us. I promise, I would make him a throne his father never even dreamt of sitting on it, just if he leaves us. Why doesn’t he go to Russia if he loves it so much, why would he bring Russia here?"