Hassan and Akram
Voice recording starts, 9:27pm, Mafraq, Jordan
“Salam Aleikum. Hello Baba, How are you? Are you staying safe? Tell me how it is, Baba.
Erghh, what can I say, you asked me for news.
I have a new job – I wish this wasn’t the first news (laughs). I had to leave the last one because I didn’t have a work permit and they couldn’t risk the fine. What do you think, Baba, should I get the permit? People say so many different things. I heard if you get a work permit you are not so likely to get an offer to another country, so I don’t know, for now I work without it.
Tell me your safe, I want to know you’re good.
I found a new job doing construction. I’m careful, Baba, I know you’re going to tell me to be careful but I’m like you.
Soraya, Imran’s wife, is pregnant again.
Ehhmmm Ameer still visits the hospital often for her treatments and it’s getting better.
Farooq and Abeer are engaged.
Hala and Nizar are getting divorced. There was no choice, he says.
Imran was fired, he is looking for more work.
Ehmm, what else…
Uncle Haider still works at the factory.
We didn’t manage to pay the full rent last month, we had to borrow money from uncle. Don’t worry about us, though, we will be OK.
Mother is fine but she frustrated, I try to keep her laughing, you know I do.
I turn 19 next month, do you still remember your first son’s birthday?
Jubran studies very hard and does well at school, I will try to keep him out of work as long as I can, he’s so smart.
The commission offered Elias’s family a place in Sweden, which they accepted. They’ll be leaving in three months.
Baba, I still love Ula, I hope she won’t marry someone else before I have a stable job.
OK, that’s all. Tell me your safe, I want to know you’re good. God be with you.”
Voice recording ends, 21:32, Mafraq, Jordan
Voice recording starts, 22:42, Near Daraa, Syria
“Salam Aleikum. Hassan, my son,
You say there’s no big news but to me this is a lot! (Laughs) Thank you for telling me everything. Here life is quiet, you know me, I am a simple man who loves simple things. (the shrieking sound of air strikes) I lay low as much as I can but there is always something that needs doing. But I am safe and hearing your voice makes me smile. (another loud shriek and low grumble)
Find a job, dear Hassan, find a stable life for yourself, and then marry this Ula you love. Make sure you can take good care of your wife and family. Find safety and make a family so happiness can come to you, as it doesn’t come from work or our surroundings these days. One day you will be able to find a life like the one we had here, before the violence began. Your own home and space enough for a garden and chickens.
I wish that the life we had here was here for you still. The future will have to be different, but it can still be joyous.
I wonder every day whether I made the right choice to return to Syria. It is my home and I want to be here and my parents need me, I miss you as you know. Life in Jordan isn’t always easy but here we live in the shadow of what was. Our beautiful country, our beautiful home has changed so much. Do you remember it well? And terrible news comes often. I will not list the news as you did, I don’t dare. You can imagine.
I’m pleased to hear Jubran is still studying. He needs to stay studying for as long as it’s possible.
And you should find a stable job – can you ask Uncle?
Bye for now Hassan”
Voice recording ends, 22:45, near Daraa, Syria.
Voice recording starts, 19:25, Mafraq, Jordan
“Hello, Baba. Let me just think back to what you said.
I was near the Syrian border for work today. We got out of the car and listened to the call to prayer. I could smell our country.
I was near the Syrian border for work today. We got out of the car and listened to the call to prayer. I could smell our country. How are you? I thought of you. We still pick up the Syrian television channels so sometimes I forget where I am.
My friend and his brothers have been deported back to Syria. I messaged them to ask around for you.
Ehmmm, I asked Uncle about work but he cannot help right now. There is trouble at the factory and he might not be there long himself. He doesn’t think it is a stable option. Ahhh but Baba you know how it is, an unstable job is still better than none. For now, I am OK, the job I found will give enough for rent, and soon something will come up. I am hopeful the commission will give us an offer to move to Canada or Germany. This is what I pray for.
(Long pause, the sound of a cigarette being inhaled)
I am in a strange mood tonight, Baba. Waiting on changes that I can’t make myself. Do you ever imagine a life where you can make all the choices? I don’t see our lives as resulting from our choices. Not often anyway. I don’t mean to complain, but I do wonder what it feels like. A better life will come, one day. Inshallah.
I think about bodies all the time too, do you? Our flesh is so thin, stretched over bones and blood. Every day is just another day keeping our skin stretched over our bones. Ohh I’m in one of those moods, thinking too much. Tell me you’re good.”
Voice recording ends, 19:28, Mafraq, Jordan
Voice recording starts, 13:25, near Daraa, Syria
“Hassan, I speak quickly to say you might not hear from me for a while.
(Loud unusual sounds in the background muffle the voice, the sound of heavy breathing)
A sniper has injured me.
A sniper has injured me (pause) a bullet went through my hand. I’m trying to get treatment here but the hospitals are being bombed so it’s not easy. I will try get to Jordan or Lebanon for treatment. Who knows how long it will take. For now a doctor comes to me and cleans the wound. It’s painful, what you said in your last message about skin over bones, is different for me now. (laughs shortly). I can peer into my own hand and see what the flesh usually keeps secret.
It might be hard to have regular contact. I love you.”
Voice recording ends, 13:26, near Daraa, Syria
Voice recording starts 13:27, Mafraq, Jordan
“Baba, what’s going on?
Tell me your safe! What happened? What can we do????????
Please send me your location and where you are going!”
Voice recording ends, 13:27, Mafraq, Jordan
Voice recording starts 07:13, Mafraq, Jordan
“Baba, update me, what’s going on?”
Voice recording ends 07:13, Mafraq, Jordan
Voice recording starts 20:09, Mafraq, Jordan
“It’s been two weeks since I heard anything from you. I heard through Uncle you made it to Lebanon. Tell us you’re safe. Any message, if you can. Inshallah.”
Voice recording ends, 20:10, Mafraq, Jordan
Voice recording starts 06:23, Mafraq, Jordan
“We think of you every day.
Voice recording starts at 06:23, Mafraq, Jordan
Hassan and Akram are inspired by the many interviews generously and bravely given by men in Jordan in 2019. A fictional account has been written in order to preserve privacy. Hassan and Akram exist as an ode to the stories, experiences and characteristics of some but not all displaced women and men from Syria currently living in Jordan, the research was centred around early marriage, sexual health and reproduction.