Honeymooning in war-torn Syria

Guevara Kamel and his wife Yafa in Raqqa.
 
In Roman times, the poet Virgil coined the now common phrase “Love conquers all”. These three words could not be more pertinent for the young Syrian couple who headed back to their native country last month in order to get married.
 
Guevara Kamel and his bride Yafa al-Dakhil have been waiting for three years to tie the knot. With Guevara working in Saudia Arabia and Yafa living in the United States, the young couple had been waiting for an opportunity to have their wedding in Syria. Getting married overseas was out of the question: they would have needed to go through their local Syrian embassy, and as they are both sympathetic to the opposition, they steered clear.
 
Photo of the couple published on Facebook with the comment: “We are doing well, may your prayers protect us”.
Contributors

“Syrians don’t just need to be given weapons; they also need to be given joy”

Guevara Kamel, 32, is a technician who lives in Saudi Arabia.
 
Yafa left Syria with her family to move to the United States in 2010. I left to work in Saudi Arabia a few months later. We were engaged at the time and were sure we would soon return to get married in Syria. But given the subsequent events in the country, our plans didn’t exactly pan out.
 
At first, we thought we would get married in another Arab country, but it’s impossible to do so without going through our embassy. But even if Syrian embassies hadn’t closed all around the world, it still wouldn't have been possible for me to approach the Syrian authorities. My father is a militant communist who spent several years in prison under the regime of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father. Besides, my cousins are part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
 
We finally chose the crazy option of getting married in Syria. We discussed it with several relatives, who didn’t take us seriously. But we still met up in Turkey and told our families that we were going on holidays. But once we got there, we started looking for a way to cross the border with help from the Ahrar ash-Sham battalion, which is part of the FSA. It took several days, but we eventually made it into Syria on August 20. Our relatives there were both surprised and moved.
 
We’re still in Raqqa. Life is difficult here, the price of food is three times higher than in normal times [Editor’s note: the couple does not yet know when they can leave because the border with Turkey is temporarily closed]. Half of the Raqqa and Deirez-Zor regions is controlled by jihadists, and the other half by Kurds. As a result, anyone who is not from here is seen as suspect and might be killed off by either group. That said, having family here helps keep us from being noticed.
 
Yafa’s (Guevara’s wife) Facebook profile: “They closed all the crossing points at the Turkish border, but the most important thing is that we are at home and healthy”.
 
We spend our days walking in the city centre and visiting family members. We also regularly go to the young activists’ communications centre, because it’s the only part of the city that has a satellite connection. It allows Yafato to call her parents in the United States and her sister in Germany in order to reassure them.
 
We wanted to upload our pictures to Facebook and make our story publicly known in order to taunt Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has forced us away from our country. Being able to celebrate our wedding with all of our loved ones was a challenging goal that we are very proud to have achieved.
 
Every day, we hear about armed fighters illegally entering Syria. I respect their actions because they are taking up arms to combat the regime’s atrocities. I too went to the front, which is outside of the city, in order to see my relatives who are fighting there. But Syrians don’t just need to be given weapons; they also need to be given joy. Being able to celebrate this happy event with our families is a way to help them overcome the present difficulties.
This post was written with France 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira)
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