“Do you have many Syrians in Italy?” Mohammed shows concern for his people while hurtling aboard a metallic gray Land Rover on the dark asphalt that cuts the red desert of Dubai. And when we explain him the humanitarian work carried out by the Church and by civil NGOs in our country to support refugees, he does not hold back a bitter, but relieved smile. “Thank goodness,” he said with a faint voice. For the last five years, he has been living in the United Arab Emirates and his family has been there with him during all those years. Back then, the war had just begun and hundreds were starting to look for a safe place, foreseeing the storm, which struck Syria a little later. Today, the emergency is total and reception procedures in Europe are sluggish. Hence, people such as Mohammed are wondering what has become of their friends and relatives back in that hell.
He does not reveal much about his past, about the job he had before emigrating. But he proudly claims his origins, even when Westerners who meet him look down and keep silent because of the guilt they feel when they hear say: “My name is Mohammed. I am from Syria.” Behind his expression, there is no intention to condemn those who listen, because he has a clear idea of who is responsible: Russians, Americans, Baathists, insurgents, and terrorists. Politics kills before the bombs. “This war is the result of interests – he says -. That of the politicians is to keep their seats. They do not care about the people. Assad should have left, whereas the US and Russia should not have intervened. The Syrians have the right to choose their own future.”
Also behind the rise of Isis, he says, there are economic and power dynamics. “The jihadists are not Muslims, they are crazy. Religion has nothing to do with it. The only thing all those people want is oil, that is, money.” He, who is a faithful of Allah, insisted on this one point, to prevent the concept “Islamic equals terrorist” from spreading, a sinister temptation of the populism that is catching on in the West. “My country tolerates other faiths. Christians were respected, we had very ancient churches, and in my area there was also a little Jewish community. Now, that is no longer the case.” Remember that according to the Koran, the Parousia (the return of Christ) will take place in the “Minaret of Jesus” of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. A slap in the face of ignorance of those who use the name of God to preach hatred.
After arriving to Dubai, he began to work with tourists, accompanying them every day in the desert safari. The salary, he says, is not high, but enough to ensure a good life to his family. Yet, there, among immense skyscrapers, lavish shopping malls and the latest architectural majesty, he misses his previous life and true human relationships. “People here are fake like the water they drink (which is obtained thanks to mega desalination plants)”, he explains jokingly. “Dubai is a city where appearance is everything and real problems are hidden.” Much of the privileges are an exclusive prerogative of the Arabs (meaning ethnicity). Even obtaining citizenship is very complicated: the government tends to protect the status quo to avoid compromising its culture and its way of life, not allowing foreigners to reside permanently in Dubai. Besides, the reception policy towards the refugees coming from Syria and Iraq is very restrictive; even some Arab commentators, whose position is a little more liberal, have criticized it.
Behind the beautiful night skyline, the lights, the nightlife in the Marina district (the most beautiful in the city) and the ski slope built inside the Mall of the Emirates, hides a suspicious society, surely, like the gaze of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who seems to scrutinize visitors from large panels located at every corner of the city. Maybe that is why Mohammed loves the desert. In fact, during his reckless driving on the dunes, he never forgets to stop on the sandy immensity. He gets out of the Land Rover, giving the tourists some time to take a few pictures, sits cross-legged and looks towards the north. Where he has left everything, but where he hopes to return some day.