Back in 2002, I visited the small island of Arwad, just off the coast of Syria. I was visiting the coastal town of Tartous for the festival of Eid al Fitr, the feast which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The island was a frenzy of holiday excitement, and walking around the old fortress, I came across these young boys, who were playing with their toy guns, which were probably presents for Eid.
That is nearly twelve years and now these children’s lives certainly won’t be as carefree. These young boys, if they are still alive, would be 20 year-olds and would have joined Syria’s obligatory military service, swapping their toy guns for real weapons. Syria has changed unreconisably, since the time when I was there. And where I once felt a warm glow, remembering these children’s smiling faces, I now have an empty feeling in my stomach, thinking about what may have become of them and their homeland.