Hala Jadid al Kash started teaching Arabic and Islamic culture at IES Abroad Granada eight years ago. She is the President of the Souriyat sin fronteras (Syrian Without Borders) association, which helps collect food, clothing, and medicine for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Hala is a multifaceted woman who has lived in Granada for 15 years, but arrived in Spain 18 years ago when she left Syria.
IES Abroad: What courses can IES Abroad students in Granada, Spain, take with you?
Hala Jadid al Kash: I currently teach CM 367: The Role of Social and Mass Media in Revolution and Change in the Arab World.
IES Abroad: When you started living in Spain, what were the main cultural and political differences you could see?
HJ: There are a lot of similarities and differences between Spain and Syria. As for politics, it is very easy to see. The first thing I could breathe in Spain was “democracy air” after a long time. As for society, we share a lot of things and we have a lot in common. Perhaps, this is due to the influence of culture, our history in common. In Spain, it feels like home.
IES Abroad: How did Spain embrace you then and how was the experience?
HJ: I loved Spain from the very beginning—the truth, the people, the atmosphere, the way of living—all these and other things made me feel I wanted to stay here for a long time. It was a hunch that has lasted 18 years.
IES Abroad: You have worked hard in order to have a stable life in Spain together with your family, but have also focused on helping other people. Since 2013, you have been the President of Souriyat sin fronteras. What role does your NGO serve and what kind of support do you have from international or Syrian institutions?
HJ: We have been working in “Syrian Expatriates Coordinating” since the conflict started in 2011. We created an association to register orphan children in Syria in 2012 (OSRA Foundation). I traveled to Jordan for the first time in 2012 and visited refugee camps near Amman, and I met my colleagues there. We started to give food and clothes to the refugees and collected their information to create a database. This way we could register the status of the refugees so that it was easier to reach them and offer help. Also, we visited sick and war-wounded individuals in Jordanian hospitals. This is when we decided to build an association to establish our work and a rehabilitation center. In that moment, we collected clothes, money, and medicine in a personal way. I will never forget the support and help I received from my colleagues at IES Abroad in my first trip. It was very touching. Since then, we have been able to collect more money from other institutions (some in the United States), and, of course, we cannot forget the great help offered by the City Hall of Granada in 2013.
IES Abroad: We think the Syrian conflict is something new since it is now more present in the media, but it’s not. You have family and friends in Syria who are direct witnesses of the reality of the country. How do you think international media is dealing with the conflict? What is the reality of the country according to their citizens?
HJ: It is true that Syria is now more present in the media, but there has been a dictatorship there for more than 45 years. There was major censorship and violations of the human rights. I come from a family very involved in politics (my father was General in the most important brigade of the Syrian army, and my grandfather was the Minister of Education in the pre-Asad period). They were both political prisoners; they stayed in jail with other colleagues during the mandate of Assad’s Father. Due to my personal and family circumstances, we have suffered together with many Syrian people, the consequences of being and living under a dictatorship in a period where there were not enough media to transmit our pain and suffering.
Today, Syria is living the second worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. It is very difficult to sum up this conflict in two lines, but we can bring into focus two things: the international indifference and the humanitarian crisis in which many innocent people are losing their lives. The reality Syrians are living is bigger and more painful than the reality we can watch in the media during just five minutes—attacks, bombings, arrests, hunger sieges in the whole country—it is all a humanitarian disgrace in the 21st century.
IES Abroad: You have the opportunity to discuss with young people from different backgrounds what is happening in Syria and in other Arab countries at the moment. What is their perception? Do they have any prejudices?
HJ: I have had the wonderful opportunity of being in touch with many students during the last five years in workshops supporting civil movements, helping children hurt in war to get over their traumas through music or painting, organizing cinema sessions or concerts to spread the voice of this crisis.
My course at IES Abroad Granada has been essential in completing this puzzle and checking other people’s vision. It has been an excellent experience both for me and my students; they have learned a lot about the Arab world and their events. We have gained many things in terms of information, dialogue, and an exchange of points of view, but the most important and exciting thing was the great interest students showed during the term. Sometimes they acted as real correspondents in the country I assigned them.
IES Abroad: Right now it is difficult to think about going back to Syria even for holidays to visit your family. Do you think it will be possible for you to return some time?
HJ: It is very hard to think about it. Being out of your country and not being able to have the hope of seeing your family and friends one day is very difficult.
I personally still believe in the principles of the Revolution. I believe in my people, as my family has always done, and I still hope to go back, help my people, and participate in the uprising of my country. Inshallá.
Study abroad in Granada, Spain and keep up with current events by taking Hala’s course!