Ibrahim lived in Idlib province in Syria. He is a graduate of English Literature from Aleppo University. But he joined the Free Syrian Army. Why? Because in 2012 the regime of President Assad burnt his library of English books during the early stages of the war; he had five hundred in all including Shakespeare and Tolstoy, as well American poetry. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was his favourite – he saw hope in Godot. But the war as we know became complicated and many factions entered the war. Ibrahim left and is now teaching school children in Turkey.
I have followed his story via the reporting of BBC journalist Ian Pannell. I wrote a play about him called Waiting for Summer, which was shown in Brighton and have written a poem. What drew me to his story, and to Laila Sumpton’s poem ‘Morning Prayers’, is the way in which the more personal story is told. It is not the helpless uneducated victim that is often portrayed by the western media; it is someone who had hopes and aspirations like anyone living in peace.
In Morning Prayers, the hopes of a mother are set out, “You long for monotonous streets/unremarkably intact/adapting only to the seasons.” These longings for the mundane are ones that many of us take for granted, “You hope for the rush to school/to be fuelled by no more/than a stern bell ringing teacher.” Of course if you are trapped in a war, then “You pray for your son only to fear/spiders, heights and getting lost/that he will grow bored of birthdays,/only ever hold toy guns.” But we know that even the most simplest of wishes can be very difficult to fulfil. Whether it is Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Egypt, mothers, father, sisters and brothers hope and pray only for peace, for to read books, play, get married and live safely. Laila’s poem shows this both starkly and beautifully. (more…)