Sanaa (to the left), a widow living in Mosul with her children, displaced by the fighting in the city. Photo: Eugenie Parjadis

Syrians and Iraqis mark yet another Eid away from home

Protracted crises in the Middle East deny the celebrations that were seven years ago


Today, alongside the Muslim community around the world, more than 14 million displaced Syrians and Iraqis living in and out of Syria and Iraq “celebrate” Eid al-Adha holiday.

However, as it has been for the past seven years, the Eid holiday is not the same as it was prior to the conflict when they were back home; many families are now separated and will tomorrow celebrate in a place or country far away from home.

Eid is a holy celebration in the Islamic calendar which takes place twice every year where Muslims observe it by visiting family and friends’ homes and sharing meals together.

For the more than five million Syrian refugees living across the Middle East, more than six million Syrians displaced inside Syria, and more than three million Iraqis displaced inside Iraq, Eid is defined by traditional dishes on a table surrounded by an incomplete family in a home far away from home.

For the Syrian refugees who left Syria in search for safety and security in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or Iraq, living in a country where services are already exasperated puts a toll on both host communities and refugees themselves. With limited resources that barely cover their basic needs, vulnerable families face a myriad of challenges throughout the year, and when it comes to this holiday, they try to celebrate with the few things they have.

“I hope that we can one day return to Syria, and I wish the children of Syria happiness and success in making their dreams come true one day”, says 15-year-old Mohammad from Syria who now lives in the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, Lebanon.

Meanwhile in Syria, over half of the population has been forced out from their homes since the beginning of the conflict, and many have been displaced multiple times. In the capital Damascus, abu-Moayad – one of the 6.3 million internally displaced Syrians – will be spending Eid in Dara’a, his hometown south of the country, as he used to back in the day. “We try to go back to the normal, but there is no normal when the conflict separated our families,” he says, explaining that Eid is about reuniting and celebrating with loved ones, but with so many lives lost, it is no celebration. The death toll in Syria almost reached half a million people in 2016 only.  

Next to abu-Moayad, on the eastern border of Syria, Iraqis battle the so called Islamic State (IS) at home and millions spend this Eid in a city that is not their hometown. With more than 11 million in need of humanitarian assistance, no room is left for the usual Eid celebrations.

Asia and Sanaa, two widows living in Mosul with their children, were displaced by the fighting in the city as security forces took on the so-called IS. With the support they receive from humanitarian actors, both try to make ends meet. Asia will use a sum of money she received to pay her electricity bills, while Sana will use it for food. The cash will also help them celebrate a little this Eid. Both will use part of the assistance to buy their children new clothes for the holidays. “I just want us all, me and my children, to be together, living in one house,” says Asia, hoping that the conflict will soon be over and future Eid holidays will bring joy and happiness to their lives.

As Mohammad, abu-Moayad, Asia and Sana celebrate Eid in their own way far away from their homes, memories of the old and peaceful Iraq and Syria continue to live in their minds, with the hope to return one day and rebuild their lives to celebrate a once again happy Eid.