By Khaldoun Zino
Translated By me (Tareq Neman)
The words of Dr. Reem are like a walk on a rainy day; clear and enigmatic at the same time. This mysterious woman talks about herself frankly and thoroughly. Her speak is tender, copious and it invades the soul and mind. It is full of love. We talked about alienation, science, literature and music. After 9 years in France, her love of Syria overwhelmed all that tempted her to stay in France, as others did. You are in Syria now and working as a professor in the College of Dentistry in Damascus University. Tell me about science, alienation, the Syrian community in France, the simplicity and the difficulties. I finished my studies in biology in the University of Damascus, which delegated me to France to complete my studies there (doctorate). It is true that my start there was difficult, but amazing. I lived in several cities, starting in the north west of France, and then I lived in Rennes, where I got my first diploma from its best university. I suffered from severe alienation and loneliness because there weren’t a lot of Syrians there. After that I moved to Paris, where I spent 5 years concluding researches for my doctorate in biology (oral molecular biology), doing genetic research on embryos. This is one of the rare professions, and I achieved great results in this research. However, I had to bear suffering and painful conditions on all levels to achieve this success Your story is mixed with pain and sorrow, was it that bad? For me, I feel satisfied and proud and this is the point, but at that time, many fought me and planted obstacles in my way. I didn’t understand why, maybe it was because of the Syrian community in France, maybe some were jealous of my success due to the scientific competitions. In spite of everything I achieved my goals, my scientific goals. The main harassments that I faced were because of my attitudes and my ideas, and because of my Syrian social principles and national attitudes. I must confess that many others, Syrians and French, have supported me and respected my ideas and that helped me much. I admit that France has educated me very well and in a perfect way, but my loyalty is to Syria, my country and to my university, the university that educated me and delegated me. Now I am back to serve my country. I refuse to be settled away from my roots, from my homeland Syria under any circumstances, whatever the difficulties are. In Syria you studied in Arabic, and universities in Syria are the only universities that teach all sciences in Arabic, while in France you studied in French and English …this leads us to the important question if this leads to scientific or intellectual schizophrenia? I don’t think so. I use Arabic when I teach my students. The dilemma is that the education and information that I gained in France is not translated into Arabic yet, and this causes a problem for me and my students. I translated many important French researches, theories, studies, and knowledge into Arabic depending on very well developed French courses, but the problem is that students in Syria are used to study, read and learn according to different methods. However, I will keep on trying to improve their levels, in spite of the fact that Syrian students are not ready yet. Another difficulty is that the university refused to change courses in more than 20% of the cases, but by now, they have accepted that the professor can write a book and teach it according to his view without considering the previous course. I should be faithful to my country because it paid millions for me, and I have to develop students’ minds from being listeners and audiences to being active and creative. Although we as Syrians are known as the smartest among all students over the world, we are still stubborn and refuse changes because we are used to study and learn in one specific way. We should avoid bad methods that help to memorise subjects without understanding them. I think that we have developed our courses in Syria and we are trying to help the student, but there are some professors who ‘don’t like to work ‘. I insist that during my stay in France I’ve discovered that Syrian students are so smart and active, but they need more practicing. The expatriate student can learn and perform only if he wants to. To be honest, some French were so good to us; they treated us as humans and with noble values. But some others were not. Science conveys philosophical, cultural and social habits of its society. Have you faced cultural and intellectual contradictions during your alienating travel? Yes indeed. I successfully faced it and adapted to it because my Syrian education narrowed the gap. I have been raised according to the Syrian believes and culture, which are based on love, giving and respect, so I did not deal with them aggressively or with feelings of inferiority, and neither did they. I adapted their high developed society and I felt respected and sympathized. What about Syrians there? In general, Syrians in France are confined; they don’t communicate with each other, relations among them are not good. The reality is an alienated Syrian community suffering wide serious and emotional disorders. Serious solutions should be found to take care of the expatriates. I insist that the cultural centres should be more active; they don’t pay attention to this community. Cultural centres should be the basis that supervise and guide our communications with the west. Expatriates in France and Europe in general weren’t able to achieve successful relationships with others. We should deal and communicate with others starting from his ideas and his way of understanding the world. Considering your dreams and reality, where do you find yourself? My most important wish after coming back home is to achieve what I’ve planned while I was in France, which is finding common ground for the advancement of the reality of researches in Syria …… I found some people who are interested in such field but they work alone and independently. I’ve tried to communicate but an atmosphere of selfishness is overwhelming. There should be a joint working group. There are many potential individual abilities in spite of a lack of efforts to use them. Do you live another expatriation in Syria? Expatriation in France was so hard, but here in Syria it is tough as well because there are many people who hold and work against all good efforts and abilities… I am insisting on working and will fight for my dreams here in Syria regardless my love for France and all my friends there; they respect me and they believe in me. I am eager to continue my efforts in spite of all difficulties and obstacles. I will keep on giving without paying attention to the financial benefits. Syria is the country that I loved and still love; it is my national, educational, and spiritual home. Are you afraid of Syria? Yes very. It is a great country with great people, who love it as much as I do. You seem romantic and sensitive despite your scientific endeavours… Breeze could change my mood….Ii love reading … Syrian culture gives me a lot. I read poems.. I love music … and philosophy, psychology and sociology are my interests. I can’t forget the opening day of the Opera House. I had arrived from France just before the opening… it was magnificent, tears and smiles shred my face. Syria experienced many important achievements. We should protect that and safe the public properties. We have high potentials in creativity …… I live with science and beauty …. and seek a sonata that resembles me and my country .