i] Good evening [name], welcome, thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview first I would like to ask you a question about an object. Are you carrying an object that is a memory? What is this object and why is it on you? What is it? What is it? And what does that mean for you?

[r] Welcome, this wallet… Eight years ago, my father gave it to me for my birthday, he bought it in France and gave it to me in Syria, I only used it in France, in Syria I had another one. My wallet has gotten very old, so I use this one.

[i] You only use this wallet because the other one has gotten old or, as you are in France, it means something else to you?

[r] Frankly, first because the other one got old and also because my father gave it to me, and it’s beautiful.

[i] Well, when your father offered you this wallet, did you have any idea that one day you would live in France?

[r] I never planned to live in France, I thought I would come to study… or… I was in a school very famous for teaching French, I also studied French for two years at university,[but] I didn’t think I would live in France, I thought I would come to see my sister, she has been living in France for almost 9 years. Honestly, I was thinking more like studying in Germany.

[i] For what reason?

[r] The reason… there are several. First, most of my friends studied in Germany, and then the Berlin Universities for Film are very well known. These are my reasons…

[i] Good.

[r] Berlin is a beautiful city, I wanted to go there, but I never imagined living in France. I didn’t imagine living far from Syria. In fact, I thought I would travel, sightsee, work or study, but never live outside Syria.

[i] Well, tell me about your arrival, your first day… When you left the airport… tell us about it… Paris first look, first impression, how was it?

[r] I arrived in Paris at night, at 11 o’clock, the airport seemed strange to me, but relaxing. It was not as secure as the other airports I have seen, except for Istanbul airport, which is not very secure either. Shortly before that, there was a policeman checking passports, he checked my passport to see if it was forged. He was serious… he was a policeman… and very respectful. The airport was big and looked like a shopping mall, my sister was waiting for me, I hadn’t seen her for 7 years. We took an Uber. On the way, I realized that this was the first time I had ever seen France, even Europe… except for the western side of Istanbul… I meant the Schengen area. In Paris, it was different, on the way I found the buildings tall and distant, it was different from Paris the old city that we imagine! Honestly, I expected more light, it was dark! We arrived home in the 15th arrondissement, we had dinner… here is my first entry into France. On the way, my sister explained a lot to me… historical buildings, and I don’t know what else…

[i] While she was explaining to you, were there anything that caught your attention? What feelings did you experience? Or nothing?

[r] I didn’t plan my departure for France at all, although I waited for the visa for 6 months! For me, it was a move, I moved so much, I ended up finding that all the places were the same. So this change was weird. On the way to the airport, I hardly saw Paris, I saw Paris two or three days later. I only remember the streets, they were familiar because they looked a little like the streets of Damascus, like the paving stones on the ground in some places, but I didn’t see anything from Paris the first hour.

[i] Did these similarities reassure you? You arrive in an unknown country, a new step for you and for a long time. Did these similarities reassure you or not… what were your feelings?

[r] They reassured me… I don’t know, but… actually there was something familiar, but no more… I did not want to leave Syria, I was happy to be in Paris, no more, I would have liked to come here in other circumstances, for tourism, work or studies, but I did not want to come as a refugee, and be forced to stay without being able to return to my country. As soon as I returned to the French consulate in Istanbul, I felt good, maybe it was the administrative procedures. It is a country that respects human beings, at least in the country itself… so it was good. It reassured me that the consulate looks like my school in Damascus, this school was built by the French in 1920 it was called Mission Laïque Française en Syrie in the 1920s, now it’s called “Lycée laïc”. So the architecture of the consulate looked like my school, the buildings here too… and that’s it…

[i] Well, let’s talk about your daily life in Paris… Your activities?

[r] My daily life in Paris… Well, I already knew a lot about France and Paris in high school, we were learning with a French method “Nouveau Rythme Jeunes”. I don’t know if we were studying this method in France, I knew what we eat for breakfast here, and even French gastronomy… We saw her in class. Already in the third grade, I knew that Paris was divided into several districts. So, first of all, in the morning, I wanted to taste the French croissant, I had already tasted it in Syria and I wanted to test the taste here.

[i] Is it different? Better? Not as good?

[r] It’s okay, there’s more butter, the croissant here is made with cheese, thyme or chocolate… here it’s chocolate bread or croissant. From the first day, my sister and I bought croissants, lightning, not far from here, a pastry chef received an award for his croissants… it’s really delicious. That’s it… What surprises me the most in Paris is the homeless, even in Syria, I haven’t seen so many! After the revolution, there was a war and many refugees came to Damascus, and yet I didn’t see so many! What also caught my attention are these beautiful cities, well maintained but dirty, there is always a smell of… it doesn’t smell good! Before I thought Europe was modern, developed and clean! What caught my attention were the apartments, they’re very small! I’ve never lived in such a small apartment before, it’s amazing… really! Over time, I started walking…. I like to walk. I visited the Louvre, the Picasso Museum, I saw the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower, all these places were beautiful but I was homesick.

[i] Why?

[r] It is a different culture, at least in appearance, from our culture. Istanbul is different in substance but the appearance is close, there are mosques, it is an oriental civilization, the culture is different in our region, the culture is Muslim, here the culture is Christian even if it is a secular country, but I am talking about the essence of the culture. Here there are many churches… in Syria, in Istanbul there are churches too but here more. The differences are that the buildings are more luxurious, golden, more decorated, the buildings here are more sober. That’s the difference… what’s good about Paris is that the buildings have kept their original style. It’s good and not good at the same time, the buildings are beautiful but inside it’s really small. Maybe because they are old… that’s right… the French are nice… in cafés or bars, there is always someone who comes to talk to me… I have studied French a lot but I’m not too comfortable anyway… Once, I mixed languages to buy tobacco, I asked for tobacco in three languages, I spoke English, French, Turkish and Arabic, I spoke in four languages to ask for a package of blue Winston, English, French, Turkish and Arabic. The French are very friendly although many people told me that the French, the Parisians are not friendly. I was surprised to find them rather nice, respectful, and they talk easily, even if you wait at traffic lights, they talk to you… sometimes even for a long time. They talk to you about their private lives, it’s weird…

[i] The differences are either positive or negative, how did you manage these differences?

[r] I managed these differences… well, the differences are not important, what is important is immigration. This is the first time in my life that I have ever been an immigrant and my passport has been taken from me. So I’m not used to it, it’s the first time I’ve received state support. In Syria during the Revolution, I was the one who helped people, it’s very strange to get help now. Here, you can’t work if you don’t have permission from OFPRA, that’s not good, frankly, it’s unfair, it’s the height of injustice, I have experience, I have 15 years’ experience! But I can’t do anything, of course I worked as a freelancer, I can’t afford not to work, Paris is very expensive. Differences are no longer a problem for me, especially in our time, there are no longer too many differences, the world is no longer closed in on itself with films and the Internet. American culture is well known for its famous cinema. In any case, the differences are not staggering, the main subject from a psychological point of view is immigration, work and papers. One of the shocking subjects here is that in Syria we have bureaucracy, but also corruption, here there is bureaucracy without corruption, bureaucracy without corruption, it is not good. Really not well! Because in Syria, with corruption, you can unblock the situation, in France, no, you can’t do anything. These are the differences, there are differences, but it doesn’t matter, it’s superficial. After having known the French, and also having made French friends, I find that French society resembles Syrian society. Or maybe all societies are similar, of course the French are more open-minded than the Syrians, for clothes, for everything related to religion, my environment is very open-minded too, since we are artists and intellectuals. French society is more open-minded, at least the people I know. I was still surprised to see Conservatives in France, I didn’t know it existed here, you can get used to all these differences, whether they are positive or negative. Negative differences have nothing to do with society, but with management… management… Honestly, so far, I have not been a victim of racism in France, sometimes there is involuntary racism, it is the way to look at the immigrant and even feel sorry for him, people who react in this way have a good heart but it is not good at the same time…

[i] How do you deal with these people?

[r] I explain to them that we come from Syria and that Syria is not a third world country, it is not a developed country either, it is the state that is backward but not the Syrians. It is a country ruled by a dictator for 40 years, I mean… it is an enlightened people who have studied, a very curious people who like to know everything, we know everything about France and the United States. We have everything, schools, universities, I have to say it, I have to explain to the French that Arabic and Turkish are two different languages, I tell them: you still have Google! They’re my friends… they apologize… but I wonder how they don’t know all this. Always the same question: how do you live in Syria? Fortunately not everyone, there are people who know very well. I always explain that in Syria, I own several apartments, that I had my job, my car, I had everything. I didn’t come here for money or food, I’m here for security and to live and have my papers.

[i] Since your stay in France, this feeling of security you were talking about, how is it? Do you feel safe or not yet?

[i] More or less, but I don’t have a stable job, I don’t know the French market well, I have good and strong relationships in the media field, in the cultural field, but I have been allowed to work recently. I still need time, I enrolled in the faculty, it’s a program for foreigners to learn French. I can also enroll in college, but I don’t have much time since I work. That’s it, basically it’s for sure that things are better since OFPRA gave me refugee status, and I’m going to be 10 years old, a 10-year residence permit. So it’s certain, it’s better now, I have social security, I don’t have all my papers yet, I didn’t get the residence permit, nor the passport.

[i] Well, tell us about your professional activities, have you been doing well since you arrived?

[i] My professional activity, I work in the same field as before, my professional or artistic project, rather audiovisual, I pursue it from Syria until now it is the same thing, what is different, it is the language the opportunities, it is sure here I have more opportunities, Paris is a big city. I was able to present a film at the Ministry of Culture, and I also work with the Atelier des artistes en exil, they have a place to work and also relationships, so my work is the same, animation, video editing, writing, film making, and I continue… In Istanbul, I had started a film, I continue here… I even shot in Berlin. I finish the editing here, soon I will start a film in French with a French actor, we even have a project with your association. So it’s really the same job, but with different people, I progress in my work, I have more experience. In France, I think there are more opportunities, and I’m starting to know how to seize them.

[i] Do you think you’ll go on with your life in France? In Paris, to be exact?

[r] I can’t know. Since I left Syria, I have been looking for an “other place”, so I can’t be sure to stay in Paris. Sure I can stay, but I can’t know how long I’ll stay. Honestly, when I arrived, I didn’t want to stay.

[i] Why?

[r] When I arrived, I got homesick, I was a refugee… a refugee in a negative sense, to the point of wanting to return to Syria. It is true that it is impossible to return to Syria, but I still had this idea. To be a refugee, to make your papers, 7h in front of the prefecture or in front of France, land of asylum. I wondered, I said to myself, why I live badly like that, I said to myself, I have other possibilities I even considered returning to Syria, it was very difficult, now it is better. But the first year in France was a very difficult time.

[i] This period is over? or almost over?

[r] Almost finished.

[i] Well, how do you see your future once this period is over? What are your projects and ambitions here in France?

[r] My ambitions… first of all, I try to set up my own company, an artistic production company, create advertising films, at least I make the editing. Later, I will create an Arabic forum in France, my work is divided into two parts, the European market and the Arab market, something related to cultural awareness and the media. It is a project for 5 or 6 years later, if Bashar Al-Assad has not fallen, even if he may have fallen, it will be a political or social, media, political action, raising awareness among people involved in building political opinion, since it is non-existent in Syria. Society, politically and sociologically, is destroyed. So for me, it’s a necessity to do that, it’s an obligation to do that, for us who work in this field. In reality, I am in France for the establishment of my own artistic and media company and also to work in the political field, something that can become a political party, that’s it….

[i] Can you use your experience here to carry out these projects? Can we say that you want to improve Syrian society? Of course, the political experience in France is very important, and we can benefit from it for Syria. But the French political experience is destined for France, because Syria remains Syria and France remains France. Syria needs to have its own experience. The French experience is very important, the constitution too, the way the company is managed is also very important, even if I find all these ways of doing things a little outdated, but it concerns the French, it’s none of my business, but it’s certainly going to benefit me. I even want to meet politicians from the left, it can be useful for me later on, to develop ideas for Syria, there are many things to do in Syria, like the metro, of course, there are also in Istanbul, in Berlin, but here is the metro and all the means of transport, it is very important. In any case, a Syrian who has already lived in Europe will no longer accept to be insulted by a police officer in Syria. The Syrians will no longer accept to live as before, and that’s really good… The Syrians, when they rose up… they really knew why they were making this revolution, it’s not the same in Iraq. Iraq… it’s a war. In Syria, people wanted a change of system. Is it good to take the French Revolution as an example? Although this revolution is very controversial, if it has succeeded or failed? But the principles of the revolution have been maintained for a long time, it is perhaps a reassuring experience. After the Revolution, there was an emperor Napoleon I and Napoleon III, and later the Republic, and now we are at the 5th Republic. In Syria, Bashar Al-Assad is still in place, of course artificially because the country is occupied by Russia, so after the revolution it is a direct occupation, not just a control over the country, a real Russian and Iranian occupation. So the French experience is very interesting, politically, for Syria.

[i] Good. I’m going to talk about another subject,[name of the interviewee], what are your relations with the Syrian community in Paris?

[r] I knew the Syrian community in Paris before coming to Paris, not everyone, but most of them. I was surprised to know that there are only 20,000 Syrians in all of France and 6,000 refugees. Some are friends, and I have already worked with them before coming, others are related to the revolution, all are in the arts or in the media. Here I know them, they are my friends, in fact they are groups of French, Syrian and other nationalities… here… it’s normal…

[i] Can you tell us if you think you are well integrated? The integration of the Syrian community into French society in Paris?

[r] I don’t know, the word “integration” is strange to me, integrated into what and how? Here or elsewhere, the people are the same, the only difference is the language and I speak French well so it’s not as if I’m talking about aliens. This is not a strange society here, I don’t feel it like that, I don’t really understand this subject. Let’s imagine that I don’t eat pork, I can eat halal, let’s imagine that I don’t drink, I can’t drink briefly it’s not difficult to integrate in France. I know the history of France very well, if I didn’t know it, I could find it on YouTube I don’t really understand the word “integration” Here, we make a whole story with this word, people are there, to say, I want to integrate, to integrate, you have to speak French, and even if you don’t speak French, you can be well integrated. It’s a strange thing. Three of my friends don’t speak French, they’ve only been in France for a year and a half, but they have a lot of French friends, and they speak in English, even the French are starting to speak in Arabic[laughs] It’s not a difficult thing… Apart from being a refugee, nothing is difficult for me, despite everything, it’s nothing.

[i] Well, I’d like you to tell us a little bit about your love life in Paris. My love life in Paris is a little strange, nothing to do with life in Paris, but because I was coming out of a bad period in Istanbul, I had relationships that broke me a little bit, in France, encounters are easier, Syrian girls as well as French girls or other nationalities, many very brief encounters… until now, I do not have a stable relationship. Most French girls want serious relationships, that’s fine, but I don’t live in a permanent place to have a stable relationship. French women are more traditional than Syrian women for me, Syrian women are in the middle of an identity crisis, they are refugees, they have to do their papers and a thousand things… that’s all.

[i] Later, you think you’re going to start a family with a French woman in France? Honestly, I prefer a Syrian woman. Well, that’s not how it works, it depends on the girl herself.

[i] Why do you prefer a Syrian girl?

[r] The language! Even after thirty years of learning French, Arabic will remain my mother tongue, even if I can think in French, the language of childhood will remain Arabic. In any case, I have no problem starting a family here, it’s a fair question, preferably, it’s not essential.

[i] Can you tell us about your daily life in your neighbourhood?

[r] I live in a neighbourhood considered bourgeois, when I say I’m in the 15th, people say to me, ah “you’re bourgeois”! No, I’m not. I’m not. Maybe Syrian bourgeois… [Laughs]. Well, my neighborhood is beautiful. I know the bakers well, they have become my friends, the baker… everyone knows me, they know my habits, I know the people who work in the Lebanese store, I know a bar that has become ours, my friends come to this bar, so I know all the bars, all the supermarkets… even the neighbours, I get along well with them and we speak French in the elevator, it’s good.

[i] Your activities, do you do sports or anything else, outside your professional life? In France? No, I don’t do sports, but I have to, it’s so easy here. People in Syria are not used to running in the streets, here yes. Good for the moment, I’m not doing anything, I’m trying to remember… but no nothing, Well, I’ve made progress in cooking.

[i] Tell us about this subject.

[r] I made progress in cooking as soon as I left Syria. In Syria, it was my mother who cooked, sometimes I did. With time here, I have progressed even further, I am the one who cooks, or with my sister. Cooking is the only area in which I have improved, but it has nothing to do with Paris, but I don’t have time now. Now I also know many kinds of dishes, here there are many migrants so more dishes. Before that I had known Turkish, Qatari, Jordanian and a little bit of Indian food. Here I discovered Vietnamese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Senegalese and Chinese cuisine.

[i] Well, can you tell us about your family, do you have family here? In Syria?

[r] My father died 5 years ago, my mother is in Damascus, we are trying to get her to come to France, my brother asked for a visa for her but we refused her, very strange! She has been to Europe 60-70 times… she has travelled all over the world, and strangely enough she is denied a visa. We asked again, we’ll bring him in one way or another. I have 2 older brothers in Istanbul, a sister in the United States, a sister in Germany and a brother in Dubai, a sister in Tunisia, my sister and I here in this room. That’s it, my family is scattered all over the world.

[i] How do you communicate with them?

[r] With WhatsApp, Facebook, the Internet.

[i] Your stay in Paris changed your relationship with your family?

[r] It’s a very big family… that’s the problem, I was with my two older brothers and my nephew in Istanbul, I didn’t see my sister here. Now it’s the opposite, I don’t see my brothers anymore but I was able to visit my sister in Germany. My sister who lives in Germany, she travels back and forth between Istanbul and Germany. We all think we’ll all be in Istanbul, it’s easier for visas. Well, my sister in the United States, it’s complicated the paperwork. It also takes time for my mother, the Syrian passport has become a curse. She can go back to Turkey, but it costs $5,6,000. Here the conditions are clear, but we are not sure of the result.

[i] In your opinion, France is a welcoming country for immigrants?

[r] of course, since there are many of them in France, but in France, there are 20,000 Syrians while in Germany, there are 800,000. So for the Syrians, the figures are clear. I don’t know why, but Germany is more welcoming than France. However, neither country borders Syria. In Turkey, there are 3.5 million Syrians but it is a country bordering Syria, in Europe, it is Germany that receives the most Syrians, followed by Sweden, Denmark and lastly France. In France there are many immigrants, but I don’t have any figures, the Syrians, I know, are 20,000. Well, in a way, it’s a welcoming country, but having papers in order is very complicated, very, very painful even for the French, making new papers is extremely difficult. France is a welcoming country? It’s difficult to answer. The French on the street yes, but the prefecture is a nightmare for immigrants and refugees, it is a nightmare even for the French. Every time you go to the prefecture, we try to find an excuse to postpone your appointment, it’s painful! France terre d’asile is an association for asylum seekers, it’s a little better, but not very well organized either, I can’t understand either that people sleep outside in front of the prefecture, why there is no online appointment… nothing…. To answer this question, the French I know, yes, they are welcoming, the country, less, frankly, it is difficult to answer.

[i] Well, what are your favorite places in Paris?

[r] It depends… for parties, it’s Belleville, you can drink and spend the evening, Châtelet, it’s not bad too, and the town hall too.

[i] What are your criteria for choosing these places?

[r] Belleville, it’s not expensive and you have room on the street, the most important thing is the price, the bars are cheap. For my parties, the price is vital. Châtelet is good, there is room and also, it is clean, it is among the cleanest places in Paris. That’s it… there’s also Jussieu on the Seine, next to the Arab World Institute, the Quays of the Seine is fine, that’s my favorite places in Paris. It also depends… the day, I love Montparnasse…

[i] How can you compare your hobbies with hobbies in Syria?

[r] Leisure depends on your social situation, here there are more bars and nightclubs than in Syria, there are also in Syria, here much more… nevertheless, it’s Paris! There are many bars and nightclubs, many amusement parks, like Disneyland, but because of all the paperwork I have to do, it didn’t matter. There is also an age problem, as I arrived here at the age of 29, in Syria I had more fun, I was younger, I had my car and I knew all the places, there are certainly more activities here, there were many in Syria too, there are certainly more activities here and in addition, they are more organized.

[i] Do the French see culture, theatre and cinema in a different way than the Syrians? Do people in Syria see these things in a different way?

[r] Theatre, cinema and books are all part of French culture, here in France in the subway, on the bus, you see people reading. In Syria, if people saw someone reading, they could laugh at him and call him an intellectual. All this has to do with the Syrian political regime, it controls politics and society. There is a theatre in Syria, but it is closely monitored by the state. The same is true for cinema, there is no longer any Syrian film production, cinema is no longer part of Syrian culture. However, in the 1950s, cinema played a major role in Syrian culture, and it would disappear completely a few years later. There is a huge television production, but no more film production, here the theatre is normal, there are museums. What revolts me is that in Syria, we could build a museum every 10 metres, there are many remains in Syria, the country is very old and it is one of the oldest cities in the world. I’m not talking about the regime, I’m talking about the land and civilization. Finally, cultural management by the State, rather by the political regime that runs Syria, is very bad. There is a lot of surveillance, a lot of cooptation, all this is very bad. Here in France, cinema is in contact with international cinema, so here it’s much better, and it’s a good thing for my work.

[i] Well, tell us about your experience of freedom, about every day here in Paris, in France, tell us a little bit about this subject?

[r] Of course, here there is freedom but not in Syria, it is very important freedom here, it does not concern me because it is not my country. We always wonder why we don’t have the same thing, and why in Syria we can’t say what we want. After leaving Syria… Turkey was the only example of an open country, even Qatar is more open than Syria, especially the media, it is much more open. I was really surprised in Turkey or here, I was holding my camera in front of a policeman, filming a demonstration, and nothing was done to me, nothing said, I filmed the policemen themselves. Yet Turkey is among the countries that are on the red list for freedom of expression but compared to Syria, they are on the green list… Here it is even better, here the human being has a lot of value, the value in Syria is the State and not the individual, I meant the regime not the State. Unfortunately, it is called Al-Assad’s Syria. Here we can insult the president, a Frenchman who hears that… finds me strange, but for us, insulting the president was a pleasure at the beginning of the Revolution, people felt an intense pleasure in insulting the president, it was so forbidden that we could not insult him even if he was locked up alone in the toilet. Here these things are completely normal, here there are elections, the elections in our country are rigged, we knew in advance that it was yes. Here elections are normal, freedom of expression is something we don’t have at all, so integrating here, I don’t know how… here we live normally, we live freely so that’s normal, whereas in Syria you really have to integrate. You have to be part of the state because it oppresses you.

[i] Good. France has faced many problems of terrorism, and following the attacks, the police presence has increased in the streets… more controls… when you go into supermarkets, even the army… What is your reaction when you see all this?

[r] I arrived after the attacks in France, so I couldn’t compare the two situations. In Turkey, there was the same thing too, the coup d’état, all these things, so the army was in the streets too. When I see the police officers, when I see the army, for me, they are my enemies, no matter where they are, I see them… they are my enemies. I know that in France, they are not my enemies, but I always look at them that way. It’s very strange for me to see soldiers in the overarmed subway, the cannon in the air, I’ve never been to Europe before but I didn’t imagine seeing that in Europe, it’s strange, but at least they don’t stop you to ask for your ID card, and in supermarkets, they don’t search people. For me or for any Syrian, the police or the army remains a strange thing. It’s weird and it’s normal at the same time. In Syria, you find tanks on the street. When I was driving in Syria, trucks carrying soldiers or a tank were passing my car. For me, it’s a little strange here, since this is Europe, we shouldn’t see armed people.

[i] Well, do you think you’ll ever be able to say that you were part of this society, is this your country?

[r] Frankly, I can’t answer, I can’t say yes or no even if at times I feel French, I’m mostly Syrian. If in 5 years I decide to apply for French nationality then what they say now doesn’t make sense. For the moment I am not convinced to apply for French nationality.

[i] Why?

[i] It has nothing to do with France, I have no problem at all with France, maybe France has something to do with the Sykes-Picot agreements…. My real problem is Syria, for me Syria is very important, it is sacred. I was active in the revolution, I did time in prison because I believed in a new Syria, it’s very strange for me to ask for another nationality, in time, maybe it will change… Perhaps later, my way of seeing France will change, for the moment, it is a country that has welcomed me, I cannot say that it is my country, I have no problem with French nationality, with France, quite the contrary, it is a pride to have French nationality, here we respect the citizen, the French citizen and even the refugees, a refugee has more rights than a Syrian citizen. My nationality problem is my attachment to Syria, we have started a revolution and it is not over, I have no idea if I want to be a Frenchman or not at the moment, it is still very early to say it, I can’t think about that right now. When my passport was taken from me at the prefecture, I cried, when my Syrian passport was taken from me.

[i] Why?

[r] My identity has been taken from me, and I no longer have an identity, I am very proud to be Syrian, although before the Revolution, there was nothing to be proud of, except that Syria was a great civilization. Otherwise I’m going to be proud of what… Maher Al-Assad, for example, a fool. After the Revolution, there was something to be proud of, we are Syrians… and we have the right to change. Taking my passport is taking my identity, it’s not good, I wish I didn’t have to apply for French nationality, I’ll see later, but for the moment, here’s the situation…

[i] If conditions allowed, would you go back to Syria?

[r] If Bashar al-Assad falls, I will return immediately. Of course, I keep my contacts in France, it’s a unique experience, but in the end I only see myself in Syria.

[i] Well, what motivates you in everyday life in Paris, and what are the negative things that take up a lot of your energy?

[r] The papers take all my energy. What motivates me is the cultural activities I participate in, the festivals… we participate… in things… the papers are really negative, the papers have an impact on everyone, it’s more than we can imagine, it’s a total paralysis, an anesthesia. Cultural activities are all that is good… always, my projects….

[i] Well, if you could choose where to live in Paris, which district would you choose?

[r] I would choose Châtelet.

[i] Why?

[r] Because it’s good, and it’s in the centre of Paris, Châtelet or Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement,

[i] Even if the apartments are small?

[r] When I thought of Châtelet, I thought of a big apartment, I can find a living room and a bedroom… it’s big for here, that’s for sure, I choose Châtelet… 1st district.

[i] Well, I would like to ask you about your future, what are you thinking about for your future?

[r] When I think about my future, I think about my projects, political projects related to society, and especially to Syria. It is true that the future of Syria is in the hands of the great forces, but I am at least trying to do something for later. I want lawyers, people to take power. For my personal future, it’s mostly about work and having money to live well, get married and have children. But when I think about my future, it’s really about Syria.

[i] Well, I wanted to ask you about the French view of the Syrians, in everyday life here in Paris, we meet beggars with a sign “Syrian family”, they ask for help, how do you see these things? how do your French friends react to that?

[i] Frankly, these beggars in the subway are in total need, they are on the street, I can’t know if it’s true or not, in principle the state gives help, but sometimes we still have problems with the papers, we don’t know if it’s true or not. If I find myself with a French fool, he will tell me that all Syrians are beggars, I can tell him when I see a French beggar in the subway that the French are all beggars. It depends on which French people we speak of, it’s clear, it’s embarrassing to see them, and more than just a French beggar, at least you can speak to him in French. I don’t know how much they need to beg on the street… I don’t know, I can’t judge them.

[i] Well, I’d like to ask you a question, your anxieties… here in Paris?

[r] the papers… the papers… I’m afraid to go to the prefecture, I hated the police, I hate them even more now, they are employees and not police officers, the papers… I don’t have any anxiety specific to my situation in France. Unless we vote for a right-wing government that launches hate speech against refugees. I understood when Marine Le Pen lost that the French are conscious, especially after the Second World War. And even it is a people who made the Revolution, it knows the principles of a revolution, my French friend told me, impossible that Le Pen wins, she had 50% of the votes, but she told me, impossible that Le Pen wins. I thought Le Pen was in a good position, but there she is, she didn’t win. That’s it, the French are really aware that fundamentalists and dictators no longer have a role to play. These are my fears…. Anyway, I can always go somewhere else, I’m used to moving now. What scares me the most… has nothing to do with France, is that Bashar Al-Assad remains in power for a long time, it really scares me a lot.

[i] So, for you to stay in France for a long time is an anguish?

[r] Not really an anguish, but if one day I decide to stay in France, I would at least like to be able to go back to my country, and be able to say that we succeeded in our revolution, and to be able to say that we succeeded in our revolution, and that I did not go to prison for nothing, and that all our martyred friends and people in prison, that it was not a sacrifice for nothing, anyway it was not useless, he will fall. I hope to see him fall.

[i] I would like to ask you a question about social security here in France.

[r] It’s strange! In Syria, social security was reserved for state employees, here there is social security for refugees, that’s a good thing, you can go to the doctor or the pharmacy and you don’t pay anything, that’s really good. In Syria, medicine was very good. Obviously, we can’t compare it with medicine in France, even if I haven’t really seen medicine here in Syria, it’s expensive, but I had the means, social security in France is a great thing, it’s really successful, I’ve already seen documentaries on social security in the United States, it has nothing to do with France.

[i] You have worked for a long time in Syria, you know exactly how it works compared to work here… in France, “métro boulot dodo”, the Frenchman wakes up, takes the subway, goes to work and sleep… it’s a closed circle. I would like to hear from someone who has worked in Syria and here… A comparison? the rhythm?

[r] In Syria, there is also micro-bus work, many people live this way in Syria, necessarily in Paris the pace is faster, really very fast. Berlin is slower, Istanbul too, Syria is not fast either. Paris is the fastest pace I’ve ever seen, even people on the street walk fast.

[i] Do you think that’s a good thing?

[r] It’s a good thing, but for the wrong reasons, the reasons are that Paris is a very expensive city… it’s a cruel city. If I fall… while I get up, I get trampled on. Paris is really very expensive, you can’t be financially comfortable, especially when you’ve just arrived. It’s different with a person who has spent a lot of time here, Paris is really expensive, I don’t even compare it to Syria, I compare it to Berlin. In Berlin, people are more financially comfortable, what is good in Paris is that they can always find work. But still, Berlin is the capital of the most economically powerful country in Europe, more powerful than France itself, perhaps because Paris is a small city with a large population.

[i] Can we say that Paris uses people? Frankly, I can’t answer, I haven’t gotten into this gear yet, maybe yes, maybe no… I don’t know, I don’t know everything, the French can tell us, they’ve been here a long time, all I know is that Paris is very expensive, that the apartments are small. But there are still many opportunities for work. The problem is also the centralisation on the big cities, a lot of things are only done in Paris, maybe that’s the difference with Germany. Germany is less centralised, Paris is a small city with many people, it is the equivalent of Damascus but with twice as many inhabitants.

[i] Do you see a difference between life in Paris during the day and at night? Paris is the same at night and during the day? What do you think?

[r] During the day, we see mostly elderly people, while at night it’s more like young people, at night it’s the beginning of an evening… that’s the difference. During the day, people are in bakeries, and in the evening in bars, that’s how life is.

[i] You have been walking around several places in Paris. Have you noticed the different social classes? Different places from each other? Different styles?

[r] Of course, where I live, it’s not Barbès, where I live, people are financially comfortable, even rich, Barbès is necessarily poorer, there’s also the suburbs, it’s also known. In France, there are many social classes.

[i] How?

[r] I noticed that with the qualifiers, bourgeois, bobo, etc… it’s a little weird… It also exists in Syria, here it’s a little different. Here people tell you, you’re upset…. What does that mean? What do you mean, bobo! I’m a refugee! There are many social classes, especially in Paris, I don’t know about the other cities. In Paris it is very clear.

[i] How do you see other refugee or immigrant communities? Tell us about it.

[r] As I frequent the association Ateliers des artistes en exil, I saw many refugees from many countries. There were Sudanese, Ghanaians, Iraqis, Palestinians and Russians too. Normal… not too many exchanges, I naturally have more affinities with the Syrians since I am Syrian myself, and it is the same dialect, the same dialect moreover as the Palestinians and the Iraqis, but we are all friends, these people are trying to be in solidarity, the Africans together, the Syrians too, although… the Syrians like to mix and talk with others, at least the people I know, so that’s normal…

[i] When you are with French people… do you think that coming from a foreign country is a strength? In your daily life or for work?

[r] I think it is a strength to come from a foreign country, and to have an outside perspective on society. And you have nothing to lose, so you can try anything. It’s a weakness too, it’s valid for housing or you don’t have a fixed place to live, language too, relationships, it’s a very important thing.

[i] This weakness makes you feel like you belong to a small minority?

[r] Minority…. Not really, even if I am a member of a minority, but it is a country governed by the rule of law, it is the viewpoint that changes. The only difference with Syria… is that here there are laws, In Syria there are none, here a racist provokes you, you can appeal to your rights, in Syria, the same racist if he is registered, he is the one who wins, quite simply, there are no laws. Here someone calls me a refugee… I can file a complaint, people from countries like ours are still afraid, and even they don’t know their rights, they don’t know that it’s a country of law. You can’t be insulted, you can’t be accused of something if you haven’t done anything, I’ve always seen the police as my enemies, but I also know that you can’t blame me wrong.

[i] How did you know about your rights and responsibilities in this country?

[r] It’s very clear… the laws are very clear, quite simply, here you shouldn’t steal, not corrupt I’m talking about the main lines, not the small details, these are obvious things, the French motto “freedom, equality, fraternity” is very clear.

[i] In your opinion, is this motto well applied?

[r] I don’t know… but the law is the same for everyone, even at the prefecture, if you speak French well, you can tell them that you don’t agree with them. Once, at the prefecture, a woman behaved racially towards a refugee, she did not want to give him her papers, the refugee called on a person I know at the Workshop, this person intervened with the woman who started yelling at her, he then asked to see her director, she answered: you have no right. He knows the law, so he told her, if… the article number so much… gives me the right to talk with your director if you have racist behaviour, you don’t have the right to behave in this way. He talked to another person, and even later she was fired, quite simply, the law can be used. There are inevitably some slippages at times, but in general, the law can protect you and help you, we need that in Syria. Syrians are always afraid because they come from a country ruled by a dictator… we have no rights, we have a constitution that can be changed in 3 seconds.

[i] Well, I would like to ask you a question that touches a little on philosophy. Let’s imagine that Paris is a person with a specific character, how would you see it, this person? Before you arrived in France, and today after your stay?

[r] Before coming here… Paris was a beautiful girl to me, now I find her beautiful too, respectful, but she is a little cruel, difficult to conquer… there you go.

[i] Difficult to tame?

[r] Difficult to tame but we can still do it.

[i] Well, I’m done. Thank you, do you want to add anything? A message?

[r] No, I think we talked about everything… nothing more to add…. Except that when I arrived here, I gained security but lost stability. In Syria, you have a stable life, you have your relationships, your friends, your home, here, you have nothing, but you have security.

[i] You’ll have all this later, I hope?

[r] Of course, there is a difference, but maybe later on I’ll have everything, not just in France, in any country, outside Syria.

[i] Well, do you want to give advice to a newly arrived refugee? What is your advice?

[r] To be patient for the first two years, quite simply, he has to be patient while waiting for his papers, I’ve always said that… papers take 2 years. People, when they arrive, go through a period of rage, and depression because of the papers, so be patient, the papers are really difficult.

[i] Thank you again, I hope you will be able to accomplish everything you wanted to do, and realize all your projects, for France or Syria.

[r] You’re welcome… with pleasure.