Atef enjoyed his job as head of a museum cultural center in Damascus, Syria’s largest city. Syria had long been a mecca of culture, including the remains of ancient civilizations and masterpieces of art and architecture. He was proud to preserve that heritage, helping to make it accessible to other Syrians and the world as a whole. Atef’s wife, a teacher of the arts, and their seven children, all enrolled in public school, lived a modest, comfortable life.
The first time he was arrested was during demonstrations in 2011. He was released after five days and went back to his work. Those are not things he would give up lightly for himself or for his family. Later, militants went from house to house randomly arresting people and Atef was arrested again. This time he was kept in jail for 15 days. Again, he returned to his home and his work. His family was frightened. Months later militants came to the culture center and arrested everyone who was working there. This time he was held for 18 days and interrogated, then released.
At this point, Atef and his family made the heartbreaking decision to flee to Lebanon, abandoning their home, jobs, schools, friends and most of their belongings. They felt it was just a matter of time until Atef would be taken and never returned.
Even in their current situation, Atef’s children still dream of completing their studies. The oldest son has a job making curtains. The family lives in a small space with a dirt floor, no furnishings and not enough warm clothes for the winter. Their needs include mattresses, carpet, heating oil, food and warm clothes.