When I was told I’d been given Swedish citizenship I thought quietly to myself about my long journey. How I regard a sense of belonging, identity and the future. How to become a member of the community.
There are demands to be met in order to get Swedish citizenship. But it isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s one of life’s big moments.
I came here with a great feeling of sadness, after struggling for many years for freedom. But when people put up a fight for democracy, it turned into war – for me a huge disappointment and sadness over the fate of Syria, which was my country and is part of me, my childhood, my youth and my consciousness.
Our struggle for freedom in Syria was about a citizenship worth the name. Not just about belonging to the state and being obedient to it, but about playing an active part in the community, with all the freedom and responsibility that incurs.
Since I came to Sweden, the question of identity is without a doubt what is most important for me.
”In Syria the only true Syrians are the ones who are loyal to the regime”
The way to citizenship begins with the language, which I studied intensively. I wanted to get past the stage of ”not quite understanding” and ”not quite able to make myself understood” as fast as possible.
Another exciting thing was to read about Sweden to be able to understand what the community is built up on. I read Vilhelm Moberg, read about the welfare state in Scandinavia and about democracy in Sweden.
After five years I applied for citizenship. And that gave rise to the question of identity – Who am I? Or – Who will I turn into?
’”To become Swedish” – what does that imply? I want to be Swedish, but at the same time I don’t want to deny my background.
In Syria the only true Syrians are the ones who are loyal to the regime.
I was uncertain as to how I should approach my new identity. Through people I had contact with and my efforts to observe, listen and analyse i began to get some idea of what ”Swedishness” is. I’ve begun to grow accustomed to a free, democratic society. I’m getting more tolerant, it’s easier for me to respect people with customs and traditions that are different, and to learn from them. To be more positive, to understand what is meant by words like consensus and ”lagom”.
Now I understand the challenges Sweden faces, for example what best to do for the new Swedes. We all dream about living in a free country, but being free means having power, and with power comes responsibility.
I say that I am ”Swedish-Syrian” or ”Swedish-Arabian”. Now I feel that we have a lot in common. That we resemble each other mpre than we think. That we are all human beings who are looking for love, warmth and prospects for the future.
I am on my journey towards citizenship, but simply by saying the word I feel security, that this is where I will make a life for myself. I will always feel a sense of gratitude towards Sweden, my new country, to learn about it and teach my children about it. But I’m also grateful to the community for accepting me, my wife and my children.
They say it takes three generations to become Swedish. I find that hard to believe. I want to be Swedish in a creative way, my way. As an individual.