Nicknames related to religion and war burden the Syrian children
Enab Baladi – Hassan Ibrahim
The nickname “Ikrima” has become popular with the 19-year-old Yousef since his father gave it to him five years ago, despite the difficulty of convincing his friends and acquaintances of the title.
The nickname was attributed to the great companion of the prophet Muhammad, Ikrima Ibn Abi Jahl, who was a leading opponent-turned-companion and commander in the Ridda wars and the conquest of Syria, according to Islamic historians.
The young man responds to the desire of his father, who gave him the nickname when he was fighting battles within the opposition factions at the Abu al-Duhur military airport in the southeastern countryside of Idlib.
Yousef told Enab Baladi that he used to find the nickname “Ikrima” strange and heavy when he was 14 and did not prefer to be called by it, but his father’s insistence on calling him by it reinforced the mention of the name and its presence in the family. That was not a breakthrough at the time after his father gave the title “Abu Hawraa” to his eldest brother, Malik, then 17 years old, who liked the nickname.
Abu Muawiya, the father of the two young men who is a senior commander in Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib (refused to reveal his real name), told Enab Baladi that the reason for choosing the nickname “Ikrima” was in relation to the companion Ikrima Ibn Abi Jahl, who was known for his courage, chivalry.
As for “Abu Hawraa,” it was a tribute to his friend, a Saudi jihadist, who had the nickname of the Islamic Hadith Narrator: Abu al-Hawraa, who was killed in the battles for Abu al-Duhur Airport, said Abu Muawiya.
Some of these nicknames are associated with personalities from Islamic history, while others denote a specific incident, weapon, or specialization. They were given to children under the age of 18 and accompanied them for years.
It seems normal in the regions of northwestern Syria, which are religiously conservative and militarily complex, but they are a burden on children. They may pay a heavy social and security price for it in the future.
Multiple motives and reasons behind each nickname, whether chosen by the child or the family, or imposed by the surrounding environment, opened the door to questions about the impact of nicknames on the child’s personality, behavior, and psyche and their effects in cases of mismatch between the father’s desire and the son’s aspiration, and the extent to which nicknames relate to the culture of society and the nature of the events taking place in it.
Every nickname has its own story
“Abu Muawiya” feels proud when people call his two sons by the two nicknames he chose, as he sees in them “strength and courage,” considering that the meaning of nicknames reflects on personality and behavior.
Mohammed, 19, from the eastern countryside of Idlib, calls himself “Qaswarah” (one of the names of the lion in the Arabic language and is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an).
He said that he chose it because he admired it and because it is “common and popular,” and the nickname is not accepted by his family, while his comrades have been calling him by it for the past three years.
The nickname “Battar al-Shami” accompanied Abdul-Rahman for five years before the former member of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) was killed in the eastern countryside of Aleppo by the bombing of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in 2022.
(Battar name in Arabic is the exaggerated form of (cut), which is used to denote a sharp sword)
Abdul-Rahman chose the nickname “Battar” because he saw “strength and courage” in it, and he did not know whether there were other motives behind the title, one of his friends told Enab Baladi.
Some nicknames were associated with incidents that remained stuck in the minds of their owners and those close to them, as in the case of Abu Abdo MiG, 22, of Darayya district west of Damascus.
The reason for naming him “Abu Abdo MiG” was surviving an air strike by a MiG aircraft near Damascus nearly seven years ago.
“Abu Abdo MiG” has become the nickname he is called to this day, and he coexists with it, and he is famous for it among his acquaintances and friends, as he lives in northern Syria after his displacement from Damascus countryside in 2016 and most of those who know him have forgotten his former name.
The situation applies to “Abu Nabil Obuwat” (Plural for explosive devices in Arabic), who was given the nickname in 2013 when he was 18 years old at the time when he started working in making explosive devices, and the nickname still accompanies him.
The displaced man, who fled Damascus suburbs to Idlib region, used to repair electrical appliances and had experience with wires and batteries.
Some nicknames are associated with the names of religious companions or fighters throughout history, in addition to the name of the region from which the person hails or the name of the faction to which he belongs, such as “Abu Darda’ Ahrar” (relative to the Ahrar al-Sham movement), 21, from the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, and he has held the title since being five years old, and “Khattab al-Saraqibi,” whose original name is Alaa, and he hails from Saraqib, east of Idlib, and has held the title for three years.
Psychological pressure, Gap between son and father
Mohammed Ziyad al-Yassouf, Protection and Capacity Building Coordinator of the Guardians of Childhood (Hurras) organization, considered that giving nicknames affects children directly and indirectly.
He pointed out that nicknames have a double-edged sword, they have their many negatives, and they have their positives if they are done according to an approach and understanding of the child’s personality and abilities.
In his interview with Enab Baladi, al-Yassouf explained that the use of nicknames affects children’s self-confidence, reduces the rate of cooperation, and creates feelings of hostility, hatred, and violence among some of them, and negatively affects their interaction and social relations.
As for some parents giving their children nicknames to show off, and with the aim of showing the strength and courage of their children, al-Yassouf believes that it is important to know the capabilities of the child because such nicknames lead him to feel pressure to fulfill the father’s expectations and to feel worried that his abilities do not enable him to keep up with what his father aspires to.
Al-Yassouf added that this pressure on the child creates feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction, lowers self-esteem, increases tension, and can create conflict in the relationship between him and the father.
Thus, these titles create a gap between the desire of the father and the ambition of the son.
On the other hand, al-Yassouf considered that if the father deals well with caution, awareness, and knowledge of the child’s abilities, then some nicknames can encourage the development of the child’s abilities, help him discover his points of strengths and absorb them appropriately, without pressure on him while avoiding creating adverse effects, and thus reaching positive feelings and strengthening the relationship and interaction.
Nicknames differ from one society to another and from one geographical region to another and are linked to the lived reality.
It is an essential part of a society’s culture associated with customs, traditions, and values, and some widely circulated nicknames can sometimes enhance a child’s sense of belonging to his community and increase his chances of integration, communication, and interaction, according to al-Yassouf.
The Protection and Capacity Building Coordinator of the Guardians of Childhood organization believes that the use of nicknames has a negative effect mostly and is reflected on the child’s psychological health.
Al-Yassouf called for parents and the surrounding environment, including relatives and teachers, to pay attention to the harmful effects of such nicknames and to work to enhance the belonging and positivity of the child and to strengthen his confidence and self-esteem.
Numbers recall children’s tragedies
The reality of the Syrian conflict was reflected in children, who were the first victims since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011, and the war left its effects on their bodies, personalities, behavior, and psyche.
Reports by organizations concerned with children and other humanitarian organizations periodically confirm that the conditions of the war in Syria, including killing, shelling, and displacement, have destroyed children’s sense of safety.
The war also posed great threats to their mental health and development, especially since most of them had witnessed, heard, or lived at least one traumatic event.
On June 4, corresponding to the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documented the killing of 30,034 children, including 198 due to torture in Syria, 71% of the death toll at the hands of the regime, since March 2011.
SNHR said that hardly a violation of Syrian society passes without children being registered, and a huge amount of aggression against children has accumulated over the past 12 years.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in March 2022 that a third of Syrian children show signs of psychological distress, such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and frequent sleep disturbances.
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