[Visiting] Syria

I want to visit/work in Syria. What can I do while I am there to make enough to get by? I do not have experience in journalism, photography and I am also not a health care professional who can travel with Doctors Without Boarders. It would be great to work with any organization currently in Syria, but all the positions that are available require a Master’s degree or ten years of experience.

Does any one have any ideas or suggestions?

You realize there’s a civil war going on over there right now, yes? And that government forces will treat newcomers with a high degree of suspicion that they’re coming to join rebel forces?

If you’re an American getting a visa to go to Syria would be extremely difficult.

You do not want to be in Syria right now.

As mentioned, there is a full-blown civil war unfolding and it is not cute. It’s a dangerous place for anyone, in any field, with any level of experience, and you have none.

Since the OP is looking for advice, let’s move this over to IMHO. I also edited the title.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

I would be interested in knowing why oh why anyone would want to visit Syria right now. Does the OP not know about the war or is he looking for excitement? Of a lethal kind?

Perhaps Chris Jeon has grown bored in Libya and wants to relocate closer to the action? He was the UCLA student who traveled to Libya to fight in the revolution there.

Seconded, thirded, fourthed and fifthed. Stay the hell out of Syria until the regime is toppled and things settle down. That may not be for a good few years yet.

Yeah, just… don’t. I don’t know how well the civil war in Syria is covered in the rest of the world, but it is ugly. as in, number-of-people-killed-daily-in-triple-digits ugly :eek: (this is out of a population of ~22 million. Just for comparison, this is equivalent to over 300 people killed daily in the UK, or ~1500 daily in the US.)

You have to read these for nuance, but to me, the State Department travel warning for Syria is more alarming than the one for Somalia.

I’ve defended people in the past who have an interest in going to potentially risky parts of the world: for example, I think the American hikers who got lost in Iraq and ended up being arrested by Iran a few years ago should be cut more slack than most Americans give them. Keep that in mind when I say that any American who wants to go to Syria right now seriously needs their head examined.

Be sure to wear a shirt with an American flag on the front, and a target in the back.
Maybe you can get a cheap, connecting flight from Kabul.

Seriously, unless you have some special skills (doctor or paramedic), or have family there and know the language, and you are an ex-Navy Seal, and want to ensure their safety or something, why would you want to go there now? If you are just a danger junkie, take up rock climbing or something.

Why the hell would you wanna go over there?

It would probably be fairly difficult to see all that much while you’re there, what with the blindfold and all.

More importantly, what the hell would Syria want with you?

Foreigners without relevant skills are not an asset to any organization, and certainly not to the local population. They are expensive, they cause a lot of problems when they get killed, and they have a lot of peculiar ideas in their head that tend to get in the way of the work people are trying to do. If you have nothing constructive to add, please don’t burden the Syrian people with your presence.

If you dream of working in dangerous places, it can be done. But first you need to go through the effort of learning the skills that are in demand for those places. This starts with learning one major foreign language (a pre-req with many international organizations) and one regionally relevant language. You will also need to prove you can live in tough situations. Usually this happens by doing a short study abroad or volunteer work in a developing country, using this to get a position that will send you to a developing country for at least two years, and using that experience to leverage a position in a conflict or post-conflict zone. If you do not have at least two years of experience living and working in a challenging country, nobody is going to send you to a conflict zone. It gets expensive when people come in, look around, shit their pants and want on the next flight out.

Finally, you need a skill. Healthcare, engineering, monitoring and evaluation for development projects, security and public health are good bets. There is also room for gender specialists, contract managers, IT (and especially ICT) experts with a conflict focus, and humanitarian aid experts. Getting most of these skills will require not only an MA, but spending some time working up the ranks in admin and support positions. Finally, to get the job you will need a solid professional network in the field. People working in Syria are hiring people they know and trust. You need to be that to them.

If you are willing to do some time in Afghanistan, Iraq or to some extent the DRC, you can make some of these steps go a bit quicker. But if you are starting from scratch, it will be years before you are able to be gainfully employed in a conflict zone. You’d want to get your language and developing country experience ASAP, get your MA, and hustle like heck to get any conflict zone experience you can. THEN you can start thinking about postings in specific countries.

Go to Turkey and smuggle arms and ammunition south into Allepo, where much of the heaviest fighting is going down.

No experience or education required. Don’t know what the money is like, but I’m guessing not worth it. Would make for some good stories in your “Golden Years”, or would make your “Golden Years” come much sooner.

Just to add a bit, Nomader: You may be thinking that you would be all right, so long as you remained apolitical. This is not so. First, because air and artillery strikes do not discriminate between enemy soldiers, nonviolent activists, and those entirely unengaged in Syrian politics.

Further - consider that in a war zone, the movement of basic humanitarian goods is difficult and dangerous. Every meal that you eat could be feeding someone who, unlike you, is stuck in a bad situation. If you get sick, and require medical treatment - well, you may not get it at all. If you do, you’re wasting treatment resources that could have gone to someone who didn’t choose to live in a war zone.

I take a very, very dim view of voluntourism under the best of circumstances; under these circumstances, you’d basically be a giant jerk. Do not go to Syria. No one in Syria will benefit from your visit, and no one will (or should) care about any benefit it confers upon you.

If you just want to explore the Middle East, that’s perfectly reasonable; it’s a fascinating region. Israel is very tourist-friendly, and my understanding is that the same is true of Jordan. Both have fascinating historical sites. Egypt was a decent tourist destination pre-revolution, though I don’t know if that still holds true. I’d avoid the UAE, not from safety concerns, but simply because I’ve not heard fun things.

One traditional way to do this is through Peace Corps service. You could consider applying to them; the great virtue of the Peace Corps is that they have a great deal of experience in assessing folks with no real international development experience, and determining whether or not they can eventually be usefu. If they think you’re not ready for Peace Corps service, they can often point you towards things you could do to get ready to apply in future (language classes, volunteer work, etc).

The Somalia warning just says “Don’t visit.” The Syrian warning says “Don’t visit. And if you’re there, leave RIGHT NOW.” Absolutely more alarming.

Mr. Excellent - Even Sven served in the Peace Corps in Africa. And maybe in China? I don’t remember if her time in China was part of her PC service.

StG

I know - the “you” was directed towards the OP, not even sven.

Maybe I could have been more clear- that is my advice for anyone who (like I did years ago) watched a war documentary or picked up Pelton’s Dangerous Places and thought “Yeah, that sounds like the right thing for me!”

Peace Corps probably the most accessible way to get past the “two years living in a developing country” pre-requisite that most aid agencies have. There are other ways to do it, but Peace Corps is the standard first-step for future aid/development workers. And without that pre-req, you are not going to find paid non-military employment in a war zone.

My main message to the OP: Working in a conflict zone can be done if that’s what you really want to do with your life, but it’s going to take years of planning and career growth. Popping off into a conflict zone on a whim is probably not possible, and if it is possible it’s still a bad idea for everyone.