Ahmad Sandi (right) looks at a picture of the damage done by the over five year irregular war in Syria. Photo: Orlando Perera

The presence of young Syrian students at Cuban universities as an example of the ties of friendship which exist between the two peoples, characterized by mutual respect, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, and defense of the principles of sovereignty.

This, according to several Syrian students, speaking with Granma International, who expressed eternal gratitude for the friendly treatment, solidarity and support they have received from professors, the Cuban government, and people.

Twenty-five year old Mohamed Hosam Abeen, a Sports Medicine PhD student, is researching rehabilitation exercise for amputee patients, and states that his uncles, who also studied on the island, influenced his decision to come to Cuba.

Twenty-five year old Mohamed Osma Abeen, is grateful to be doing his PhD in Cuba. Photo: Orlando Perera

“Since I was a boy, I heard stories of life in this country, but the reality is far better,” he states, adding “I have been welcomed like a son.” A particular feature of Cuban society he enjoys is the freedom and tranquility of walking the streets, where he sees citizens talking to neighbors and children playing. He is also attracted by the prestige achieved by Cuban athletes in different international competition, and the solidarity assistance the island offers to Third World countries.

Ahmad Sandi, a fourth year medical student at the Salvador Allende Teaching Hospital in Havana agrees, noting that university degrees in Cuba are linked to developing humanistic values in all professions.

The young 27 year old highlights the warmth, hospitality and friendliness of Cubans, as well as their customarily open and communicative nature, even with foreigners. Ahmad states, “Cuba has taught us patient-focused care; we don’t offer a service to a client, but rather treat the sick.”
The young Syrian notes that in recent years he has met other students from Latin American countries, with whom he practices his Spanish and has built strong friendships. They talk about each other’s respective, cultures, histories and societies.

Spanish is usually a problem, states 22 year old Hamza Matar, second year student at Havana’s Latin American School of Medicine, which is why new students take a year-long language course to reach high-school level, before starting their university studies.

“It’s always difficult to understand the entire bibliographical content of the course,” he states, highlighting, “The support of the professors is vital to our education, although they demand great rigor in our evaluations. I want to specialize in neurology when I finish my studies, so I’ve got to work very hard,” he notes.

Hamza Matar has been living in Cuba for three years and enjoys the tranquility and safety of Cuban society; a far cry from the war currently affecting his country. Photo: Orlando Perera

In regards to practical medical training students receive from the very first year of the course he explains, “We visit family clinics once a week and see how community medicine, based on prevention and health promotion, works. We learn how to carry out health plans to treat chronic non-transmittable diseases, give vaccinations, take measures to combat vector-borne diseases, care for pregnant women, children and the elderly.”

Hamza is from an area on the edge of Damascus and spoke about the horrors of the irregular war against Syria, which has created many civilian victims; thus his decision to study in Cuba, a safe and peaceful country.

All of the students describe the current situation in their country as a foreign military invasion, backed by the major western powers bent upon colonizing and gaining control of the Arab nation’s natural resources through a mass media campaign aimed at vilifying the current Syrian government and replacing it with another one that responds to their interests.