Being Jewish in Syria was not easy, says Alanov, 25, who has been in Sweden since 2014, but he still dreams of returning home to help rebuild his country.
There has been a Jewish community in Syria since Roman times. In the 19th century it numbered several thousand, but by 2005 just 80 Jews remained. Most of these have fled since the war started, and by the end of last year it was estimated that just 18 were left in the country.
Under Assad, Jews were officially banned from politics and government employment.
“If you talk to my grandparents, they would tell you that there was no hatred among Syrians toward Jews or anyone else. Jews used to have jobs and trade, and that was very popular in Syria before the Assad regime came to power in the seventies, after which most Jews were forced to flee.”
Despite this Alanov says he had a great life, and was two years into a Law degree when he came to Sweden. But back in Syria he had to be discreet about his Jewish background:
“Most of our neighbours knew that we were Jews, it was quite normal and fine. However, I have never said openly that I was Jewish to those who didn’t know us”.
Most Syrians don’t feel comfortable hearing about Jews living in Syria, he says.
“That was not because we lived in a society with a Muslim majority, it’s mostly because of the Assad regime’s approach, and what Syrians were taught at schools. Schools always taught indiscriminate hatred of all Jews.”
“Whenever I was asked, I would say that I’m Christian.”
Despite the difficulties faced by Jews, Alanov is clear that he loves his country.
“I love Syria, I love Damascus,” he says.
“We used to love each other, my friends