In the patio of a clinic in Damascus where he is a volunteer, Mohammad Chacho, a medical student, trains online to perfect his German, sesame to be able to emigrate to Germany.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, Germany has become a dream destination for hundreds of Syrian medical students, who aspire to settle there.
While Syria was home to just one German-language institute before 2011, it now has more than 80 in government-held areas.
"The German language is very difficult, especially since it is not taught in Syria by native speakers," Chacho, 23, who is in his sixth year at the Faculty of Medicine in Syria, told AFP. Damascus.
"But the effort is worth it and will be forgotten as soon as I take my first steps in Germany", he adds in this dispensary installed in a traditional house.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians arrived in Germany, especially in 2015, the peak of the wave of massive emigration caused by the war.
Most made the trip without having a visa. Because it is difficult for ordinary Syrians to obtain a visa... with the exception of doctors who can obtain the precious sesame - especially to Germany - if they meet certain conditions, including that of having a level of relatively high German.
In the absence of German representations in Syria, candidates for departure must submit their application to the embassies in Lebanon, Jordan or even to the German consulate in Erbil in Iraq.
"All my friends have left, are preparing to leave or are thinking about it," another medical student, Jaafar Moustafa, who is also learning German, told AFP.
Germany is "the simplest and safest destination (...) there is a large Syrian community, I will not be out of place."
At the Arab Institute of Damascus, one of the oldest centers for learning foreign languages in the capital, around 70% of the approximately 1,000 students enrolled in German courses come from medical backgrounds, says its director, Abdallah Saleh.
Before 2011, students' interest was mainly focused on learning French and English, but the trend reversed from 2013.
"The Goethe Institute in Damascus was the only institute specializing in teaching German and fully met the need," Saleh told AFP.
While this institute has closed, "more than 80 'others have opened' and students must register early to secure their places."
Omar Fattouh, a graduate in German literature at the University of Damascus, teaches a new course at the Arab Institute and other centers in the capital, in which he teaches the German translation of medical terms to his students.
The majority of his students are "medical students or applicants for family reunification", he points out.
The German Office for Migration and Refugees has recorded more than 700,000 asylum applications from Syrian nationals since 2015.
The number of Syrians living in Germany now stands at around 924,000, up from around 118,000 in 2014.
Since then, the number of Syrians granted asylum has dwindled, although Berlin has recently resumed granting facilities to foreigners - including medical personnel - to compensate for a shortage of qualified professionals.
Some 5,404 Syrian doctors were practicing in Germany at the end of 2021, according to the German Federal Order of Physicians. They thus represented the largest contingent of foreign practitioners in Germany, ahead of Romania, Greece and Austria.
The Syrian authorities do not provide data on the annual number of students who emigrate.
But Deputy Higher Education Minister Fadia Dib said in a May 2022 interview with local radio that the emigration of doctors had "become a reality due to the economic crisis".
Specialists in fields such as "oncology, physiotherapy, radiology and anesthesia" are lacking in Syria and are now rare, she added.
Faced with this brain drain, Nabough al-Aawa, former dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Damascus, is worried about the future of the profession in Syria.
"My students start to learn German from their first years of study", regrets this sixty-year-old who has been teaching medicine for more than 30 years.
"It saddens me that we are losing them, they are supposed to take up the torch."
03/15/2023 11:06:03 - Checkers (AFP) - © 2023 AFP