A Syrian Refugee Shares his Harrowing Story of Fleeing to Europe to Escape War
The war in Syria is a disaster of biblical proportions, and at play are the influences of many bad actors. Anger towards immigrants continues to rise, as do acts of terrorism in Europe. There is no easy solution to the immigration problem, nor is there much hope for an end to the wars taking place in the Middle East. As bystanders with no say in geopolitical plays, we really only have a choice in how we react to a rapidly changing world, one that is being manipulated by powerful and malevolent interests on all sides.
As people harden themselves to cope with life in such an environment, it’s easy to lose sight of both the deeper reasons for the conflicts in the Middle East, and of the human struggles of people desperate to escape hopeless situations in areas that have been completely devastated by years of sustained military conflict.
Ultimately, however, what people are running from is the utter destruction of their cities and ways of life, as shown in this shocking aerial footage of Aleppo, Syria.
Any opportunity to humanize the conflicts, and their inevitable effects such as immigration, is an opportunity to reconnect with the very human qualities of compassion and empathy, of which there seems to be very little of these days.
Rafat Al-hamoud is a Syrian refugee who made it to Denmark after a long and life-changing journey. On August 24th, 2017 he posted the following letter to his Facebook page. It serves as a reminder of what many individuals and families are going through as the rest of the world watches from the comfort of their homes.
Before the start of the war, I never thought about leaving Syria. I had just been accepted to law school. My family had several businesses and life was great. Then the revolution started and it became dangerous to simply be a man. A trip to the supermarket could end with a bullet from a sniper or disappearing from a checkpoint to never be seen again.
I travelled to Lebanon in the hopes that things will soon calm down. But they didn’t. More friends disappeared. Family members died. And died. And died. It wasn’t really safe in Lebanon either. And we weren’t wanted and people made sure we knew it. There was no chance to work. So like thousands of others, I decided I would try my luck and finding peace, safety, and security in Europe. I knew I had to pass through death to find life.
I took a flight – which had mostly Syrians in it – to Algeria. From there we were packed into trucks like sheep to Tunisia where we waited. And then packed into trucks like sheep again to Libya. Throughout this journey we were surrounded by armed men… Chased by wild pigs… And met people waiting in tents in the desert – sometimes for a month – all looking for the same thing I was… Life. Families were separated from each other. It was chaos.
In Libya we were packed tightly onto a wooden fishing boat. There was about 450-500 of us on the boat. Another 500 on the boat that followed right next to us. The boats were not made to handle that many people and ours started to take on water. As a woman gave birth, we sat next to the burning hot engine filling buckets of water to hand to the people upstairs to dump back into the sea.
It was blue as far as the eye could see. Blue skies. Blue seas that seemed to extend forever and ever. As we took on more water the weight began to shift. I was scared. Very scared. Not for me really but for the women and children that surrounded me. I kept asking myself if they would all die. It was like this for hours before we were finally rescued and brought to Italy.
In Italy I took the train to Milano. And from there the train to France. And from there the train to Belgium. And from there the train to Holland. And from there the train to Germany. And then finally, the train to Denmark. Throughout these 11 days I barely slept out of fear of being caught… Sometimes I took a quick nap in a bathroom or the park. It wasn’t until I reached Denmark and turned myself in to the Asylum service that I could breathe. I found life. I was safe. I was reborn again.
There are certain experiences that leave you knowing that from that moment forward, things will never be the same. I’ve had several of those in my life, but there is one that stands out from the rest. It was 11:30 p.m when my cousin Nayef called to tell me that a ship had sank off the coast of Lesvos and my cousin Fatima, her husband, and two children were missing. They rescued her other two children earlier. We needed to find answers and didn’t know how so I posted in an Arabic group made for refugees called Karajat Al-Mashantateen asking for anyone that could help. That’s when Neda Kadri found me and took on the case.
For the next two days none of us slept. She posted in all the groups. Got in touch with activists. Tried the Red Cross. We tried everything. On Halloween day she got the called that the two children had washed up on the beach. She called me to tell me and I begged her to not tell Nayef until I got to Greece to confirm. They still hadn’t found the parents and we hoped and prayed that they were alive in a hospital somewhere.
By the time I made it to Lesvos a couple days later, the bodies of my cousin and her husband were found on the beach also. The entire family was gone. And it was my job to bury them. Except, there was nowhere to do that. There was no more room in any cemeteries on the island. And so, my cousin, her husband, and their two children laid in a refrigerated truck with about 70 other bodies waiting to find a place to be buried. And they waited. And, waited before finally being buried 3 weeks later.
While we waited I found strength in helping the people that survived the journey that killed my cousin and her family and started volunteering on the coast. We received about 50 boats a day. It was madness. Throughout this time I would send pictures and videos to Neda, who by now was a very close friend I spoke to every free moment I had. We barely slept. There was one night we were so tired we slept and didn’t work the coast. And on that night, 9 people died. I remember feeling so guilty. Did they die because we weren’t there to help? That was the moment that helping people become my heroine. That was the moment I became addicted to helping those in need. [Source]
In a situation as complex and dire as what is happening in Syria and the Middle East at large, it’s easy to focus on the macro, and forget that there are real people involved in very human struggles for survival.
Even hard corps Navy Seal, Jocko Willink, who served in some of the most intense battles of Iraq, tells us that people at large over there just want to be able to live normal lives. They want to send their kids to school, they want to work, and they want to enjoy being with their families and friends. They cannot, however, because their country has been laid waste by the dogs of war.
As issues of immigration and race are pushed further into the forefront of public awareness, they are increasingly politicized and used as propaganda to serve the agendas of the major players in geopolitics. When we zoom in a little bit, though, we are reminded that we are all humans and that most of us want the same things in life. In this realization lies a sea of potential to increase our compassion and empathy for the suffering of others.
Read more articles by Vic Bishop.
About the Author
Vic Bishop is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com. He is an observer of people, animals, nature, and he loves to ponder the connection and relationship between them all. A believer in always striving to becoming self-sufficient and free from the matrix, please track him down on Facebook.
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