No country in the world is fully immune from war

– The story of a refugee – 

Detta inlägget är skrivet av en flykting jag träffade på ett asylboende i Sverige. Av säkerhetsskäl vill personen som skrev detta vara anonym. 

This little article is written from the point of view of a Syrian refugee family that recently sought refuge in Sweden and currently living in one of the temporary camps prepared by Migrationsverket. When we first moved in the camp there were refugees from five different nationalities. Syrians formed the second/third largest group after Afghans. I think we had the same number of Iraqi families as we did of Syrian ones.

– Back in Syria –

We were born and raised in Damascus, the capital of Syria. Syria remained stable during the several wars that devastated its neighbours such as the Lebanese civil war which lasted for 14 years; the Iran and Iraq war which lasted for 10 years, the first gulf war; the US invasion of Iraq and the Israeli assault on southern Lebanon. Syrians accepted refugees long before First World War around 1867 when many Circassians from Eastern Europe were forced to leave their homes by the Russians during the Caucasian War. During the conflict of First World War genocide against indigenous Christian peoples was carried out in the form of the Armenian Genocide causing many of them to seek refuge in Syria.

Back then we felt sorry for the refugees we saw and could not fully imagine how they are living there. Now after so many years I know exactly the experience they have been going through. At the time many Syrians opened their houses to these refugees and prided themselves in helping them out.

The overwhelming majority of Syrians never thought that such a bloody war will destroy their country and cause them to seek refuge in countries around the globe. Demonstrations started peaceful and continued like this for many months then ordinary people turned to whatever weapons they had to protect themselves against a strong army and intelligence services that were used unlawfully by minor elite to suppress the people up rise for social justice and equality.

Eventually the full terror of war became ever so closer to my neighbourhood. The regime set up armed check points on most important exits of our area at as a way of controlling entry and exit inwards and outwards forcefully subjecting people and transportation to detailed search. The regime always thought that punishing ordinary people is an effective way of bringing armed resistance to their knees. A journey that took us 20 minutes to work became an hour and the time increased day by day. Life in our neighbourhood was paralyzed slowly and systematically. We had to wait in a long queue to be checked and searched. The check point was a very dangerous place as sudden exchange of fire and explosions took place on so many occasions and then everyone was stuck and nowhere to hide. We always took side routes to avoid these horrible check points. Going on foot was much quicker and safer than queuing to be checked and searched. Slowly but rapidly many parts of our neighbourhood became red zones no one can go to. We had to take different routes to those we used to before things escalated. Many areas became extremely dangerous to pass through. On several occasions we saw dead bodies lying on road sides. 

Days before it was expected for my wife to give birth she took leave off her work. At the time we agreed that she stays at her parents so they can look after her and I stayed at my relative’s home in a place where I could have safer journey to my work place. My wife started having labour pains around 10 pm and I was away. My father in law tried to admit her to nearest hospital but unfortunately the soldiers at the check point turned them back so they had no other option but to exit the area using a little known road and when they reached the hospital she was refused admission. 

We lived at our relatives in an overcrowded place for some time before we were forced out once more but this time out of the country all together. This happened immediately after the incident of kidnapping my brother who worked in the medical profession was over. He was tortured and saw people being tortured so badly. Soon after this horrible experience he sought asylum in a country which I will keep undisclosed. The last time I spoke to him on the phone he said that there were information about his kidnap that he disclosed to the asylum investigator during the interview which he did not speak of to anybody else before even his mum and dad.

– The decision of leaving Syria and the feeling that EU is being hypocritical –

The only place we could go to at the time was Jordan as they required no visa of us. Although Iraq and Lebanon required no visas, they were voted out as they were full of strong pro-regime militias supported by Iran such as Hezbollah who was helping the regime suppress the Syrian uprising. Also Iraq was already a dangerous place ripped by violence and the after effect of American invasion with militias and government run by Iran from behind the scenes. We thought that our stay in Jordan will be a short one thinking that this war will end up soon. In Jordan we were faced with all sorts of hardships. The Jordanian government was not prepared for all these masses of refugees. The camps were set up in so very rough areas in the desert. Conditions in these camps were so very poor.

Taking the hard decision to seek refuge in Sweden was our last resort when unfortunately many other so wealthy Arab nations shut the door in our face. Surely Syrians will never forget countries and people that helped them when they were most in need. On so many occasions when Syrians suffered in airports and on borders I heard them saying that when Syria goes back to normal and the war is over the first thing they will do is to build a cement fence meters high in the sky and meters of width disallowing any person from such countries ever entering Syria again. Well, this is wrong but I heard it times and times over. Now even kids know which countries are the real friends of the Syrian people and which are not. In the eyes of many Countries such as Iran and Russia……..etc are definitely on the black list. Did I forget to include Hungary because of its ill treatment of refugees? Decision makers in these countries forgot that memories like these are hard to erase. For long time Syria operated a no visa policy towards all Arab countries even when these countries did not do the same in return. Syrians at time of war felt betrayed as there were many cases when Syrians left country A to country B and later found themselves stuck in airports with each country trying to throw the responsibility onto the other.

I am sorry to say it but many Syrians as well as governments in the region feel that the EU is being hypocritical. On one hand the EU welcomes refugees and on the other hand it tries its best to strike deals with other transient countries to help limit the number of refugees as much as possible. The EU keeps demanding Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq to leave their borders open to refugees while European countries are not willing to accept any more. The EU is also not willing to accept its responsibility in helping Syria neighbouring countries in dealing with the mass influx of refugees. For example in Jordan refugees in Al Zaatari camp remained with no electric for months because the UNCHR had no enough funding to pay the bill to the Jordanian government. This reason was clearly stated in the news in Jordan. The EU keeps singing and dancing about Human rights all over the World trying to give other countries lessons about these rights whenever there is an occasion to do so while in fact many European states should teach themselves first what they keep preaching to others. The EU is not the biggest recipient of refugees in the World. There are countries in Africa and Asia that received refugees far more than the EU. Till now Turkey has been the most generous. Turkey has taken the highest number of Syrians far more than Germany although the Turkish economy is not as big and strong as the German. According to 2015 UN states, Turkey has taken 1.7 million Syrian refugees let alone refugees from other nationalities.

We had to wait for several hours which felt like days from early morning at 7 am until around 3 pm before the smuggler got us on board a dinghy. We had to get rid of all heavy bags we had. We were about 40 adults and 12 children. We were scared to death. Soon the sun set and the night fell. We sailed towards the other shore directed only by eyesight. The driver/sailor was an inexperienced person from the refugees themselves as the smuggler left us to our own fate at the Turkish coast. Shortly before we reached the Greek shore the engine stopped. It ran out of petrol so we all became at the mercy of the sea. The high waves started taking the dinghy in the direction it wished. We had no control whatsoever and terror of drowning left us frozen especially those who cannot swim. Lucky enough we had smart phones through which we kept in touch with our loved ones who called the Greek coast guard giving them our exact location. The coast guard came an hour later and saved our lives. It was terrifying experience exhausting all of our adrenaline. We were rescued to the beach at the north western side of Lesbos Island. There we were helped by volunteers from around the world until we were escorted by authorities to Mililani city on the same island where we got registered. Throughout Europe we faced extremes like deprivation of sleep; so filthy and stinky toilets; stinky camps due to thousands of refugees who have not bathed for days and so long queues everywhere.

On occasions we preferred to stay in the freezing cold outside these camps as the smell was unbearable. At times we felt like hordes of sheep crammed in trains and buses on our way from country to another. We got so very cold and ate very little as there was no toilets and we were not used to do it in the open (Excuse my language). Whenever toilets were found, they were so very filthy. We made what seemed like endless train and bus journeys crossing the whole of Europe. We asked so many people for directions and help to take the next bus or train and eventually after 14 days of nonstop we arrived in Malmo central  station in Sweden. Unfortunately our journey was not completed without a heavy price being paid. We lost our unborn baby on the way. My wife was 3 months pregnant and had a miscarriage along with severe bleeding. It was so very sad moments but the journey resumed immediately after she was OK.

– Welcome to Sweden! –

Now you, the reader of this story, think to yourself how nice it was for us as refugees to here the police and the Red Cross employees saying “Welcome to Sweden!”. It meant a lot!

Here in Sweden, we live in a temporary camp where no real privacy is present with much care needed regarding cleanliness and hygiene. We live in a BMW car display that was turned into refugee temporary housing. Every family is given an enclosure (would not call this a room) formed of fragile wooden walls, which are not solid enough that you can lay your back towards, with no roof and a curtain as a door.

This is the story of a refugee family in Sweden. Never ever think that any country in the world is fully immune from war as this is what we deeply thought prior to war!

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