“After many bad experiences, we arrived in Greece”

I am a Syrian refugee from Damascus. My name is Ali. I am 23 years old. I got married two years ago. The war has started in Syria for a reason we don’t know. Our life was very nice there we could go to the university, to the school, to play sport, to go back home very late because we had a safe place. What you wanted to do in Syria, you could do it. When the Revolution started, we didn’t know how.

We grew up with the war so as a man, it is getting too difficult for us.  When I was 17, I started being worried to be called by the army because in Syria, when you turn 18, you go to the army. I didn’t want to kill my brothers, my cousins, my friends… I don’t want to kill anyone. I had to choose: either going with the Freedom soldiers, either going with the government army. But I didn’t want to kill anyone.

We are four brothers in my family. Between each one of us, two years of difference. My big brother was 19 at that time and we went together to Turkey. But, I went back to Syria for a stupid reason and the government put me in jail. I was with some friends in the street near a kiosk, and four guys came with a van. They asked us our ID, we gave them, they gave back my friends’ ID but mine, they kept it, handcuffed me and blindfolded me. They took me to jail and I didn’t know why. When I was in the van, they beat me a lot. They put my head under their shoes. I stayed in jail one month and I was tortured there. They put boiling water on my feet and were laughing. My family gave them money to release me. After that, the government apologized because they made a mistake. The guy they were looking for had the same name as me and that’s why I got arrested whereas I was not guilty.

After this event, the road between Syria and Turkey was closed. All the countries around Syria closed their borders. The only way to leave was the smugglers.

The first time I tried to go to Turkey by smugglers, the police caught me. I was with a friend and he broke his foot.  When the police caught me, they asked me my name. I said, Ali. They told me on your passport, your name is Mohammad Ali. I replied to them that I had a double-barrelled name. The problem for them is that the name of the smuggler was Mohammad Ali so they thought that I was the smuggler. They beat me.

The second day, they drove us to the border and told us to go back to Syria. After that, I tried again to go to Turkey. I managed to arrive there and the day after I found work. I started my life in Turkey but during two months, we were working without being paid. I tried many works but nothing was good for me and I needed money. In Turkey, if you don’t work, you can’t eat.

After that, I met people who were taking drugs. It is the first time I was seeing people with those faces and they scared me.  They told me if you want to eat, you can work with us. They gave me drugs (cocaine) that I had to sell. I worked like that three months with them. I got caught by the police once but they released me after three days. I decided to stop this job and told them. They didn’t want me to stop. I had a fight with them and at the end they let me go. At night, some guys from this group tried to enter in my home by the window. They managed to enter in the building but not in my apartment so they left. After that, I left directly to Greece.

Many smugglers are lying. We try with them but we just go back to the same place. After many bad experiences, we arrived in Greece. When we arrived, the coastguards received us. They were very kind. In the beginning, we were scared because, in Syria, people wearing uniforms are not good. The coastguards treated us well like humans. When we heard the alarm from the ambulance coming to help us, we thought that the police was coming to catch us. This sound always reminds me Syria and scares me.

I stayed in Chios island for two months. I got documents to go to the mainland in Greece. I went to Skaramagas camp and bought a caravan. I didn’t have any money for four months and my family couldn’t help me. Every day, people from the camp were helping me. They were giving me food. I tried to find a work in Athens but I couldn’t. Someone from Skaramagas told me that he wanted to open a barbershop in the camp. We started working together. I built a shop with some woods coming from the beds that are in the caravans. My neighbour is a carpenter so he helped me. I borrowed 25 euros to a friend of mine to buy lights, mirrors, and accessories for the shop. I took from the football field in the camp some pitch to put in my shop.

I love to take care of myself. I used to dry the hair of my brother in Syria, then I trained on my friends in Skaramagas. When I see that they are happy to look nice thanks to me, I feel very proud and happy. I got a lot of money from the shop. I don’t need money anymore from the state. I don’t need my family to send money. Now, I have asylum in Greece and I will soon get my passport. I will continue my trip to Germany to meet with my family: my father, my mother and my brothers.

Storyteller’s name: Ali
Interviewer’s name: Anxhela Dani
Country of origin: Syria
Sex: M
Age: 23

Dublin Core: Language: en Subject: Greece, Syria, Damascus, refugee, A Million Stories, Germany