My name is Abdullah, I am 36 years old and come from Syria, Afrin. Originally I’m a Kurd. Afrin used to be a beautiful city, today its condition is very bad, very difficult. Before the war, no city could be compared to Afrin, people lived a normal life in their houses, just like in any other country.
Syria is under dictatorship, but as long as you don’t interfere in politics, you can do whatever you want. The important thing is not to interfere. We belong to the oppressed people in Syria. The Kurdish language was forbidden for us, indeed it was forbidden and we were forced to speak Arabic. They leave you alone as long as you live your life normally and follow the rules. But if you demand your rights or think of speaking your mind, they lock you up.
For these reasons I fled, I could no longer do it, I could no longer accept what was happening in this country. Before the war, they assigned me to a military force to kill people. They beat me, oppressed me, accused me of being politically active, all because I am a Kurd. Before the war, they did all this to me before the war. I always stayed out of such things, my life consisted of my work, my apartment and my family. Never had anything to do with politics. Yet they accused me of it. Supposedly I would have been a member of a party, but that was not true. One party is worse than the other, why should I join a party?
I just want to live, my parents are very old, I have to look after them and look after them. I can’t right now, I’m exhausted. Two days ago my parents were in the hospital, only my sister was with them. I couldn’t do anything for her, I’m here and I couldn’t do anything, either with money or by any other means. This feeling is unimaginable. I’m here, my thoughts are always with my parents. My uncle died a month ago, he had six children. I cried all night, thinking that his children are now without a father. Who’s looking after the children now?
I wonder why everything has to happen? What is the reason why so many people have to flee?
My parents left the hospital today, thank God. My father can’t walk anymore. My parents would like to go home to Afrin. I asked my friend if the city was safe now. He told me that we had to look, but he wasn’t worried because my parents are already very old. They won’t hurt them, my friend said. I hope so, because my parents want to go home. They’re moving in with my friend, our house in Afrin is gone. My friend says: I take her to my place and God will make it easy for us. I am here, praying for them, how all this will end, I do not know, I leave it to fate.
Human beings are human beings everywhere, no matter where they come from, what makes them special is their humanity. I abhor fanaticism in every area, regardless of religion. Let us live, I say, what more do we need, what are we missing to live, unlike the rest of the world? In our country, for example, what are we missing to a normal life? I couldn’t stand it any longer, not in Syria and not in Turkey. In Syria, you had two options, either you kill or you get killed. I was called in by both sides, on the Turkish side on the one hand, and on the Kurdish side on the other. I am a Kurd and I defend my rights, but why is the Turkish side demanding me? To kill my own people, for instance? I saw nothing bad of the Kurdish army, but I didn’t want to fight, I wanted to live, to live and to give my family a good life.
I fled and my brother fled after me, our house was destroyed, after our escape nobody took care of my parents. It’s very difficult for me, but what should we do? If we’d stayed, we’d be dead by now.
I have a cousin who was drafted by the Syrian regime, today he is dead. Same thing happened to a friend of mine, he got drafted, and now he’s gone. My cousin was in the hospital and called us the day before he died, he was shot. We visited him the same evening, he was fine. The next day the hospital called us, they said my cousin was dead. How can you do that? He was fine the day before. He sat in front of us, talked, smoked a cigarette and now, should he suddenly be dead? They killed him, I’m sure, but who? We’ll never know.
After this incident, our hope for life vanished. We had to run, we knew that now. I can’t kill a man without any guilt. I have a heart, I shall kill? How am I supposed to kill someone? Like those people who shout out loudly: “God is great,” and then kill people. What do their calls stand for? God is great, you say that for what? You kill children and women. I don’t want to recall you.
My uncle died too, on the plane, I couldn’t look at his photo and deleted it. He was a good man, praised and worshipped by all people. May God let him rest in peace. He never had anything to do with politics or parties, the most important thing was his work and his family. They broke into his apartment and took everything, they left him nothing. They accused my uncle of being a member of the PKK.
I tell the whole world, here in Afrin, there is a mosque in every village, today they are no longer visited. Through what happened to us in the name of religion, we turned away, we stopped believing. It’s all about politics, terrible, what happens in the name of religion? For these people we Kurds are renegades, not religious.
I don’t hate the religion, I don’t hate religions but I have changed, my thoughts after the war have changed completely. Before the war I really loved all people, I lived in Lebanon and never had problems with the people. The parties have planted hate in my heart. Hate. My brother did nothing to anyone, and yet they beat him. Why? They took a cousin of mine, who works as a driver, and for two days they beat him, the Free Army. My brother-in-law never carried a gun, he went home from work and back, he looked after his wife, my sister and his father. His son, my nephew, a 17-year-old boy, was recently taken by the army. Which one? We don’t know. Where he was taken? We don’t know that either. A 17-year-old boy, you want this boy to fight? Tomorrow they’ll say he’s dead. How did he die? There will be no answer to that.
I have no more country, my country is nothing but destruction and ruin. I had to emigrate, me and three others. From Afrin we walked across the water, we had to take off our clothes, we held hands when crossing. A smuggler led us through the Turkish border. We paid money to go through. The smuggler ran ahead to search the path for grenades. We ran after him. He says we should only step on where he stepped on so that nothing explodes. The road was very dangerous. My neighbour had tried once, she had no luck, a grenade exploded under her feet, she lost both legs.
We arrived in a village, there we took a break, ate something, rested, after 4 hours run. We met another smuggler. Our stay was very dangerous, we had no papers, the police would have sent us back immediately if they caught us. Back to death. Maybe they would have killed us, we had no papers, nothing to prove our identity. We wanted to take the bus to Istanbul, the capital, we drove to Izmir and went to a hotel. In the hotel were many smugglers, I got to know one, he told us that today on that day, a group sets off, the hook, there was only one place. My friends told me to go with him, everyone told me to go, so I went with him. It started at 8 pm.
We were picked up in a small car, I don’t know where we were or where we were going. The tugs can do anything with us, they can take us wherever they want, we are at their mercy. They can kill us, shoot us, whatever they want. The car stopped, the smugglers told us to get out quickly, we got out. A smuggler spoke to us and told us that we were going to the sea, on foot. There were also women and children, one was pregnant, another had two little boys. One was 5 and the other 3 years old. It was a hard way to the sea, we had to walk up the mountains, we were 18 people and the women could not walk. I felt sorry for them, I carried one of the boys up the mountains in the dark. This little innocent boy, I carried him on my shoulders for 2 hours, then I asked someone to help me and he helped me.
We arrived in the morning on the other side of the mountains, at the sea. At the sea we got on a rubber boat. 18 people in a small boat. After 20 minutes at sea, we saw the police. The children and women started crying and begged the police not to send us back. We asked them to let us go to Greece, they gave in and we drove on. We were afraid the boat was full of water, we were really afraid. The Greek sea watch saw us and tied our boat to their ship, we were taken to a Greek island. The trip, which usually takes thirty minutes, took six hours because the Turkish police stopped us and took us in another direction. We were all tired and exhausted.
When we arrived on the Greek island, we were taken to hospitals. They gave us something to eat and toys for the children. Afterwards we came to a camp, each of us got a bed to sleep in, water, and shampoo so we could wash ourselves. We stayed 17 days on this island, then we went to Athens. On the Greek island they gave us tickets for the ships to Athens, for the first time in my life I saw Athens. My brother stayed in Athens, I came from there to Germany.
In Germany I am happy on the one hand, but not happy on the other. I have no job and I live alone. I go to school and learn the German language, I am alone, nobody supports me or is with me. It’s hard for me. The hardest thing for me is that my family isn’t with me. It’s like there’s a straw in front of you and you can’t reach for it. The hardest thing for me is that I can’t help my family, my hands are tied. The only thing I can do is ask them how they’ re doing, but what does that mean? What can they answer me? They always tell me not to worry, they hear me cry when we talk on the phone, I cry because I haven’t seen my parents for a long time. They always say: Don’t think of us, tomorrow we go, tomorrow we will no longer be there. But you, you live, take care of your life”.
All this burdens me so much that I failed my German exam. My teacher told me I was smart and understood everything, but during the exam I forgot everything, everything was gone. My dreams, so everyone has dreams but I don’t have any particular dreams. To this day, I have not yet realized anything. My goal is to return home when I see it’s safe there.
The sand on which you walked will always be your sand, the place where you were born will always be your earth. It’s impossible to forget the country I was born in. We do not have to lie to ourselves and say that we are now in Germany and have forgotten our homeland. Germany helps us a lot, a lot, but unfortunately there are also people who do not think well and do not act well.
My message to the people who haven’t told their story yet. Every person, every single one, should carry out his pain. Out into the world. My wish that people love each other, like each other – nothing more. Why do you call a human being, human? Am I right or not? You look like a human being, but your actions are not human. Where does that take you, what do you get out of it? People have to like each other without hate. Where does the hate get us? In the end, God is only one. That’s my dream, that people respect each other.
How strong Europe is, a unity. Why aren’t we like this? Why are we where we are? Why, why flee? Do we not have to think this through? I suffered a lot, even before the war. They expected me to do things I would never do because I’m against it. I feel good after sharing my story, it’s a good feeling to tell without fear, I’m really very happy that I told it.
Storyteller’s name: Abdullah
Interviewer’s name: Sarah El Desoke
Country of origin: Syria