My name is Ahmad Baroud, I am 20 years old, originally I come from Gaza, but was born in Syria. My parents didn’t live in Palestine for long, they always went there for visits. My grandfather lived there, he had fields, property, before the place was occupied by Israel. We had a house, today we have nothing left. Everything my parents had was taken from them. So they moved to Syria and started a new life.
We lived in Yarmuk, a town in Syria. My mother worked as a teacher, my father was an agricultural engineer. We’re nine boys in the family, all of them have studied. My life was not easy even before the war, with the beginning of the war it became unbearable. I was never a Syrian, never recognized as a Syrian, I felt that when the war began. We were accused, we, the Palestinian minority in Syria, were no longer allowed to rent apartments in our name.
We had two apartments, one in Yarmuk, where the mother’s family lived, one in Daraa, where the father’s family lived. Daraa is the place where it all began. I remember the first demo, I was very young, but I understood. Many people ran onto the streets for the children who were punished by the government. They ran to the police station and confronted them. I was there, I remember that the policemen were very disrespectful, which made people even angrier. The demonstrations in Syria increased, everyone stood up for the children in Daraa.
Nothing happened, they attacked us with water hoses, later with bullets. I remember everything. We picked up the phones of the wounded and dead and called their families. Many people died. Since that day, the demos have been fought with weapons. The time of the mass graves began. The dead were secretly buried. We found them sometimes, bodies in the ground when we were digging. It was cruel.
They destroyed our house in Daraa, I returned with my family to Yarmuk, where we lived happily. We built ourselves a quite normal life. After one year a minister was killed, the murderer had a connection to the Palestinian camp in Yarmuk. That’s why Yarmuk was destroyed. We had no house, neither in Daraa nor in Yarmuk. Racism against the Palestinians in Syria became worse and worse. We were accused, although we had nothing to do with the murder of the minister. We did not get an apartment for rent, had to sleep on the street, although there were many empty apartments. In mosques we were harassed, we were blamed for the war, we were supposed to leave the country. I sat there, silent. We were insulted, but we couldn’t fight back.
I was never given Syrian citizenship even though I was born there. I was never allowed to feel like a Syrian. I remember an incident in elementary school, a teacher always kicked me out of class for no reason. I didn’t understand, only later I realized why. She did the same thing to my sister nine years later, and then did I realized why. My mother wasn’t silent this time, she went to school. After that, the teacher never kicked my sister out. I graduated from high school although I was very concerned about being treated like that, but there were enough people who supported me and believed in me. Even if my A-levels aren’t the best, I did it.
I went to prison four times. Once, because I grew my hair long. At that time it was known that the members of ISIS wore long hair. An officer stopped me, asked me to take off my hat and I had to go to the police station. At the station they took me to a dark room, my hair was cut off and shaved off with a razor blade. I never let my hair grow again. The second time, they took me with them to build up defense points. They take people off the road to build the points. Either you leave or you stay with them for a long time, it’s always a matter of luck. I was allowed to leave after three days.
The third time was the hardest thing for me. I was playing a game on a cell phone called Counter, a war game. In this game pictures of weapons are saved. An officer stopped me, he took my cell phone and saw the pictures, he didn’t believe me that they were part of the game. I was afraid, I kissed his hands and asked him not to take me with me. But he did. There were many people in the car, the soldiers beat each one on the body with metal. It was terrible, I was terrified. They put us in jail, 40 people in one room. We ate raw potatoes. Every morning they tortured us, made us wet and then electrocuted us. I was tortured so badly that I bled. When another officer saw this, he scolded the soldier. I just want him to torture me, not hurt me. This incident probably saved my life, I was allowed to go. I had spent two weeks in prison. After I got out, I didn’t dare go out any more. My name was known. I was afraid they’d stop me, take me away again.
I fled my homeland, in 2016 I arrived alone in Germany. I haven’t seen my family in four years, it’s hard for me to be here alone. I go home and nobody is waiting for me there. I also experienced racism in Germany. I lived in Saarland, the people there were afraid of me. Once I was sitting in the track, the track was full and still nobody wanted to sit next to me. That was very embarrassing, I again did not understand the reason. I didn’t do anything to get treated that way. I would like to do something useful for society, what do the people who judge me know? You can get to know me and then judge me. At the moment I am taking a language course at university, hopefully I will pass it.
My message to the people who have not told their story yet, there is no reason to be afraid, we have no reason to be afraid. I don’t talk about all people, I only talk about those who have done bad things to me. We have no reason to be silent about the things that have happened to us. We’re not saying everyone’s like that. But the ones who did this to us are.
Storyteller’s name: Ahmad Baroud
Interviewer’s name: Sarah El Desoke
Country of origin: Syria