Mohannad Ayoubi is 28 years old, a palestinian, but born in Damascus and I have lived there all of my life.
I came to Denmark on the 16th of February 2015. I used to work in IT-support in the Danish environmental protection agency in Aarhus. Before that I worked with IT development in Novicell. I stopped working there because I got accepted at the University in Aarhus, to study civil engineering, which I also studies in Damascus.
I just lived like any normal child in Syria. When I was 11 years old I had already finished all of the computing courses that were available to me in Syria. I was the youngest person to do that. The held a big party for me at the Maamoun institute in Damascus, which has now become a private university. I took many courses. I started with windows and the office programs. Then they gave me an internet course, because the internet was so new in Syria, at that time. After that I started with accounting. This was at the age of nine. Then I got a course on how to repair computers – building them regarding software and hardware. Then the accountant at my father’s clothes company got sick, so I could help my father with that job. I worked both in the company and in the warehouses. From that time I started as an accountant there.
At that time I started to get a design course at the University. There I worked with correct drawing, Photoshop and advanced Photoshop. I learned the program Dreamweaver. This was at the age of ten. Then I learned 3D max and Maya, which deals with computer animation. Then I was offered AutoCAD which is a program that works with architectural planning and civil engineering. This was the last course they could offer me. The youngest person there was 25 years old, and I was only 11 years old. After these courses they had nothing more to offer me. Then I just started teaching myself, practicing and getting the experience myself. Just to better myself. At that time the fastest internet connection in Syria was 8 Kbit pr. Second.
I also got experience working in my fathers company. Then I started to get fashion design courses. I am not the best, but I can design dresses for girls. I got a lot of courses in English also. I could have taken more courses in Jordan, but they would not let me travel there, because I am Palestinian. So I just focused on working in my fathers company. Then I studied It-engineering, where I got an honor degree. Once I was in a competition in typing and coding, where I typed 182 letters pr. Minute in both English and Arabic. Then I was offered a job in another company, but I couldn’t go, because in Syria, when you are already in one company, you can’t just work somewhere else. It’s like the football teams, in a way – if you for example are playing for Real Madrid, you can’t just go and play for Barcelona. That is just the system in Syria, so I just worked in my father’s company and studies at the same time.
The problem in Syria is that the information is restricted. The reason why most people have a hard time learning English or getting more information, other that what is offered in the library in Damascus, which is Assad’s library, is that the information in censored. It is retsticted. For example, a lot of books are prohibited. I don’t want to read the books they want me to read – I want to choose my own books. Fx. Google chrome is also prohibited in Syria, and so is Youtube and all of Apple’s applications. I had to use my skills in computing to break through the firewalls, so I could access the information.
The last days of my life in Syria, when I was working in my father’s company, The Free Syrian Army captures me and tried to kill me. At that time my life changed drastically. I as driving in my car, and a motorbike tried to stop me. There were two people on the motorbike. They had automatic machineguns, and waved me to the side of the street. They wanted me to stop the car and give them the keys. I realized I was in trouble, so I drove away as fast as I could. 160 mph down a very narrow street, where there was many dumpsters. I was surprised to find out that it was an organized operation to stop me. There were two 4 wheel drive cars blocking the end of the streets in both directions, and they had anti-tank rockets. They had big speakers ordering me to stop, or they would blow up my car. I had to stop! When I looked to the left, there was my fathers company. I was so nervous, that I did not recognize where I was. I ran towards the company, and normally the door was open, because there are always many goods going in and out. But that day it was closed. Something was wrong. I knew it was organized.
As I said, some days I worked there as an accountant, working with the payroll. On this particular day, when they wanted to capture me, it was payday. They wanted money. We used to deliver the money to the employees and the business men, we did business with, on Thursdays. On that day I was already nervous, because we had been getting threatening calls. I had told my father, that I did not want to deliver money that day, but my father said I had to do it. He said he would take care of me. I said ok, but I would only deliver to the employees – not the businessmen. I delivered 6500 dollars, instead of 36500, to the employees. We deal in dollars, because that monetary unit is stable. We only convert the money when we need it. I left the money in the car, ran to the factory door and rang the alarm bell. I rang it 12 times, but no one answered. So they caught me. It was 12:30 in the afternoon. It was a sunny day. It was Ramadan, so I was thirsty, hungry and tired.
They caught me, and started to hit me in a very violent way. They took me to a dried out river. There was a very bad smell and many insects, because many people had been killed there. They put me on my knees, by the river, after they had beat me. They were saying “Allahu Akbar”, and started shooting into the air. Then, suddenly, one of the men’s phone rang. It was an old Nokia, so I could hear what the person was saying. I could hear that it was one of the businessmen that worked for my father’s company, so he knew me. He told the men to leave me alone, and not to kill me. But the man wanted to make me very nervous. He said to me, while I was on my knees “I do not want to pay one dollar for a bullet to execute you. I will kill you with a blunt knife”. I said ok, because at that time I just wanted to get out of the situation. He shot into the air again, and pulled my head back, as if he was about to cut my throat. Then he stopped. He said, “How much money do you have in the car”? I said “Why are you asking, when you already know”? He dragged me back to the car, took the money, and told me to call my father, whom was at our house. At that time I thought my father did not know anything. I had forgotten that we had put cameras in the streets around the company, so he already knew. I called my father, and said “They have taken me.” My father said, he knew. He wanted to talk to them. They told my father thay wanted 40.000 dollars to let me go. They made a deal, that my father would give them 20.000 dollars including the 6500 dollars from the car. The problem was, they said they wanted the money in 10 minutes. My father said “Give me a chance to get the money, and get my son.” My father did not know where I was, only that they had taken me, so he called my uncle at the factory. He told him to go to where The Syrian Free Army was holding me, deliver the money, and take me to the hospital.
From the hospital, we all escaped from Syria to Egypt. We stayed there for one year and tried to make a new life for ourselves. Unfortunately, we found that there was no way we could start a new company there, so we went to Beirut in Lebanon. We stayed there for a year, but we spent a lot of money, because the cost of living there is very expensive. I got a job at a mobile phone company, but he would only pay me 10-15 dollars a day, and that was not even enough to pay for transport. I had to quit. It was a shame because I liked my job. I was working with what I liked, and I had something to do, instead of staying home.
We went back to Syria to our house. It was in a safe area – the same area where Assad lived. There were many checkpoints etc. Unfortunately, we started to be threatened again, so we decided to flee to Denmark. 17 members of our family fled with us, but not everyone went to Denmark. Some went to Germany and some to Sweden.
I have many ideas for projects and small businesses. I do not just want to live on student grants while I am studying. I want to work on the side. Maybe I can use one of my ideas to do that. I am glad to be in Denmark. Mostly people are very kind. On social Facebook, there are many racist groups, but that is not the reality I see. We have many Danish friends whom help us a lot.
It was not easy at all to reach Denmark. Many Danish people ask me “Are you glad, you have an apartment here in Denmark”? “Are you glad you are here in Denmark”? Of course, I am happy, but I want people to know that I had a very good life in Syria. A very luxurious life. Not like here in Denmark. I had a big house with housekeepers and big cars. Some people in Denmark ask “Why do you not go back to Syria, then”? I want them to know, that our ONLY wish is to do that. It is not safe now, so we cannot.
When I left, I left separately. My family members followed me through Aleppo. I met up with all of my family members in Turkey. I went through Alqamishli to Turkey. I dealt with a smuggler, and paid him money. We started the journey at 3 pm. He said to me, I just had to wait for ten minutes then another car would come and get me. That was a big lie. We tried to cross the border three times, but the Turkish police caught us and sent us back.
It was not easy for me to walk in the mountains. I was so tired. The time was 7 pm. I could not continue to walk in the dangerous mountains. I went back to the smugglers and said that could not continue. They said “You have paid a lot of money to have a good trip, so stay beside the micro-bus, and I will arrange a trip just for you”. I had to believe him, because I had no other possibilities, but I was afraid because of my previous experiences. He waited until everyone had left the place, then they got their weapons out, and told me to empty my pockets. I did what they said. I do not know why they believed that I gave them everything that I had, because I had a secret pocket with another mobile phone. They tool my luggage and my water. On these types of trips, you take better care of your water than of your money, because money cannot save your life.
The smugglers gave me an offer I could not refuse. They said “Now you must go and never come back, or we will kill you”. At that point I felt like I had no choice. I wanted to get to Turkey as soon as possible. They just said to me “Do you see those four mountains”? I said “Yes”. They said “Cross them”. At that time, I just focused all of my energy on one thing: to find the other group, that I had been travelling with until that point. I ran and ran to catch up with them or just to find any sign of life. Lucky for me, the Turkish police had stopped them, so I found them. Even though I did not know those people, I felt such a relief – like I had been reunited with my family – because it gave me hope. Then we started to support eachother as we crossed the mountains. We held hands so we could catch eachother, climbing up the mountains. It is very dangerous because of the steep incline. We had to cross four mountains and three villages. At the top of the second mountain, my foot got stuck between two big rocks. Two strong men from our group tried to move one of the rocks. While they were moving the rock, to free my foot, they accidentally broke my chin. It was an open fracture. I screamed so my group left me. They ran. They were afraid to get discovered by the police. I was dizzy, and felt it was so painful. It was dark. I laid down and could not move, because my foot was still stuck. Then two animals, which looked like dogs, approached. They were not dogs, but hyenas. I saw two people coming towards me. It was two of the members from my group that had come back to help me. They lit some sticks on fire to chase away the animals. I said thank you for chasing the dogs away. They told me that they were not dogs, but hyenas. The people who helped me lived in the mountains, so they were experienced with that. The two men from the group laid down next to me, and pushed the rock away with their feet. One of the guys from the group was medically trained. He told me to bite down on a stick, and then they put the bone back in my leg. They said I had two choices. I could either go back to the smugglers or they could try to carry me over the mountains. I am so grateful to them, because I am very heavy. It took a lot of strength for them to carry me across two mountains on such a narrow edge.
Finally, I got to Turkey, where I was reunited with my family. From there we travelled to Greece by yacht. A police boat caught us in the middle of the sea. The captain talked to them, and they let us go. Finally, we were in Greece. We were stuck there for ten months. From there we walked to Austria. We walked in 35 degrees below zero through Macedonia, Serbia, and Beograd, Hungary. From Hungary, they brought cars to go to Vienna. We had walked for long periods. I wore six jackets and four pairs of trousers. We ate just snickers and mars bars because they were very light weight and give a lot of energy. From Vienna we got a plane to Copenhagen. Finally on the 16th of February 2015 we arrived.Dublin Core: Language: en Subject: a million stories, denmark, palestine, syria, refugee, education,