Some words to present yourself:
I am 24 years old (*) and I have been living in Lebanon for 3 years. I am a Syrian refugee and before arriving here, I have travelled all over many neighbouring countries and have found myself in many situations. Today I work for a living like many compatriots. With lots of luck, I have managed to set up a life of mine and to become as integrated as I could with the help of Lebanese people who have given me a helpful hand. A true substitute family: a huge support for me. At the age of 16 and a half after arriving in Damascus by bus and having abandoned my family village, I had left for Turkey (Istanbul), then Egypt (Cairo), Jordan (Amman and Aqaba) and in the end Lebanon. Sleeping in the streets, finding emergency solutions, and living homeless, that is the summary of my travel.
Are the reasons for your presence here the same as for most of Syrian refugees?
No, I did not run away from the political situation and the civil war. I have abandoned Syria long before. Every refugee has a very specific situation. There are religious issues that made me run away from my family and their persecution. With them, my own opinion and freedom of thought were not respected. I had to follow their will without having to give my opinion. At 16 and a half, I have abandoned my country, my landmark, my family and my adolescence.
If you had to define in a few words what Syria, Lebanon and Europe are for you, what would you say?
In a few words, impossible… To begin with, I have no desire whatsoever to go back to Syria. There are really no words to describe… No desire whatsoever and my life is not there. What I see on TV, what I hear from other Syrians, and the actual context make me pessimistic for the future of my native country. I have nothing to do there! For Lebanon, I am in status quo, I rapidly discover that this is not my country.
For which reasons?
Some Lebanese people’s rejection, the deep racism that is rooted in tradition and depreciates the Syrian, and makes him the No 1 topic of bad jokes, accused of being a troublemaker, the cause of Lebanese instability. It is difficult for me to hear often violent words against us and to see that solidarity only exists in words. I also know that the future in Lebanon is uncertain as well.
For the time being, I have a job that is precious to me but it pays me less than a Lebanese. My nationality is enough to justify this difference in my every day salary. I have the same skills, I speak the same language and I work like the others but that is not enough to receive the same remuneration as a Lebanese. I feel the contempt of certain colleagues and I am obliged to have three jobs in order to live decently and have my own place.
In the evening, I don’t go out, there are kidnappings and there are too many risks, the Hezbollah (the Lebanese allied to Bachar El Assad) threatens the Syrian refugees because – of course – they are against the will of Bachar for suspicious reasons. You could also see that there are roadblocks from the Lebanese army and Hezbollah everywhere. Circulating becomes a very difficult and although I have identification documents and my situation is settled, I am worried as they stop me and ask me questions about my origin, the reasons for my presence on the territory and my destination. Nothing is easy, I have to get used to it and I do as I can!
Europe, if there is a word that comes immediately to my mind, is not a country, a capital or a monument, it is freedom. Freedom that Europeans have to think, demonstrate, to live their own religions, their identity and to have a democratic country. It is also security, the one that I and others here are looking for. They tell me about elections in Syria, but who would dare say that this is called democracy when a leader like Bashar persecutes, kills the Syrians and imposes his own will with arms, where is it?
I understand the hundreds of thousands Syrians around me and when I hear them talk about freedom of circulation in Europe and European elections, I see the immense ditch and the privilege of Europeans. Neighbours who cooperate in order to make things together in peace and solidarity. Succeeding in making this happen in the Middle-East, is not for tomorrow…
After all that travel and frontier crossing, is Europe a destination for you?
This is a place where I would feel safe. Europe for me will not be an Eldorado and if I go there it will be with identification documents and a regular situation. I do not have a passport and I know that this blocks a lot of procedures. First of all, I would like those who read this testimony to understand the situation that one can live if he is young and Syrian in 2014. Being able to retake my studies and to have better qualifications, being able to speak better English, and to accomplish real professional projects. The right to dream!
To also understand that for me and others, returning to Syria is not possible. I have scars, physical scars. A riffle bullet that I received on my shoulder from my grandfather. Among Syrians I feel privileged, so imagine the personal situation of others and their children in the refugee camps, much younger, who do not understand what is going on around them. At the age of 8, I have gained in maturity, but I do not have the same references like most young people at my age in the world.
A message for Young Europeans?
Yes, what you do and defend is a good cause, a just cause. That of giving me the chance to talk and listen to my story. The local associations have also helped me during my route from one country to another. To fight against fundamentalism, nationalisms and racism, with which I have to live on a daily basis, I find it remarkable. Thank you Young Europeans!
(*) Identity concealed for security reasons.