I Am A Syrian I was at University in Turkey, But After My Family Lost The Factories…
Story by Kathrine Jensen
Syria is the biggest and the most complex humanitarian crisis of our time. In the five years since the start of the conflict, millions of men, women and children have been displaced inside and outside the country. Lives have been lost, children have dropped out of school and the dreams of an entire generation have been shattered.
Since the start of the year, the World Food Programme has been trying to give a voice to the ordinary people caught up in the turmoil of the ongoing conflict. Here is Zakariya‘s story.“It is not my fault and I am not less than you are”
My name is Zakariya. I am 26 years old. I am from Homs in Syria. I live in Denmark now with two of my younger brothers, Issam and Mohammed. Before the war my family was together. Now they are all over the world.
That is what the war did, but I am happy because they are all safe. I hope we will get to be together all of us again, like we used to be in Ramadan.
We had everything in Syria. We had two dairy factories. In my home, we had cats, dogs, birds, horses. My mother would make bread on the terrace. It was so delicious. She was very good at that.
“It’s your life, you want to protect it.”
We had everything we wanted. But it was all destroyed. We don’t have a home now. We don’t have anything. All I can think is that at least we are safe. In 2012 my family’s factories were taken. We couldn’t do anything. You can’t say anything. It’s your life, you want to protect it.
I was at university in Turkey, but after my family lost the factories we couldn’t afford it anymore. So I had to quit. After that I didn’t know what to do. I tried to find any work to survive.
I felt like I should do something to help in Syria. I wanted to help my friends and my family and all the Syrian people are my family. I drove ambulances, medicine and food to people.
I bought the food from the local market in Syria and not in Turkey, because it is good for the Syrian people that we buy from them.
“Many buildings were collapsed, people were poor.”
I tried to give people the most important food – like rice and olive oil, sugar and tea.
The first time I was back in Syria, it was really hard to see. Many buildings were collapsed, people were poor. It’s really hard to see these people who don’t have anything.Sometimes you feel that you want to cry, you can’t imagine. Some people don’t have anything to eat. It’s really so hard, especially with the kids. It was a surprise for me to see the people there. In the end, many of them are happy.
They were still smiling because they are happy to be alive. They joke, they smile, they laugh. When I was in their homes, we would hear bombs. They can tell the distance of the bombs just by the sound, and they would say “don’t worry, it’s far away” and keep joking.
“Food is the most important gift in life because it is life.”
The first time I was delivering food I was so nervous. What should I say? I wanted to show them that I am exactly like them. I didn’t know how to knock on the door or how to tell them to take the food.
It is hard to say how they felt when they received the food – they were happy and ashamed at the same time, and so was I. Giving food meant a lot to me. When you give food to people, they feel alive and can do something. Food is the most important gift in life because it is life.
I started my journey in July 2015 because I couldn’t help in Syria anymore. I couldn’t get a job and I couldn’t study. I needed a paper from my university and I couldn’t get it because I couldn’t pay. My whole life stopped at that moment. That’s why I chose Europe to start my life again.
I travelled to Izmir first and I found a smuggler to go to Mytilini on the Greek Island of Lesbos. I asked him how many we would be. He said 20. He said the boat was old, but good and big.
“I wasn’t afraid for myself but I was scared for my brothers.”
When we got to the coast, I could see we were about 35 people and 10 children. The boat was about 8 metres long, and we were very close to the water. I wasn’t afraid for myself but I was scared for my brothers. That was all I cared about.
The smuggler pointed at a light in the distance, and said that is where we are going. He told me to take the engine and I did. Then he jumped off and swam back to the shore. The boat was going very slowly because we were so many people, and the engine was small and old. Every 10 minutes it stopped and we had to start it again. In the end, the trip took almost 10 hours.People had told me Denmark is a good country to go to because the people are very friendly. People told me that the life here is good, that you can feel safe and that you have freedom.
When we got to Europe, I started the travel to Denmark with my two brothers. Now we are living in a shared house in Solrød Kommune. Everything here is down to luck – it’s luck that decides where you end up staying, when your interview with the police is and how long you’ll wait, what your interview is like and who your translator is, and what commune you end up in.
“I am not Danish and it hurts me to be a refugee.”
I am not Danish and it hurts me to be a refugee. We are better now of course but how should we continue? As a refugee, people look at you like you are less than them…but I am not. I was rich, I was studying, I had a job, I had everything. I am like you. A war started. It is not my fault and I am not less than you are. People should understand that but they don’t.