About Refugees, By Refugees
Pictures taken in:
Photo and interview by:
Yousif Al Shewaili
“It was my hope and dream before leaving Syria, my homeland, to have a normal life, far from fear and terror.” Om Majed (pseud, 33) fled Syria to Greece with her family to escape “terror and war.” The journey was harrowing. On the final leg, they spent five hours on a boat. “The sea was rough and the fear was immense,” says Om Majed. They are seeking asylum on the island of Lesvos, where “I live with my husband and my four children in a nylon and wooden tent, in the Moria refugee camp.” They do not feel safe from wild animals nor from other inhabitants of the camp. “My husband and I take turns watching all night – to protect our children,” she says. The family thinks about their “psychological stress due to living in this camp.” She adds, “I do not wish for any mother or child to live the life or experience what we have lived.” Om Majed says her children give her strength and endurance. “When I look at my children, when they are sleeping at night, I hope that the dawn will be better.”
This interview was provided without the questions that were asked by the interviewer.
I am Ikram.
I live with my husband and my four children in a nylon and wooden tent, in the Moria refugee camp.
I am nine-month pregnant and expecting a newborn. I spend my entire day attending to my children’s needs and protecting them from the dangers of living in the woods, like insects.
My six-year-old son was stabbed by another child, and when we complained to the Greek authorities, they didn’t do anything at all. They only said they were children, and we couldn’t do anything.
There has not been anything new since my arrival to Greece, except rejections and denying us our rights,
They insist that Turkey is a safe country for us, regardless of what we think.
They decide which country is safe for us, even if we disagree.
Instability causes us mental illnesses.
We think about the rejections we received and the psychological stress from living in this camp.
My husband and I take turns night-watching all night, to protect our children from dangers of the woods, potential abuse, or robbery.
I miss my mother a lot.
She is the source of my strength and nothing replaces her.
I would have never thought that I would be able to endure what I suffered here on this island.
My children are the reason and strength behind my resilience. I live for their sake. Quarantining due to the spread of Covid 19 did not affect us, because we have been isolated even before this pandemic, since our arrival to this island.
We have been confined to this camp since the spread of the virus.
We left Syria, my homeland, because of terror and war.
My husband was kidnapped by a gang that wanted to take advantage of his expertise as a car mechanic.
He was locked up at the work location they assigned for him, and was forced to sign bank checks of unknown balance.
We had to flee to Idlib, searching for a safe place.
But we were captured by the Nusra Front and held captives with my children for three days.
We were searching for life even amidst the destruction that plagued our homeland.
My husband tried to open a car-repair garage, but was asked to booby-trap the cars, taking advantage of his mechanical skills.
We did not agree to that because it would hurt a lot of innocent people.
We then decided to escape to Turkey.
We tried to escape during the weekend holidays for 4 weeks, so that they would not know of our attempt to leave the country.
While trying to cross to Turkey in one of those attempts, my 10-year-old son was beaten by Turkish guards.
They beat him to wake him up, accusing me of sedating him. But he was exhausted from
They told us Turkey is not for Syrians – “Go back to your country.”
On our fourth attempt, we crossed the border to Turkey and went to Izmir to cross the ocean to the Greek islands.
We tried more than once but failed, until the last attempt when we stayed for five hours at sea.
The sea was rough, and we were very afraid. Shortly after we reached Lesvos Island, we were denied asylum, which was followed by another rejection.
We later requested to have our case reopened, for which we then signed respective papers. These included a consent form to voluntarily return to Turkey, which, according to their asylum denial statement, was a safe country for us.
This is not true, of course.
This statement was written exclusively in Greek and was not translated. The translator, who helped us sign the statement, was not allowed to translate its content.
Our return to Turkey will be death itself because we are threatened by these gangs in Syria.
They will find us wherever we are. My husband’s rejection of their gruesome and inhumane demands, such as booby-trapping cars to detonate them among innocent people, is viewed as treason for which we must be punished.
We are still living in terror here.
We live in a forest, where snakes and scorpions crawl daily into our tent.
We hope that the fear, fatigue, and dreadful events we endured, will not be in vain.
I will not forget how my son was beaten by a Turkish soldier, an adult man, or how my other son came back stabbed to the tent a few days ago, here at the Moria camp. I have also experienced an attempted assault by a drunk man when I went to the toilet that was far from our tent’s location.
I am nine-months pregnant.
He pushed me, and I didn’t dare do anything, to avoid angering him. After all, I am a defenseless and weak woman.
My 10-year-old son has developmental delays and when I look at him, I remember him being subjected to physical abuse by the Turkish guard.
Seeing my son being stabbed I feel being stabbed myself. I will not forgive myself for what my children have endured from this journey.
I try not to let what happened affect my thoughts and positivity in life, for the sake of my children.
I always try to explain to them the brighter side of this journey; that one day they will sleep in a safe home, will go to schools for kids and will live in dignity.
I did not expect that I would live in such circumstances for so long.
I cannot imagine that I will be able to go on.
They crammed us in this camp and gave us a tent that barely fits two people.
I only try to live for my children’s future.
We built a bigger tent from nylon and wood.
When I look at my children when they are sleeping at night, I hope that the crack of dawn will be better.
And this is what inspires me to be patient and strong.
I try to be hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today.
My dream was having a normal life before the war. I married in 2010, and the war started the following year.
I was hoping to live a happy life with my husband, watching my children come back from school.
Having a normal life, far from fear and terror, was my hope and dream before leaving Syria, my homeland. We went searching for that but have not found it yet.
My children are my strength, before and after I left my country.
I find joy in fulfilling their requests.
I used to cook for them whatever they craved and rejoiced when I mastered it.
Watching their delight, indulging in food is my motivation and happiness.
What I went through always strengthened me a lot.
Hardships proved to me that I must live and fight to establish happier days for my children, in order for them to forget what they went through.
Their childhood memories must be beautiful.
Everything I went through was a lesson.
My current dream is for my four children to reach safety without any illnesses or damages harming their future.
I hope my voice will be heard.
I do not wish for any mother or child to live the life or experience what we have lived.
Many 1000 Dreams interviews were not conducted in English. Their translation has not always been performed by professional translators. Despite great efforts to ensure accuracy, there may be errors.