From: Deir Ezzor, Syria
I’m from Deir Ezzor, a city in the east of Syria, near Iraq. I was born in Syria, but we lived in Algeria for six years before coming back to Syria.
When I was seventeen, I left Syria again to study IT engineering in the Ukraine. I stayed there until I was 26, working as an IT engineer in different companies. Then I went back to my country to fulfill my duty to serve in the army. I served as an IT specialist in an office, fixing the computers and the network.
Ten days after I finished my army service, the war started.
(Audio excerpt from Waseem’s interview)
I left Greece with my two brothers. Ever since my father died, long before the war, I’ve been like a father to them. My youngest brother was only 3 years old when my father died. The other was in 5th grade.
We paid a taxi driver to drive us to the border with Turkey. Then we continued on foot. We walked for 10 hours in a trench to protect us from the fighting going on around us. Sometimes we heard the fighting while we were walking, but we never knew who it was.
On the other side of the border, the Turkish police stopped us and wanted to know who we were. We told them we were refugees. They asked us why we left.
And then they let us go free. They said, “You are safe here.” But they only gave us a tourist visa. On a tourist visa you have a time limit for how long you can stay.
We stayed in Mirsin for two months and then our time was up. And even if we were allowed to stay, if you are Syrian you can’t make enough to live on. You work for fifteen hours for 200 or 300 Euros. Renting a small place would cost 400 Euros a month.
We were afraid that Turkey would send us back to Syria.
So we came here, to Greece. We took a boat from Turkey to the island of Chios and then took the ferry to Athens. We have been living in tents at Piraeus Port since we got to Athens.
I feel nothing. We just eat and sleep. Like animals. There is nothing to do. We just spend our time waiting for nothing.
We wake up in the morning. Eat breakfast. We wait for lunch. Dinner. Then we sleep.
When I first got here, I wanted to help everyone: Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis. Every day, I cleaned, gave food, played with the children. Just to do something to help. Then I got sick for a while and had to stop.
We don’t sleep well in the tent. Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes it rains. I try to be strong and do the best I can do.
My brothers sit on their phones all day and listen to music. Sometimes they smoke shisha.
All of the borders are closed. The EU made it complicated for us. First they welcome us and now they tell us to leave.
My mother and sister are still in Syria. It’s dangerous for them to leave. And we didn’t have enough money for all of us to go together. I will try to bring them when I can.
We don’t know what will happen. So we are just waiting. Waiting for what? Who knows. For asylum? The Relocation program?
I tried for two months straight to call Skype. Nobody answered. Without an appointment through Skype you can’t get asylum or relocation. The first step is Skype. And nobody answers. I spent all of my money buying internet on my phone to call Skype.
The Arab countries have taken in some refugees– Lebanon is a small country it has one million, Saudi has 3 million, Jordan has one million. Turkey has 3 million. There are some in Egypt.
I tried to go to these countries, but they told me, “No.”
During the Iraq War, Syria took in 10 million refugees from Iraq and Lebanon. We opened our houses. My family had forty-eight refugees staying with us. We bought two big houses– one with six rooms and one with five rooms, and we let them stay there rent-free. Every month I gave each person two hundred dollars and I spent more than $15,000 for them.
Nobody lived in tents.
And it was not only rich people: even the poor people helped them. We would say to them, “This is your house, I am a guest.” Refugees came to us and we said a real welcome.
Now, we have nothing. They destroyed all three of our houses with the bombing. We were home when the bombs hit. Luckily, we were able to escape. We are lucky we are not dead.
Now I have just a tent. And the borders are closed to us.
If I had residence papers in any country, I would start studying music.
From the time I was five years old, every time I saw a piano on the television or in a magazine, I loved it. When I was six or seven years old I started to teach myself a little bit. Do rey me, C,D,E,F.
I didn’t have a real piano but I taught myself using paper. I would draw the piano keys and notes for how to play the song. I started with the “Happy Birthday” song, writing number one on top of the first note, two on top of the second. When I would find someone who had a keyboard or piano, I would try it out to make sure it was right. Sometimes it was wrong, but usually it was right. So I continued to teach myself using the numbers: Fur Elise– 1,2,3,4,5 etc.
I would watch musicians play, paying attention how they played and listening carefully to the music.
My one big dream for my life is to be a composer. Over the last thirteen years I have composed eight pieces. One of them is twenty-six minutes long, the others are around ten minutes long. I never showed them to anyone. I am waiting for my dream to come true.
If I have papers in a country. I will go to study music from the beginning- C,D,E. I can read notes, but I need a teacher to really advance. I will try. I want to learn.
When you have peace you can do everything. Without it, you can do nothing.
If I could say anything to the world, it would be three things:
- Stop the war. Stop giving weapons to all of the armies.
- We are people. We are human. We are not animals.
- Thank you for everything you are doing for us. A lot of people come from their countries to help people they have never seen before. I want to thank them for everything. They are good people. It means a lot to us that someone cares about us.
People think refugees are coming just for money. I don’t care about the money. Don’t give me money. Just give me peace and I will make my own money. I used to be very rich. I had 1.5 million dollars in the bank. Three cars, three houses. Now, I have only ten euros.
We came because of the war. It’s not a normal war. They killed more than a million people. The whole world is fighting in our land. For what? I don’t know. When will the war stop? We don’t know.
I left my country, my home. I don’t know if I will see my country again. It hurts inside. Everyone loves his country, so when you leave, not because you want to, it’s horrible. If the war stopped today, tomorrow I would go back to Syria to rebuild it.
I speak to my mother and sister every day. They are still in Damascus. It’s not easy to have our family separated. We don’t know if we will see our mother and sister again. I think about it every day.
*Waseem is not his real name.