Far From Home – A Story from a Syrian Refugee
By: Amanda Epperson and Jami Sall
In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, this story was written about one of millions of families forced to flee Syria due to the ongoing civil war. In an effort to protect their family, Abier and Mohanet, along with their 4-year-old son, Assad, fled from northern Syria in August 2013.
Abier describes her life in Allepo, Syria as “wonderful and normal.” While Abier attended university she met and fell in love with her husband, Mohanet, in 2008. She and Mohanet graduated from university with an english literature degree. In 2009 their first child, Assad, was born. Mohanet was an instructor at a university in Allepo, and at the end of 2010 he opened a business raising sheep. “My life was normal and wonderful. My parents where very supportive of me,” Abier recounts.
This peaceful, consistent routine they called life would start to become an abysmal nightmare beginning in 2012, as Syria’s war started. Abier recalls how the amount of demonstrations increased, followed in response with increased military personnel all around the city. In the beginning of 2013 most roads leading out of the city where blocked by snipers all heavily armed with guns. No fresh produce or food cars were allowed into Allepo, and their gas was cut off in their home. Initially, what began as nights spent listening to “the music” of bombs detonating in the far-off distance, quickly turned into nights being spent huddled in their bathroom in fear of being injured by shattered windows. “This was so scary for me,” Abier recounts. “We are not used to hearing bombs, or seeing weapons. It was a nightmare for me.” As the bombings crept closer to the city, casualties climbed, as people were dying in their very own homes.
Abier and Mohanet, with great angst and reluctance, said goodbye to their families one night as they decided to leave Allepo the next morning and flee to Turkey. They procured a car and packed as many of their personal belongings from their home as they could, thinking they would return to Syria two or three months later. The first obstacle they faced was leaving the city by crossing a street lined with snipers ready to shoot and kill anyone they deemed as a threat. “We actually were able to cross it,” remembered Abier. “We had no choice. This was the only way to Turkey.”
Abier describes her family’s first night in Istanbul: “We were so tired. We rented a hotel in Aksaray. We felt helpless and hopeless. We were in a very big city. We didn’t speak Turkish, and they didn’t speak Arabic or English. We didn’t know where to go and what to do. It was horrible.” Soon after their arrival Abier and Mohanet were able to find jobs, mostly due to their ability to speak English. They have been in Istanbul for a little over two years now, and unfortunately don’t see returning to Syria as a possibility any time soon. It seems their life away from Syria started as a nightmare and is now just a peculiar reality.
Abier and Mohanet have since had another child who is four and half months old. Mohanet left for Germany about eight months ago in hopes of securing a better life for his family. Abier stayed in Istanbul to tend to their two children, and awaits the day that Mohanet calls for them to come live in Germany. Life for them at times is hard and lonely, both of them being separated from each other and Mohanet missing the first year of their newborn’s life. They dream and look forward to the day that they are reunited in a safe place and can go forward with a consistent, normal routine.
What a privilege it was to sit down with Abier, who reminisced about their life in Syria before the war, shed some tears over the harsh reality of life, and imagined the day when she will be reunited with her family.