Updated: Sep 15
Story 4 - Ahmed Hamed al-Zabhawi (29, Iraq).
Ahmed was married, and his daughter Azal is two years old. Despite graduating from #business studies, he could not find a #job. So, he wanted to go to #Germany to earn money for the family. The trip to #Poland via #Belarus was supposed to cost $ 5,000, so Ahmed borrowed it. More than anything, it was not safe to continue living in #Iraq.
In September, he wandered the forest between Belarus and Poland for several days with two refugees from Iraq. One of his companions sent the family contact information several times. At some point, Haidar al-Zabhawi, Ahmed's #brother, received a message saying Ahmed was #sick. He was throwing objects around and had taken off his clothes. While his brother requested that Ahmed be taken to a hospital, the companions refused. It would have been too #dangerous.
The men wanted to leave Ahmed in the forest. Haidar ordered the #smuggler not to take them without his brother. The Iraqis told him, "We don't know how to help him." They later wrote to Haidar, "Your brother is #dead."
Story 5 - Kawa Anwar Mahmood al-Ja (25, Iraq)
When his friends told him it was possible to enter the #EU through Belarus, Kawa Anwar Mahmood al-Jaf didn’t hesitate for long. He worked in a market in the city of #Sulaymaniyah, in Iraqi #Kurdistan. In early November, he set off from there with a few friends. Anwar paid 3,500$ for the flight to #Minsk. A selfie video shows the young man outside a shopping mall wearing a blue #winter jacket, with his scarf pulled up under his nose.
His sister mentioned that Anwar had a close relationship with his mother throughout his childhood. He remembers kissing her when she brought him gifts or new clothes to this day. Anwar loved going to the #mountains with his friends on weekends and grilled meat. His favourite dish was #Shawarma. He dreamed of living in #Switzerland and he had hoped to study computer programming once he made it to #Europe.
According to his father who was always in contact, Anwar tried to cross the Polish border six times, but in vain. Through the #pushbacks, he finally managed to get into Poland with a group of Kurds. Shortly after that, Anwar’s father got a call about his son’s health; Anwar couldn’t walk. They mentioned that a smuggler was driving them to #Germany. Anwar’s health got worse as they were in the car. His father even tried to reach his son-in-law in #Denmark and begged the group of Kurds to take him to the hospital. But the men refused, apparently out of fear of getting caught. Finally, on November 23, Anwar’s father received the last call. The group reached #Frankfurt. But his son was dead.
Story 6 - Rajaa Hasan (44, Syria)
Rajaa Hasan, born into an overcrowded Palestinian camp of Hama, lived with her husband and four sons and earned about 2$ a day doing embroidery. In Sept 2021, people in the camp heard that a young Palestinian successfully made it across the Belarusian border to the Netherlands. Rajaa then thought: At last, this is it –the opportunity for a better life in Europe.
She contacted smugglers who organised a trip for $3,700. She set out alone, as her husband was sick. They told her: "No problem. You get on the plane to Minsk. We take you to the Polish border, you walk for 3-4 hours, and you are in the EU".
Little did she know that her hopes will shatter once she reached Minsk. First, she stocked up on warm clothes and dried dates, and then she drove to the border together with three other refugees. But they lost their way in the forest and got wet - and grew colder. They wandered for days through the forests, damp and freezing. Rajaa was getting weaker and could hardly breathe. Soon, the Polish border guards spotted them. Instead of taking her to a hospital, they dragged her back to Belarus.
She could barely stand and had chest pains. A Syrian refugee shouted, "This woman is dying!", but they just laughed. Hasan was already unresponsive and foaming at the mouth when Belarusian soldiers took her to Grodno on Nov. 8. Despite that, the guards still put her in a taxi to Minsk. The refugees were told they had to pay 600 euros for the trip to Minsk. Finally, Hasan's heart stopped beating. The men took her out of the car and laid her on the asphalt. Even the paramedics who were called in were unable to revive Hasan.
Her Syrian companion delivered two audio messages that Hasan had recorded for her mother while she was still in the forest but hadn't sent them. "How are you, mama?" she asked. "We're doing well. Pray for us."