Story of Shiar
My name is Shiar; I am 31 & Syrian. I studied English Literature at the University of Aleppo. I had started to teach before that. I was preparing to do a Master’s. Looking back, I was lucky to graduate when I did. Any later & it would have been too late.
The last time I was in Aleppo was in 2012. Military conscription in Syria is mandatory. When the war started in Daraa almost five years ago, I decided to get away for a while. I am a Kurd. The military leadership does not trust the Kurds, so we are always on the frontline. Moreover, if ISIS captured me, I would be immediately executed.
I went to Turkey to wait & see what would happen at home. The conflict got worse, so I stayed there. I worked as an English language teacher in Istanbul. My family stayed. My parents could see the missiles flying past. With my two younger sisters, my parents left & came to live with me in Turkey.
The situation in Turkey was not good. I have asthma & my dad has diabetes. However, we could not get the proper documents. We had a “foreigner identification,” which meant we could not get health coverage. My sisters could not continue their education.
It was impossible to go back to Syria. We applied with the UNHCR, but they said they were not registering any more refugees. My parents wanted a future for their children. They said let us go by boat to Greece. I was frightened as I had seen people getting drowned on TV, but they insisted. So I went with them to look after them.
My father met some smugglers through some people he knew. They organized for us to cross. These boats were rickety. On board, I could not believe I had taken the risk, but my parents had insisted. The engine stopped 3/4 times. We did not have GPS or a phone. Women & children were crying. I thought we were going to die.
We tried to calm the children down. Finally, someone managed to fix the engine. We were fortunate. When we reached Greece, we were just so happy. It was like a new life had begun. My first step in Europe felt like hope.
We lived in a lovely village in Aleppo. When the situation gets better, I would like to return. I want to study neurolinguistics, so I can help others acquire foreign languages more accessible.
Written by Rethinking Refugees
Photo © Caritas