Reuters: A Syrian refugee holding a baby in an inflated tube
Almost three months passed since the world was horrified when the picture of Syrian Kurdish 3-year-old Alan Kurdi emerged on media showing his lifeless small body laying peacefully on the sand in a serene eternal sleep. The child drowned in the Mediterranean Sea with his older brother when their family was trying to reach a better place after their home in Kobani – Syria was stormed by ISIS. The young soul’s ordeal started an international movement for refugees pouring into Europe, and by fewer numbers into other parts of the world. The story of Alan is only one among thousands of stories that passed unnoticed.
No Syrian wanted to leave home. We thought that we will build a better country for us, we thought we are passing to the future, we wanted to stay here in our homes and regain some of our rights. For five years we called for no-fly zones to protect some towns and establish safe shelters for refugees. Many times we called for humanitarian corridors, but our voices were ignored. Over and over again, we said that all this destruction will create a void, and inside the nothingness, extremists, killers and thugs will lurk and consume people’s hope. After years of war, desperation drove thousands to search for alternative ways to live peacefully and preserve what is left of their dignity.
Thousands of lives were shattered, despair crawled deep into our spirits. Syrian children are suffering from fear and anxiety, adults from fear and gloomy tomorrow. According to UNHCR, there are more than 4.2 million Syrian registered refugees, 2.1 million in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, and 1.9 million in Turkey. About 26,700 are registered in North Africa. Between 2011 and Oct 2015, the number of Syrian asylum application in Europe reached 681,713 distributed mainly between Germany, Sweden, Serbia, Kosovo, Hungary, Austria, Netherlands and Bulgaria, and other countries. OCHA estimates the number of total displaced Syrians about 10.8 million of the country’s 22 million population. These numbers were registered in mid 2014, which means now that the majority of Syrian population are fleeing for their lives. Without mentioning the thousands killed, disappeared and arrested.
After waiting for so long, and as the world started to forget what Syrians are going through, people decided to take matters into their hands and seek for themselves for their rights to have a normal, safe and decent lives, similar to millions of people around the world. Syrians marched, they found a way. Everyday, rubber boats carry dozens in a life threatening journey in the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey’s shores to Greek’s Islands. Many used their life’s savings to take a one-way ticket toward either a new life or toward death. Refugees packed the remnants of their past and set off for the unknown.
When my brother decided to take the journey of death we didn’t try to persuade him to stay, the choice is either taking the risk in the sea or engage in a bloody war. He climbed over a rubber boat with dozens of men, women and children. On the way from Turkey to Greece, the boat stopped in the middle of the sea, and the young men in the boat stroke the water back to the Turkish shores, fixed the boat and tried again. They reached a Greek island by dawn, and from there my brother got help from a group of monks in that island, a Greek female doctor welcomed him and his friends in her own house, and others on his way to Sweden where he is trying his best today to show that he is a good samaritan. Such actions of altruism presented to many refugees in their long journeys manifest the essence of humanity. We are grateful for the humans in Europe and around the world who cried for us, those who welcomed them in their homes, those who greeted them in bus and train stations, those who shared the journey with them taking aid and water. These actions revealed to us what could the future of humanity would look like, a future we wish to witness one day.
These refugees are searching for a life, and it is not easy to replace all what one has ever knew, it is not easy to start over again, to try to heal and forget, this needs courage, and cannot be done without compassion.
Preventing the people from seeking their right in having a stable life is not an answer to stop the madness, on the contrary, keeping refugees in the nothingness will make them lose faith in a sympathetic and human world, keeping people in the limbo does not solve any issue, shutting them out behind TV screens and just observing their agony will shatter all of the promises of a better world for us. Inclusion and empathy is the only response to fight fear. People are living under terrorism everyday in Syria, trying to survive and find a meaning and an answer for why all this is happening to us in the post “Never Again” era?
Placing the blame of criminal actions committed by few terrorists on the shoulders the victims will empower the criminals. Doubting the just cause of the refugees will make those carrying hatred smile in their shameful victory. Instead of pushing the refugees back to where they will be used, exploited and killed, they must be welcomed, they must be shown that there is a way to practice their humanity and be worthy to have an equal opportunity to live in our global community.
The way this world deals with refugees’ crisis is not specific to Syrians, it will send a message to the entire world regarding the world’s current stand to human rights. Our war today is not a war of religions, races and nations, our war in this age is to preserve the human values and principles many men and women fought for through history till today, by their great achievement and simple heroic daily actions, in order to reach equal opportunities for all and seek a better day for the entire world.
What is left for us Syrians right now is to fight the void where nothing grows there but hatred and insanity represented by criminals continue to kill and spread grudges mercilessly and tirelessly all around the world. What you can do now is help the rest of us to fight this void by empathy and preserving the values of democracy, liberty, equality, and dignity, through lighting a candle in your heart so we can all pass into a better humanity.