Mahmoud, Roula, Zozan, stories from refugees: from war to new life
On World Refugee Day, AsiaNews offers testimonies from the Jesuit Refugee Service. For thousands of refugees, Jesuit centers represent salvation, against hunger and illiteracy. The two faces of refugees: hope and despair, happiness mixed with rage at the suffering of the Syrian conflict.
Beirut (AsiaNews) - There are those who have suffered so much that they have ceased to hope for a better future and thinks only of their own children; those who have given a new meaning to their lives and are also ready to go to Mars to satisfy their desire for happiness. These are some of the stories of Syrian refugees assisted by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Lebanon and Iraq, on the occasion of the World Refugee Day that is being celebrated today.
For so many refugees fleeing wars, hunger and destruction, Jesuit centers in the Middle East and Africa have become the second home. The reason explains Zozan Hassan Khalil (see photo 2), a lively 25 year old: "I have never been treated as different, as Syrian or refugee. It was as if I belonged here forever. Now I have many new friends of different religions, nationalities and ethnic groups ".
She is one of hundreds of people assisted by the refugees in Ankawa, Erbil district (Iraq). Originally from Hassakè, in the north-east of Syria, before the war she studied engineering. In February 2013 she abandoned everything and began a long journey with her family, which first brought her to Iraqi Kurdistan in Dohuk, then to Erbil. She is proud of her origins and remembers with nostalgia her childhood an youth in Syria, "when there was not so much death".
It has not been easy for her family to integrate into a new country, reckoning with a new culture and environment. Now her older sister is married and lives in the town of Ozal. Zozan, on the other hand, as soon as she learned that the Jesuit Refugee Service was providing the refugees with language and IT courses, immediately applied for registration. Now she attends English, Kurdish and computer lessons. Her dream is to learn languages and travel all over the world. With the help of the Jesuits, she is preparing a CV for a job as an assistant in a company. But her deepest desire, she says smiling, "is to go back to Syria and teach other less fortunate people what I have learned from JRS. I am ready for new places, and I am sure that one day my hopes will come true!".
Instead Mahmoud of Al-Raqqa is full of despair. The horrors of the war have aged him beyond his years, 67 years. He has difficulty breathing and lost sight in one eye and cannot see well from the other. When he remembers the incident that led him to blindness, his face fills with rage. "The mortar shells exploded everywhere - he says - and we ran from place to place. At one point I stumbled and had a disastrous fall. Something punctured my left eye. I was transported immediately to the nearest doctor, but since the militants of the Islamic State controlled the city and it was Friday (holy day for Islam), no doctor was willing to treat me". Now he lives in a tent in Lebanon, in the Bar Elias camp, along with his family. "I feel lost - he reports - without sight, without work. What can I do with my life? The only consolation is the welcome of the Jesuit Refugee Service. Volunteers often visit me and encourage me a lot".
Roula Zahra is a 14-year-old teenager. She is originally from Homs and left Syria in 2011, shortly after the outbreak of the war, along with her widowed mother and five brothers and sisters. Today she lives in a small apartment in the Bourj Hammoud area, in the Lebanese capital. The girl loves to study and is enrolled in a public school; in the afternoon she attends classes at the JRS center "Frans Van Der Lugt". When she grows up she wants to be a scientist. She wants to "do everything in life". "Everything" seems to be her mission. But when you ask her if she wants to become an astronaut, and maybe go to Mars or the Moon, she stops and responds with a gleam in her eyes: "Maybe!"