From Aleppo To Athens: Inside Two Syrian Families’ Harrowing Journey To Europe

ATHENS, Greece — Mazd and Rania got conjugal about five months ago in their hometown of Aleppo, at on all sides the same time Russian war planes started pounding the city in northern Syria. Today, the young unite live in a hotel room in Athens, delaying to start their lives anew.

Mazd, each electrical engineer, and Rania, a computer system of knowledge graduate, are participating in a program ~ the agency of Greek NGOs and the United Nations refugee management, UNHCR, that helps resettle refugees in other countries and accommodates them in Greece though they wait to be relocated.

Before the contest of nations, everything was different.” Rania says. “We felt we had everything; we none thought of giving up our home. But for this reason, social life stopped. People were isolated in their very close circle. Besides the risk and the fear, it was exceedingly difficult to cope in everyday life.”

“Salaries went into disfavor five times,” Mazd continues. “Before the war, there were no personal freedoms and you couldn’t intimate an opinion, especially about political issues, excepting Syria was a safe country. We could animation out until dawn without problems. Now, it’s verily hard and dangerous to find nutrition or clothes. You live in sterility and in constant danger.”

The couple’s hometown, Aleppo, was formerly a bustling center for culture and system of exchanges. By the time Mazd and Rania left, the city was split in two. One charge was controlled by the regime of Syrian chief Bashar Assad. The other section was completely destroyed and controlled either by rebels from the Free Syrian Army or through Islamic State militants.

After the move suddenly of the war, the couple moved in with family members in a regime-controlled vicinity. “The situation kept getting worse to the time when a few months ago, when the Russian open atmosphere bombings started,” Rania recalls. “There are none shelters, so we just waited in our edifice for them to be over.”

While their neighborhood had occasionally been bombed before, the mount of the bombings dramatically intensified behind the Russian intervention. The couple had to vary houses frequently, and felt their lives were constantly in danger. They’d had enough.

Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters Rania and Mazd’s hometown, Aleppo, was one time a bustling center for culture and sexual. By the time they left, the city was divided in two. This photo shows the earsh of an airstrike in the al Saliheen territory in the city.

A Dangerous Journey Through Syria

The cause to fail from Aleppo to the border with Turkey proved to be the greatest part dangerous leg of Mazd and Rania’s ramble from Syria to Europe. They traveled ~ the agency of bus, often crossing roadblocks and areas controlled through opposing parties; at times, Rania had to top everything but her eyes to shun undue attention.  

They crossed the Turkey-Syria adorn with a ~ with help of traffickers, and in consequence made their way to Istanbul. From there, they found a trafficker to alleviate them with the next leg of their expedition: crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Finding a trader wasn’t hard. In fact, formerly in Istanbul, “it is excessively easy,” Mazd says. The marry found their trafficker through friends who had before that time made the crossing. Even if they hadn’t been practical to rely on their friends, the bond said there were other means of touch, since traffickers advertise on social media.

After acquisition a ride to the Turkish strand, the couple reached the beach whither they’d set off for Greece. They ground more than 200 other refugees staying to board the little boats that would take them athwart. The trafficker divided the group into boats of 40 lower classes.

Mazd and Rania say they were favored. The sea was calm that ~light — Feb. 23, 2016 — and they didn’t be stirred they were in danger. Officers from the Greek Coast Guard approached their stolid boat and accompanied them to the Greek isle of Lesbos.

Alexis Gaglias/HuffPost Greece Mazd and Rania are participating in a United Nations program that accommodates refugees in Greece as long as they wait to be resettled in other countries.

From Despair In Idomeni To A Hotel In Athens

From Lesbos, it took Mazd and Rania three days to result the Greece-Macedonia border. When they arrived, they were confronted with some of the most difficult days of their rove. The refugee camp at the frontier was badly overcrowded, and the link together had trouble even finding a portable lodge.

“We got sick there,” Rania says. “They were effective us that the people who got in that place before others would cross the borders chief, but basically everyone would go through as they could. At some epigram, we were just told the march was shut.”

Mazd and Rania had applied in the place of the UNHCR relocation program before title to Idomeni. They passed their conference with asylum services in late March and were brought to Athens with a group of other refugees. They’re staying in a public-house until they can be relocated to a different country willing to receive them.

The program is generous to all refugees — people whose home countries are overmuch dangerous for them to return. Refugees in specially vulnerable situations, like families with young children or nation suffering from chronic illness, are prioritized. While the program has been running inasmuch as last November, interest has spiked because Macedonia closed its border with Greece in March.

Praksis, the Greek NGO that helped Mazd and Rania, has agreements by more than 15 hotels across Athens. More than 2,000 refugees are it being so that living in hotel rooms in the good, and another 500 refugees are sheltered in apartments.

“We own been staying at the hotel conducive to 10 days now. These are the quietest days seeing that we left Aleppo,” Mazd says.

Mazd and Rania come short to continue their studies once they resettle. They’d like to live in Germany or France, to which place their family members and some of their professors live, goal they know the program doesn’t relinquish refugees to choose the country they resettle in. Nor is it plain they’ll be able to stay indefinitely in the country they’re assigned to. Every abiding habitation examines asylum claims individually, according to its acknowledge criteria.

The two say they were shocked ~ dint of. the difficulties they encountered on their ramble. Friends and acquaintances had said they’d arrive at it to their destination in righteous five days.

For now, Mazd and Rania self-reliance have to wait. It’s officially supposed to take couple months to complete the relocation train, but in practice, it takes longer. Still, they reply they’re grateful to UNHCR and Praksis concerning supporting them through the program.

Rania says she’d like to return home when the war is from one side to the other and the situation in Syria improves, however Mazd says he wouldn’t.

Ahmad And Samia: From ISIS-Held Territory To The Netherlands

Alexis Gaglias/HuffPost Greece Ahmad and Samia besides left behind a home in Aleppo to pass unobserved the war’s violence with their three children.

Ahmad, every electrical engineer, and Samia, a pharmacology observer, lived in Aleppo until just a scarcely any weeks ago. Over the past year, they watched while Islamist militants took over their vicinity and established new rules — requiring, in opposition to example, that women completely cover themselves.

The militants ruthlessly punished those who didn’t comply. “If you set at nought, the punishment is beheading,” Ahmad says. “The heads are exhibited in c~tinuance poles in the town.”

The brace was eager to leave, but it wasn’t not straitened . “We were trying to generate out for months. But it was beset with ~y, as you are deemed a insurgent for wanting to go live where Islamic law doesn’t apply,” Ahmad explains.

But at what time Russian and Syrian army jets started to ball the neighborhood earlier this year, the wed no longer had a choice. Bombs be successful close to their house; nearby neighbors were killed.

Ahmad says that through of 20,000 people living in their territory, only a few hundred are left things being so — either because they can’t farewell or because they support the Islamists.

The wed escaped the city with their three children latent under a big tarp in the back of a merchandise. They breathed a sigh of relief once the truck crossed into Free Syrian Army domain.

From the FSA-held area, the line of ancestors took a bus to the Syria-Turkey frontier and paid a trafficker $60 by means of person for help crossing into Turkey.

Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters Ahmad, Samia and their children crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece without interrupti~ Feb. 19, 2016.

“Lights From Afar Gave Us Hope”

Ahmad, Samia and their children stayed at the Turkey-Syria make a ~ for for two months before taking the nearest step toward Europe. In the Turkish coastal incorporated town of Izmir, they paid another merchant $700. With 40 other people, they were taken to the strand in a van late at darkness. Ahmad noticed that two cars went in our teeth of them, probably to check with regard to police roadblocks.

After waiting for hours up~ the body the beach, they boarded the rubber dinghy that would take them across the sea.

“We crossed steady Feb. 19,” Ahmad says. “The ocean was calm, but the boat was to a high degree slow. We got in at 2:30 and reached the shore at 6 a.m. While we were at wave, we were constantly hoping that a Greek Coast Guard ship would be at hand us. Finally, we reached the shores of Lesbos ~ward our own. Its lights from wide away gave us hope.”

In Lesbos, Ahmad was filled in steady UNHCR’s accommodation and relocation program. He was forthwith drawn to it because it was ~ized — he was tired and wanted to forbear traffickers and the hide-and-attempt game at the border.   

“We Are Being Taken Care Of”

The lineage now lives in an apartment in Athens supposing by the program. “We are root taken care of. The people of Praksis bestow us food, clothes, toys. They with truth support us,” Ahmad says.

Ahmad’s extended kindred is scattered because of the contest of nations: One brother lives in Lebanon, not the same in Turkey, and one of his sisters is calm in Syria. Ahmed’s father is moreover part of the relocation program and lives in a inn nearby. Ahmed goes to see him every afternoon.

In just a few days, the subdivision of an order will depart for the Netherlands.

“I be without us to have a normal life, bring about postgraduate studies, find a job. Most of every part of, I want my children to own an education,” Ahmed says. “My son is seven years ~en and he hasn’t been to educate yet; the jihadists shut them the floor. They want uneducated people whom they can manipulate. There are 10-year-sagacious children among them, armed and dangerous.”

“There are three kinds of commonalty among the jihadis,” Ahmad continues. “Robbers and looters, agents of mysterious services and uneducated, stupid people who come like sheep and don’t perceive that Islam is thinking, loving and catching care of your fellow man, not wishing his dying.”

This story originally appeared in HuffPost Greece. It has been translated into English and edited towards clarity.

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