September 8, 2016
I was born in Homs on the 7th of November 1985. I arrived in Luxembourg on the 20st of November 2015. I am waiting for my refugee status for 9 months now…
My first name, Mario, is derived from the roman war god Mars. But I hate war. I actually think that the meaning of the roman civilization was referring to different types of war. I am a “god of war” in regards to studying!
I was born in the city of Homs in the Valley of the Christians zone (Wadi al Nassara).
To me the Valley of the Christians is the most beautiful place in the world…I love its picturesque nature, the mountains, forests and springs of water, ancient castles and modern universities. Most importantly, because it is a region that contains all religions and all coexisted peacefully.
Editor’s note: Wadi al Nassara is an area in western Syria, close to the Lebanese border and administratively belonging to the governorate of Homs. Wadi al-Nasara used to be a popular tourist site before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.
Its diversity, history and people are just amazing. I grew up in a family that is not religious, with a brother and three sisters. I am an atheist. I was briefed and educated on all religions and sects. I did not find myself in any of them. But at the same time, more importantly, I found myself.
He visited the majority of the globe.
My childhood was great. I was lucky. When he was home he taught us to love life, to love the whole world.
My mom worked as a nurse. Due to my father’s repeated and long absences, she was our mother and our father. She was a strong woman, she raised us strictly and was very concerned about our studies.
In 2003, my father had a car accident, he couldn’t travel or work anymore as a sailor. As a living, my parents started a supermarket at the ground floor of our house. 2003 was a tough year. My mother got sick with cancer that year. She was operated and treated successfully.
We are from middle-income family and we all studied in Syrian universities, which produced world-renowned doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, musicians and so on. My sister Marilyn studied law and administration just like I did, my sister Menas studied English literature, my brother Zafer studied Economics and my little sister Saada will now study architecture. My university education began in 2004 at Damascus University School of Law. I graduated in 2008, I was successful in all of the exams from first time. I love Law.
Beginning 2009, I entered the compulsory military service. I was lucky: during my military service I worked for the police, as an investigating judge. I was investigating on people smuggling cigarettes between Syria and Lebanon or trading gas and diesel between Iraq and Syria. I was giving assent to the court.
I was lucky my occupation was linked to my studies and most of all not to the army. I never carried a weapon. The other so-called judges working with me never had any training in law… they had no clue about what they were doing. They were abusive…
I finished my military service on the 1st of January 2011, three months before the beginning of the war in Syria.
With the start of the disaster in my country, I wondered what I could do for my country… I found the best way was to complete my studies. I decided to enter the field of management science because I think that one of the main reasons why Syria is in this situation is the bad management. I was accepted at the National Institute of Public Administration, together with my sister Marilyn. We had an intensive course in public administration for six months. In 2013, I got accepted to do the diploma in Management Informatics and graduated from it at the end of 2014. That’s when the University of Damascus accepted me to complete the Graduate master in Business Law.
It was my strong will and my passion for my studies that made me go to University every day, despite all the difficult circumstances, despite of all the bombings and rockets hitting Damascus.
When I recall these memories, I realize how much I really have been “warrior god” after all…
My goal was to become a judge. In 2013 and 2015 I entered the contest of the judicial administration in Syria. I passed the exams successfully twice. I was 42 out of 3200 participants, but I didn’t get accepted.
Syria is a corrupt country, unless you have a relative in the government, you’re from a certain community or are able to pay a large amount of money, you can’t become a judge.
Immigration is not an easy thing, but forced immigration is oppression.
I lived five years in Syria during the war. I didn’t leave Syria for a long time and I never actually thought I would leave it in future despite all my suffering, my pain and my exposure to the oppression by the government and the people.
But beginning 2015, I received a communication from the army. They told me to go back to the military service with the regular army in Daraa.
I went to Homs, the city I was born, to try to be exempted from the army. I believed that because I was a master student, they would release me. I was wrong. My request was not accepted because I did not inform them that I was a student initially. My studies didn’t interest them at all. When I showed up with my student certificate, they just threw it away telling me I have 3 days to enter the army.
I did not enter.
Instead, from February 2015 until my departure for Syria, I tried to live a “normal” life in Damascus. I continued going to University. I had my brothers ID card (he was abroad) in case they would check me. I could not get out of the city of Damascus because of the military police checkpoints. I could not visit my village nor my family, my mountains, my flowers (our living room is full of flowers…).
I was on the run from the military police in order not to go to the army till October when the government gave all the deserters an amnesty for military service giving us 30 days to settle our situation and enter or return to the army. Normally, in case the military service had found me, I would have gotten 3 months prison before I had to enter the army.
The amnesty made it possible for me to leave Damascus. It was without any hesitation that I took the decision to get out of Syria. I can’t fight with any of the conflicting parties. In my opinion, all parties are killers and criminals. Most of the people who carry a weapon in Syria are criminals.
I left Syria on the 7th of November 2015 (my birthday). I went to Lebanon on a bus and then to Izmir, Turkey, with a plane.
In Izmir, I went to a well-known bar called Sindbad the Sailor where a lot of the refugees meet to make the deals to cross the Mediterranean. I met a smuggler who put us in a rubber boat – about 42 people without life vests.
The Turkish police saw us get on the boat, we had to hurry though they didn’t seem really concerned. We had no time to grab the life vests. It was like a suicide attempt. Life is a failed suicide attempt.
During the crossing, I was very brave and bold. I do not know how to swim. Since it was shortly after my birthday, I decided to let fate decide: either I would be reborn in a new life or I would die.
I preferred to die than join the killing of any human being.
I had mixed feelings on the boat: I was relieved I escaped the army and very sad I wouldn’t see my mother, my family, my friends for a long time, a very long time.
In the middle of the sea, the boat stopped. The woman and also the men started crying. The guy that was steering the boat was a Syrian refugee. Usually, the one who drives the boat doesn’t pay for the trip.
While I was sitting in the boat, I didn’t search or look for the land. I was just looking at the sea. Really, it was an amazing color: blue with some oily green dots. My life, my death was linked to this color. It’s only later, when I arrived to Luxembourg, that I discovered the secret behind this color. Her eyes, my friend’s eyes, are the same color. She soothes me.
We reached Mytilene on the Greek Island Lesbos after 45 minutes. It was around seven o’clock in the evening. A lot of people came to rescue us to give us food, drinks and medication. Some people came to get the boat’s motor… that was awkward.
I was struck when I realized my father used to navigate in this exact sea as a sailor years before… while I was there under totally different circumstances now, as a refugee.
We were transferred to a camp. We slept in a tent, we were around thousand people in that camp. I was very tired, I hadn’t slept for 48 hours. The next day we were transferred to another camp and got on a huge modern ship that brought us directly to Kavala close to Macedonia within 5 hours.
I continued to Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia, Austria. I took many busses, trains… I was accompanied by Syrian families I had met in the boat. They had two children with them whom I took care of. The fact that the two children had to leave their country before seeing it, saddened me a lot. On the other hand, I was I glad they got the chance of a new beginning in life. Finally I arrived in Germany.
That was very impressive: they managed to redirect three thousands of refugees to different cities within 30 minutes.
I have a friend in Germany. His name is Suleiman. He is a doctor. He is not a refugee, he left a long time ago, before the war.
He advised me not to ask for asylum in Germany. He told me to go to Luxembourg. I knew I would go to Luxembourg when I left Syria. The only thing I took on the trip was my certificates and a backpack. My uncle borrowed me 2500 dollars.
When I finally arrived in Frankfurt, I collapsed physically and emotionally. My old friend Suleiman came for me in Frankfurt and took me to his home in Bonn. I stayed there three days to recover. I was sick. I forgot my vest in the camp in Greece and I caught a cold.
In Germany, they could not at all understand why I wanted to reach Luxembourg. They advised me to stay in Germany.
When I made the decision to migrate, I contacted my friends in Europe to inquire about the situation of the European countries. I also looked at various websites. I eventually found that the best country for me was Luxembourg.
The vast banking activity suits my two certificates in law and administration. I thought to myself: “Luxembourg is a cosmopolitan place where I’ll be able to use my English and will find work”.
I’m good in English and I’m currently learning French (every day actually since it is an intensive course). Also, the cultural mix, peace and tolerance remind me of the village I come from. To me, Luxembourg is in some way the Valley of the Christians (Wadi al Nassara).
I am wearing this bracelet since 2003.
It was a gift from me to myself for the new start in my life when I started my law studies.
I shared a lot of memories with it. I lost it today here in Luxembourg, one week after this picture was taken.
My dear, I wish you will be on a good hand. I will miss you .
Maybe it’s just a message from life refering to a new start here.
I’m here since nine months now. Really, I do not need any integration.
This is my universe. This is my life. I like this life.
Luxembourg is a beautiful country, people are kind.
I hold a degree in law and a diploma in management information from the University of Damascus. Additionally, I did a training course of six months in public administration at the National Institute of Public Administration in Damascus. I was a master student in business law but i couldn”t finish it because I left Syria during my master study .
I am very interested in doing a Master in Business Administration at the Sacred Heart University in Luxembourg. Unfortunately it costs around 30.000 euros – which of course I can’t afford. I have a big trust in life, I believe these studies aren’t meant for me and it won’t ruin my life. On the contrary, I’m ready and even keen to take a different path.
The other option I have, is finishing my studies at the University of Luxembourg (Master in Business law) but as long as I haven’t gotten my refugee status, I won’t be allowed as a regular student. Right now I am a guest student but I can’t pass the exams.
Luxembourg is a small country. Most people know each other here, this is what facilitates nepotism. I witness a great injustice: the day I gave my fingerprints to the ministry last November, I was with other Syrians. They obtained their status last month. I only had my first interview yesterday. I don’t understand. I have the feeling the system is not fair.
I ran from Syria’s corruption, I relied on Luxembourg to be fair… justice is very important to me. We are many in this case. We don’t understand why the procedures take so long. As long as we are asylum seekers, our lives are on hold.
I talk about this because I come from a country destroyed by corruption and nepotism.
I need the refugee status to finish my studies. I didn’t come here to get the RMG. I don’t need money. I can work. I will finish my studies and during my studies I will work part time to be independent financially.
I hate word hope, I usually replace it with the word work. “Do or die” .
I’m thankful for all my friends here from Luxembourg , Ireland , Britain , France , Portugal , Germany , Italy , Spain , China , Brazil , Jordan , Scotland , Canada , USA , Russia and Belarus. Really, you are my universal family.
لقد ولدت في سوريا ((أرض الآلهة)).
جدى حتما النبي.
جدتي لا محالة الآلهة.
والدتي هي شقيقة عشتار.
أبي هو ابن الله بعل.
لكن انا طالب ، احمل الله كما تفاحة في حقيبتي، ربط حذائي بواسطة حبل من الأنبياء، وأنا أمشي لجامعتي مثل سحابة من الدوافع.
I wrote this poem after seeing a terrorist bombing attack in front of a school in Homs. A lot of students were killed. I refer to the thoughts the children had on their mind when they died.