Ahmad, 25 years old, from Damascus, Syria
"My name is Ahmad Taha and I am 25 years old. I grew up in Damascus, the capital of Syria. I hold a degree in Information Technology Engineering. I started my studies in the first year of the war. After I graduated in 2015, I was working in my University as a Computer Network Basics Teacher for one month. I wasn’t able to continue the lessons due to the war."
"I arrived in Greece on March 9th, 2016. They sent me to Ritsona refugee camp on March 15th. I had my diploma with me and I started to give computer classes in the camp’s school, held by the NGO ‘I AM YOU’. I was very pleased with this course. The classes were taught in Arabic and I taught all levels, beginners and intermediate computer users, teenagers and adults. My goal was to educate students on how to use the Computer Networks, Windows, Microsoft Office, Word, Power Point, Access, Internet and other concepts of the Internet. At the end of the course the students had the chance to apply for an ICDL Certificate."
"The majority of the people in the camp want to continue their education. Many of them have had to drop their studies. Some others haven’t had the opportunity to go to the school. In Ritsona we do not have a real school, a real building but it is not bad. As part of the classes, I AM YOU operates a computer lab for women and men (separately) where they can practice."
"A few months ago we were living in tents and now the camp residents have containers. It is not the best solution but it is better than before. One other problem is that the internet in the camp is very slow but I AM YOU is trying to find a solution. Wherever I go, I would really like to find a job in my domain."
Photos & Story: I AM YOU.
Ahmad teaching a computer course at Ritsona refugee camp.
When Ahmad graduated in 2015 with a degree in computer engineering from Damascus University, he knew he had to leave Syria.
“Everyone who finished their studies had to go into military service. But I don’t want to fight with others; I don’t want to carry weapons,” he says.
When he arrived in Greece alone in March 2016, he hoped to apply to Master’s programs at some of Europe’s best schools. While he waited for his asylum interview, he decided to get involved with the education team at the camp, and taught geometry and algebra to middle schoolers, as well as the computer classes. Ahmad is also studying to pass the English language requirement for European universities.
“I chose computer engineering because you can work with it wherever you go,” he says.
Photo & Story: Allison Voigts
Recently, Ahmad was sent to France, through the relocation programs available to some Syrian refugees in Greece.
He says he has mixed feelings about moving to France, “I am very excited about going to France and happy to start a new life, but at the same time, I am a bit sad because I had a lot of friends in Greece (Syrian, volunteers, Greek), and I spent an enjoyable time there. Also, Greece is a very beautiful country and the Greek people are lovely and helpful. They received us and welcomed us when we were weak, I will never forget that. Ritsona refugee camp has most of my memories in Greece, especially the activities I did with the volunteers and the community, in addition to the 'street' I was living on in the camp, we were like one family; eating, living and hanging out altogether.”
Now, Ahmad is in Avignon, France, living in youth accommodation and waiting to receive refugee status in France so he can start applying for a Master’s and start his new life.
“The first week was so difficult for me because I don't know anyone here, and the situation is completely different. I want to make French friends and integrate into the French community. Then, I hope to get a good job in the IT field, and get into a Master’s degree program.”
Ahmad has a message for the French, and for all communities who welcome refugees around the world: “Today, we are refugees, but we used to be normal people like any person living in this world, we had normal lives with families, jobs, houses, cars...But the war and the terrible situation in Syria forced us to leave our country, and leave everything behind. Maybe some people see us in a bad light; that we are not good people, or that we are not educated, or that we don't know how life is here, but it is not true. We can adapt to any environment and integrate, if you welcome us.”
Ahmad is celebrating his 26th birthday today, Wednesday July 12th 2017. He doesn’t know anyone in Avignon yet to celebrate it with, but we wish him a very Happy Birthday from friends all around the world!
Photo: Ahmad Taha / Story: Voices of Refugees