Dilovan Abdo, from Al-Hasakah, Syria
“I, Dilovan, have the dream that one day we can live in peace in my country, Syria, the country that we have lost.”
“Because of a war we do not understand, everyday there are thousands of deaths, no food, no water, no electricity and absolutely no work. I have a bride to take care of, and a younger brother. We have ISIS on one side, the Kurdish army on the other and the Syrian state with Bashar Al Assad as the third part, all asking us to join in and fight with them. I didn’t like the idea of staying in my city waiting for an ISIS raid: it would have been risky especially for my wife, who could have been kidnapped and who knows what else.
So, like millions of Syrians who are on my same journey, I decided to try to get to my parents in Hannover. But as I am too old for the German rules to ask for a family reunification and safely travel by plane, I saw no other possible choice but leaving my home behind and start to walk to Europe.”
“Here is how my journey started:
In 2016, exactly on February 17th, I left my home city Al-Hassakeh, my relatives, my friends, my studies, and my childhood memories, heading to Ad-Darbasiyah a small Syrian city on the border between Syria and Turkey, with my wife Avin, who is 21 years old and my younger brother Hussein, also 21 years old. We stayed in Ad-Darbasiyah with some relatives for 20 days while trying to cross the Turkish border through – the only way possible – a smuggler.
I remember that during our first attempt to cross the border, we were caught by the Turkish Army and were brutally beaten. They damaged my eyes and my abdominal area. We tried again, the second time to cross via the Syrian – Iraqi border through Al-Malikiyah another small Syrian city, again through a smuggler, who asked for 750$ each, so a total of 2250$.
Finally we crossed the border and reached Duhok, in the Kurdistan-Iraq region. However when we got there, the smuggler cheated us and ask for more money or he would call police to take us back. So we had to pay another 900$. The next day we travelled to the Turkish-Iraqi border. We passed relatively easily this time, but upon our arrival we were arrested by the Turkish army who kept us in a secured building for two weeks, “while checking our identities”. It was not a pleasant place at all. The building was of 3 floors, with small tiny rooms, that accommodated 30 people each, all from different nationalities.
Finally, after taking us to Shemdinli city, where we stay with 2000 other refugee in basket-ball field for one day, the Turkish army let us go, on March 21st.”
“We took a bus to Istanbul. There, we had to deal with another smuggler, who asked us for 550$ each (a total of 1650$) to take us to Izmir, on the Turkish coast, and cross the sea to Greece. We embarked on a 6 x 1.5 meters inflatable boat, along with 50 other people. The first time, we were caught on the sea by the Turkish coastguard, and returned to Izmir. That same night at 3:30a.m, we tried to cross again and were lucky enough to reach the island of Chios in Greece.
Life in Chios camp wasn’t very decent. We were up to 6 families living in each container, not much running water, no possibilities to have clean clothes. We stayed in the camp for 10 days, and then one day the police came and called for everyone from Syria to gather and told us we could move to a smaller camp, on the island of Leros.
The Leros camp was closed by gates, surrounded by police and barbed wires: we stayed there for 4 months. The conditions of living in the camp were very difficult: we had no information about our situation, nothing to do but queuing for food, waiting for help, but we had no idea about anything. Again we were lucky enough to escape to the capital of Greece, Athens, but we had no official documents certifying that we were refugees from Syria (although we have Syrian identity cards), so no camp received us.
In Athens, we stayed in a squat, together with other refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. After staying for 3 weeks in the squat, we headed to Thessaloniki to try and cross the border with Macedonia dealing with a smuggler who took us with another group of refugees. Our journey was a 3 day long walk under the rain, with no food and no water.”
“When we tried to cross the border, the Macedonian police caught us and we were taken back to the Greek side of the border. I guess we were all determined to try again. During our second attempt, we rode in a small car but unfortunately we had a road accident: the police caught us once again and put us in jail in Skopje; the Gazi baba jail in the capital of Macedonia. I was kept with my brother in a men’s cell, and separated from my wife for 40 days. The jail was in bad conditions, the food was expired, we were badly treated. Two people tried to commit suicide while we were there. In addition, we were given Rosina, a pill that sedated us.
After 40 days, we appeared in front of a court and were sent to an open camp in Skopje. Again, the camp was in terrible conditions and we were given only one, uneatable meal per day.
After a week, we found another smuggler to cross the border between Macedonia and Serbia, paying 500€ each. We took a taxi to a small Macedonian village on the border with Serbia, Loyan, which was full of mafia. We stayed for 5 days, but could not cross the border. We decided to go back to the open camp in Skopje, because my wife was not feeling well. However, the open camp did not receive us, so we had to spend two nights in a Mosque. I had lost 1500 € in the attempt to cross into Serbia.
We had to try again to get to Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, so we went back to the small village of Loyan. The smuggler then asked us for 300€ each, a total of 900€ which I could not afford. This time, my brother had enough cash to pay.
We tried several times to cross into Serbia, but in the end, the Macedonian police caught us and sent us back to Greece. After 3 painful months of exhausting travelling, with no certainties, no maps, no one to trust to move on, we were back to square one, back in Athens.
“It has now been 11 months since I have left my country, Syria. I try to fight despair and anger at my rights being constantly violated, for the violence we have to bear, for the lack of a decent life, decent food, decent shelters, for constantly facing how things are so unfair for us refugees running away from war. However, I am keeping the hope to reach Germany, and join my parents.
I shall continue my path especially because of my wife, to protect her from possible violence from Isis, for the children that could come along one day, for their future.
I also hope that one day I will be able to complete my degree in Law."
Dilovan, Hussein and Avin finally reached Hannover in 2017. They are in the process of getting their asylum status in Germany. Avin and Dilovan have a beautiful little baby girl, and Dilovan will be starting a course at University this year.
(Note: This story has been edited for the Voices of Refugees platform. The original story was written by Melissa Pignatelli on LaRivistaCulturale.com. To read the full, unedited version in English, please visit The Cultural Magazine website.)