Hala Baroud, 28 years old, from Latakia, Syria

Part 1

“My name, Baroud, it means gunpowder. But Hala, means the light of the moon.” Hala is a truly radiant woman, who beams with positive energy and manages to brighten up any situation.

She starts to tell us her story, “I miss my life in Syria before the war. I used to love to go for walks, visit friends and smoke narguile with my girl friends. But what I miss the most is being with my parents.” Hala’s mother and father stayed behind in Syria with her four sisters and two brothers, and she hasn’t seen them for four years.

When the war broke out, Hala’s husband, Ahmed, was working in the United Arab Emirates. His brother was in jail in Syria, because he had refused to join the military. Hala recalls: “Government officials would regularly come to my house and search all the rooms, without any warning. My son Farouq was only 1 year old, and it got scary, so I decided to join my husband in the United Arab Emirates.”

She first went to Lebanon, and then flew to Dubai, where the family lived for four years. “It was a time of pure happiness. Everything was beautiful and perfect, I could never imagine I would have to leave one day.” But when her husband found another job and applied for a different working visa, the Syrian war was well into it’s fifth year, and there was strong discrimination against Syrians in the Emirates. “They refused his visa, and they called us. We had 48 hours to leave the country. We flew to Turkey in November last year. I was devastated, we had to leave everything we had built as a family in Dubai behind.”

Photo: Clara Veale / Story: Voices of Refugees

Part 2

Within the first days of arriving in Turkey, Hala and her husband decided to try the crossing to Europe. The Turkish coast guard caught them, and took them back to Istanbul after detaining them for 24 hours. The winter made it more difficult to cross, and so they decided to wait until the spring to try again. Ahmed found some work, and they lived in Istanbul for 4 months. “Turkey is a beautiful country, but the people are difficult. They don’t like Syrians and we faced a lot of discrimination.”

In March, they tried again to cross, this time successfully. Hala explains, “At the beginning, there were 52 people in our boat, all from different countries. But the boat was only 9 meters long, and so many people refused to get on board. We had Farouq who was still young, and I was pregnant, so I did not want to get on board. Finally, so many people refused that there were only 28 of us who got onto the boat, and it made it much safer.”

“When we arrived at the refugee camp, I cried and cried. ‘How can we live here, in tents, in the middle of a forest, when it is so cold and muddy?’ I told my husband. It took me two months to get used to the idea that this was our life now, that we are truly refugees.”

Hala explains that the people of the camp call her ‘soap’ because she loves to socialise and is always sliding from tent to tent for tea and a chat. “I have many friends here who help me to forget our suffering. The days pass one by one. Now it’s been 7 months since we arrived, and I am almost used to living here.” 

 

Photo: Clara Veale / Story: Voices of Refugees 

Part 3

Hala has just given birth to little baby Farah, who is just under one month old. When we asked her about her experience being pregnant in the camp, she grimaces and signals that she felt like she was dying. The other women around laugh, but they all know what she means.

“I was always tired and had pains in my back because of sleeping on the floor. The doctors told me I had low blood pressure but they were not there to help when I was in pain. The Red Cross took me only once to see a doctor in the nearby town during my whole pregnancy here, and so I had to rely on generous volunteers who could take me to the hospital for check-ups and scans.”

“One day, I was in the hospital for a check up because I was suffering a lot, and the doctor said that I was already 39 weeks along, and that I had to give birth now, because I was already very late. I was shocked because the Red Cross had given me an incorrect due date, several weeks later.” So the doctors performed a C-section right then, and baby Farah was born.

“I stayed in the hospital for five days with my little Farah. When I held her for the first time, I was so happy, but I was also crying, because I was far from my home and my family. My mother and sisters were not there to help me. I suddenly felt very alone.”

 

Photo: Clara Veale / Story: Voices of Refugees

Part 4

“One of the most difficult things for me here is the feeling that I have lost my family, my husband, and I have lost my son here. We used to have it all, but now we depend on the volunteers for food, for clothes, for everything. We have to ask for the smallest things, like some washing powder - it is humiliating. My son asks me for something but I cannot buy it for him, so he asks the volunteers instead. He has become a beggar, like a street child, and I cannot stand to see that. I feel like I have lost him to this place.”

“If Europe knew what was happening to the children here, they would not let us live here, like animals. We left Syria because we wanted to live in peace. We lost everything to come here, and now I don’t feel either safe or at peace at all. I am always tired and angry, and as a result, I fight a lot with my husband because of the stress.”

“My hope is that we get asylum in an English speaking country and that my children can go to a good school. I want my husband to find work, so that we never have to depend on charity again.”

 

Photo: Shayanne Gal / Story: Voices of Refugees

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