Hassan, 35 years old, from Swaida, Syria
Is it true that a human can decide his own destiny ?
Is it true that a human can make his own choices ?
It is true that in times of crisis and war the destiny of others and their choices may determine my destiny and my choices.
It is also true that the crisis ended for those who were killed because of it, their suffering has stopped and they will finally get the peace they desired - yet it is only the beginning of the tragedy for those of us who were left behind…
My name is Hassan, and I am a Syrian, 35 years old, and single. I belong to a small religious group called "Druze". I used to define myself in the past as educated, cultured, open-minded, as someone who believed in the concepts of freedom, truth, justice, and equality among people.
I travelled to United Arab Emirates in 2006, and left behind my family consisting of a sister, brother, and my parents in Syria, and dreamed of building a good future and a happy life for all of us. Like in most travels, I began to work hard and my dreams started to find their way to my reality... until 2011, the year the crisis in Syria began.
As a kind of pressure to go back to Syria and join the fight, and because of my opposition against the regime, the Syrian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates refused to renew my passport. I thought, how can I join a fight where a brother kills his brother, a fight where we do not know who is right and who is wrong, a fight that will make us all criminals? I refused to return, and I am still bearing the consequences of my decision. Sometimes I have doubts and regrets that I made the wrong decision, and that maybe it would’ve been better to go back and die there in peace.
As a result and after the embassy refused to renew my passport, the company I worked with in the United Arab Emirates terminated my contract due to their inability to renew my residence visa without a valid passport. Then, a series of legal proceedings were started against me by the Immigration Service, the Department of Labour, and different banks for not being able to fulfill my financial obligations.
How strange is life ! From a cultured, fun, dreaming man to a fugitive from justice, treated like a criminal - not because I did something that deserves to be punished, but because I said no and made a choice against war…
How strange our dreams are ! Suddenly, going from having success and a happy future to a dream of a clean bed and a hot meal only!
7 years have passed since I saw my family for the last time.. I have a sister whose husband died and I could not attend his funeral, a brother who refused to fight and became an internal fugitive inside Syria wanted by the security services, a father who had a surgery for cancer two weeks ago and I could not be at his side, and a mother whose voice I don’t hear as much as her cry.
The last two years were the toughest - no place to sleep, only in public gardens or on the steps of buildings. Oh God, it is so hot in this country, I didn’t eat for days and I was used to being rejected by everyone when I ask for a job, even in restaurants as a dishwasher.
During that time i saw no hope and no light at the end of my tunnel, I only saw the words “THE END” glaring like the frame shown at the end of any movie.
Well, the rest of my story is not much. Except that three and half months ago, the police caught me and they put me in jail because of my illegal situation. During that time, my father died, and for the first time in my life, I knew that there is a kind of sadness that will never leave you, you will not be the same person that you were anymore. I learned how to cry silently.
At the end, the government released me temporarily after they made the decision to deport me in one month’s time. I have no idea where I should go, as no country is allowing us refugees to enter, but I think this is for the better because I truly wanted them to catch me a long time ago and end this tragedy. Yes I have no idea what should I do, but I am surely more happy now than I was before. This is an apology I owe to my family because I let them down and I could not make them proud.
Photos & Story contributed by: Hassan (Instagram: @h_k1981)