Mohammed, 33 years old, from Aleppo, Syria

Part 1

Mohammed and his wife Rima have 5 sons; Nuri is 10 years old, Ali is 8, Abdul is 6, Ibrahim is 4 and baby Ahmed, who was born in the refugee camp in Greece, is only 7 months.

“In Syria, children are learning about war and hate. They see corpses on the streets, hear people discussing who has died that day, and see death every day. Our children are seeing things that are not even in films forbidden to under 18s in Europe. I don’t want my children to learn in the school of death, I want them to learn in the school of humanity, I want them to learn about dignity, and love. That is why we came to Europe.”

 

Photo & Story: Clara Veale

Part 2

After fleeing Syria, Mohammed took his family to Kurdistan, in Iraq, where they lived for over a year. He says life was good there, but they found it difficult to find work to sustain their family. Eventually, they were forced to leave, and like many others, crossed Turkey to get on a boat destined to Europe.

Mohammed doesn’t know how to swim, but had to convince his whole family to get on the unreliable smuggler’s boat. When asked about whether he hesitated to get on the boat, he explained: “We had two choices: one, get on the boat even though no one knew how to swim, or two, go back to Syria and die under the bombs. Yes, there was the possibility that we would die in the sea, but we also thought about the possibility of living the dream life that everyone is yearning for.” 

“Rima was pregnant with Ahmed when we crossed over to Europe, and we both believed Ahmed would be born in the country of our dreams. But we didn’t realize that we would be stuck in Greece waiting for our case to be processed for so long.” Mohammed and Rima have been living in a tent at a rural refugee camp in Greece for the past 8 months. Their baby was the first baby to be born in the camp, 7 months ago.

Photo & Story: Clara Veale

Part 3

Mohammed never considered himself much of a gardener, though his family had a plot of land in Aleppo that grew beans, tomatoes, and zucchini. But after several months at Ritsona refugee camp feeding his kids the same packaged croissants and juice boxes day in and day out, he grew frustrated.

“The food the military brings is very expensive. Why not bring tomatoes and potatoes? With those, we can eat for a week,” he says.

In midsummer, Mohammed obtained seeds and dug out a small patch of the dry soil behind the camp. He planted onions, peppers, squash, and other nutritious vegetables that his family commonly ate back home. He pulls up a photo on his phone of a bowl of green beans.

“Last week we had one kilo,” he says.

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Photo & Story: Allison Voigts

Part 4

“We had heard that some countries did not treat refugees well, but we thought that if there are 27 countries in the European Union, we would find one that will welcome us. We saw on TV people welcoming refugees at train stations so we thought it would be easy.

 

Most people think Europe is heaven, but now we know it’s not true. Our life here is far from being the safe and proper life we believed we would get in Europe.”

 

“My boys cry a lot here, in the camp. My son Abdul, he tells me “You lied to me, you said that we will have a nice life in Europe, but we don’t.” He is only 6 years old so he doesn’t understand how difficult it is for us, but it still breaks my heart. I can’t give them even the most basic things.”

 

“Despite everything that has happened, I still have hope that one day, our children will be able to live the life of our dreams.”

 


Photo & Story: Clara Veale

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