A SURVIVOR, A FIGHTER, A HUMAN, A REFUGEE… RAFAT ALHAMOUD ‘MY STORY’

syriaBefore the start of the war, I nev­er thought about leav­ing Syr­ia. I had just been accep­ted to law school. My fam­ily had sev­er­al busi­nesses and life was great. Then the revolu­tion star­ted and it became dan­ger­ous to simply be a man. A trip to the super­mar­ket could end with a bul­let from a sniper or dis­ap­pear­ing from a check­point to nev­er be seen again.

I trav­elled to Leban­on in the hopes that things will soon calm down. But they didn’t. More friends dis­ap­peared. Fam­ily mem­bers died. And died. And died. It wasn’t really safe in Leban­on either. And we weren’t wanted and people made sure we knew it. There was no chance to work. So like thou­sands of oth­ers, I decided I would try my luck and find­ing peace, safety, and secur­ity in Europe. I knew I had to pass through death to find life.

I took a flight — which had mostly Syr­i­ans in it — to Algeria. From there we were packed into trucks like sheep to Tunisia where we waited. And then packed into trucks like sheep again to Libya. Through­out this jour­ney we were sur­roun­ded by armed men… Chased by wild pigs… And met people wait­ing in tents in the desert — some­times for a month — all look­ing for the same thing I was… Life. Fam­il­ies were sep­ar­ated from each oth­er. It was chaos.

In Libya we were packed tightly onto a wooden fish­ing boat. There was about 450–500 of us on the boat. Another 500 on the boat that fol­lowed right next to us. The boats were not made to handle that many people and ours star­ted to take on water. As a woman gave birth, we sat next to the burn­ing hot engine filling buck­ets of water to hand to the people upstairs to dump back into the sea.

It was blue as far as the eye could see. Blue skies. Blue seas that seemed to extend forever and ever. As we took on more water the weight began to shift. I was scared. Very scared. Not for me really but for the women and chil­dren that sur­roun­ded me. I kept ask­ing myself if they would all die. It was like this for hours before we were finally res­cued and brought to Ita­ly.

In Ita­ly I took the train to Mil­ano. And from there the train to France. And from there the train to Bel­gi­um. And from there the train to Hol­land. And from there the train to Ger­many. And then finally, the train to Den­mark. Through­out these 11 days I barely slept out of fear of being caught… Some­times I took a quick nap in a bath­room or the park. It wasn’t until I reached Den­mark and turned myself in to the Asylum ser­vice that I could breathe. I found life. I was safe. I was reborn again.

syrua

There are cer­tain exper­i­ences that leave you know­ing that from that moment for­ward, things will nev­er be the same. I’ve had sev­er­al of those in my life, but there is one that stands out from the rest. It was 11:30 p.m when my cous­in Nayef called to tell me that a ship had sank off the coast of Les­vos and my cous­in Fatima, her hus­band, and two chil­dren were miss­ing. They res­cued her oth­er two chil­dren earli­er. We needed to find answers and didn’t know how so I pos­ted in an Arab­ic group made for refugees called Kara­jat Al-Mashant­ateen ask­ing for any­one that could help. That’s when Neda Kad­ri found me and took on the case.

For the next two days none of us slept. She pos­ted in all the groups. Got in touch with act­iv­ists. Tried the Red Cross. We tried everything. On Hal­loween day she got the called that the two chil­dren had washed up on the beach. She called me to tell me and I begged her to not tell Nayef until I got to Greece to con­firm. They still hadn’t found the par­ents and we hoped and prayed that they were alive in a hos­pit­al some­where.

By the time I made it to Les­vos a couple days later, the bod­ies of my cous­in and her hus­band were found on the beach also. The entire fam­ily was gone. And it was my job to bury them. Except, there was nowhere to do that. There was no more room in any cemeter­ies on the island. And so, my cous­in, her hus­band, and their two chil­dren laid in a refri­ger­ated truck with about 70 oth­er bod­ies wait­ing to find a place to be bur­ied. And they waited. And, waited before finally being bur­ied 3 weeks later.

While we waited I found strength in help­ing the people that sur­vived the jour­ney that killed my cous­in and her fam­ily and star­ted volun­teer­ing on the coast. We received about 50 boats a day. It was mad­ness. Through­out this time I would send pic­tures and videos to Neda, who by now was a very close friend I spoke to every free moment I had. We barely slept. There was one night we were so tired we slept and didn’t work the coast. And on that night, 9 people died. I remem­ber feel­ing so guilty. Did they die because we weren’t there to help? That was the moment that help­ing people become my heroine. That was the moment I became addicted to help­ing those in need. I returned to Den­mark after the buri­al but I felt incom­plete. I felt guilt. I needed my drug. I needed to be back on the shores help­ing people. And that need was ful­filled when Neda trav­elled from the states to volun­teer and I fol­lowed. From that moment for­ward she was my part­ner in crime and we were togeth­er 247 we swam to boats togeth­er , cried togeth­er, helped people togeth­er…

Photo Credit: Micah Garen & Marie-Helene Carleton (Four Corners Media)

Pho­to Cred­it: Micah Gar­en & Mar­ie-Hele­ne Car­leton
(Four Corners Media)

My addic­tion became hers and our bond just grew and grew until we even­tu­ally fell in LOVE

We trav­elled to Den­mark togeth­er and she cried for first 48 hours we were there ..

she wanted to return to #LES­VOS to help more I wanted to do the same. And she come back from Amer­ica that is exactly what we did…

By then the Bor­ders had closed and our work became More and More towards human­it­ari­an said As our work Grew, so did our love and we even­tu­ally got mar­ried with our par­ents on speak­erphone and our fel­low volun­teers as wit­nesses

Help­ing people con­tin­ues to be the drug that keeps us going Today it’s Les­vos and tomor­row it might be some­where else but so long as we are togeth­er we will con­tin­ue our jour­ney of serving those in NEED.

For more inform­a­tion on how to sup­port or get involved with Rafat’s organ­isa­tion vis­it www.humans4humanity.org

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I Am Hip-Hop magazine welcomes contributions from guest authors. If you would like to review an event, please get in touch! iamhiphopmagazine[at]gmail.com