“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR US IS OUR CHILDREN. I WANT YOU TO LIVE IN A REALLY SAFE PLACE. SOME PLACE WHERE THEY STAY SAFE. I WANT TO FIND A GOOD JOB. I WANT A NORMAL LIFE, LIKE EVERYONE.”
When the war started, Ahmed was arrested by the regime, like many people. He was transferred from prison to prison so that no one would know where he was. A man came to see us and said that if we gave him money he would get Ahmed's body out of prison, so I immediately thought he was dead. It was a cruel thing to do, but in war, some people do terrible things. Ahmed's brother was killed because he didn't want to join the army. He was placed against a wall and killed by a firing squad. We left Syria in 2014. Nobody wants to be forced to leave their country, but we had to. Ahmed's trip was overnight in the mountains.
There were nine people with him but four of them were arrested when they arrived in Lebanon. The soldiers put hoods on their heads and took them away, but Ahmed managed to get through. The next day, a friend of Ahmed's made the same trip but someone in his group stepped on a land mine and two people died. I managed to legally leave Syria, but I had to travel alone with our one-year-old son. We used to live in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. It's surrounded by army checkpoints and they don't let anyone out. The situation was getting worse and we were all afraid that they would force us to return to Syria.
“BEFORE THE WAR, ZABADANI, SYRIA, WAS BEAUTIFUL. BUT NOW IT IS DESTROYED, THEY DESTROYED EVERYTHING. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE LOST YOUR ROOTS, THAT YOU'VE LOST ALL THE GOOD MEMORIES OF HOME.”
When we arrived in Ireland, the group was waiting for us at the airport. They had signs saying 'marhaba' (hello in Arabic) and 'welcome to Ireland'. It was an unforgettable moment!
It was really amazing to know that people wanted you to be here and that you weren't alone. Now they are our family here in Ireland, because we don't have anyone else here.