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Humans of New York: Series on Syrian refugees

Reine Azzi shared this link Humans of New York

I want to begin this refugee series with a post from the summer of 2014.

This is Muhammad, whom I first met last year in Iraqi Kurdistan.

At the time, he had just fled the war in Syria and was working as a clerk at my hotel. When war broke out, he’d been studying English Literature at the University of Damascus, so his English was nearly perfect.

He agreed to work as my interpreter and we spent several days interviewing refugees who were fleeing the advance of ISIS.

As is evident from the quote below, I left Muhammad with the expectation that he’d soon be travelling to the United Kingdom with fake papers.

I am retelling the story because I have just now reconnected with Muhammad. He will be working again as my interpreter for the next ten days.

But the story he told me of what happened since we last met is tragic. (1/6)

————————————————————-

“The fighting got very bad. When I left Syria to come here, I only had $50. I was almost out of money when I got here.

I met a man on the street, who took me home, and gave me food and a place to stay. But I felt so ashamed to be in his home that I spent 11 hours a day looking for jobs, and only came back to sleep.

I finally found a job at a hotel. They worked me 12 hours a day, for 7 days a week. They gave me $400 a month.

Now I found a new hotel that is much better. I work 12 hours per day for $600 a month, and I get one day off.

In all my free hours, I work at a school as an English teacher. I work 18 hours per day, every day. And I have not spent any of it. I have not bought even a single T-shirt.

I’ve saved 13,000 Euro, which is how much I need to buy fake papers. There is a man I know who can get me to Europe for 13,000. I’m leaving next week.

I’m going once more to Syria to say goodbye to my family, then I’m going to leave all this behind. I’m going to try to forget it all. And I’m going to finish my education.”
(August 2014 : Erbil, Iraq)

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