At that moment of his story, I crashed. I turned aside, turned my back and with no control I started crying . Three families, all with lost loved ones, staying in one small tent with not even a blanket in that ugly, cold weather and they were too proud to ask even for help, where is the justice?
Rafat Abu Aish :: Age 22 :: Palestinian :: law student
I am Rafat. I am a law student and a social activist.
As a Palestinian my grandparents and my people have lived as – and a large number of them are still living – a life as refugees, in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and all over the world. This fact gave me the belief that it’s the role of suppressed nations to help other nations in situations close to theirs. I felt very close to the Syrian situation since it started.
I believed so much in the Arab Spring and I am very sad for the way things turned out to be in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen and every other suffering Middle Eastern country.
I still believe that a day will come and the Arab youth will create a healthy democratic and liberal Middle East, and my role and ambition is to help achieve that goal by doing what I can. For that reason, I decided to help the refugees.
I never knew a lot about the Syrian issue and never supported any of the sides but I knew that people are dying, and those who aren’t exist in refugee camps around the world, suffering fear, hunger, mistreatment and the lack of important human needs.
I arrived in Greece on a Saturday alone, but I was greeted by friends. We were a part of an independent campaign called ” without borders ” our goal was to try and help as much as we could using the money we gathered in Palestine, we stayed for a week.
My family supported the trip, but found it weird that I travelled when I was having a hard time at home. Recently, I failed some courses in college. I have to pay high tuition fees, I work three jobs and I have no money. Whatsmore, I was recently sentenced five months of civil service by an Israeli court for taking part in a protest. My friends supported me greatly, trusting that I am would learn a lot and help as much as I can, they gave a lot of advice that helped so much.
There are Things, memories, things I learned, which I’ll take home from the camp, from conversations I had with some of the amazingly strong people I met . If I have to chose one of them I would definitely tell the story of Abu Saleh, an old Syrian man with his wife, son and daughter. Abu Saleh had a long white beard, he projected strength and power, yet he looked tired and he had clearly seen a lot in his life.
We had a short and important conversation, which started by me asking :
How are you grandpa ?
Alhamdulillah (blessings/thanksgiving) for everything
Abo Saleh, tell me about your life
AS: Son what can I say when the only thing I think about is the ignominy I am in?
Not for a moment in my life did I imagine that I will stand in a line to get food or sleep with my kids in a tent for months.
If I knew this is the situation before I would’ve stayed under the rockets in Syria with more dignity.
He taught me that a life with dignity could be more precious than a safe life.
The second night in the camp was the worst for me. At 23:00 at night, we were touring the camp to check some families, we met a lonely man next to his tent, Najeeb our contact from the camp asked him :
“As salaam alayakum” (Hello) , do you need any help brother? are you alone? do you have a family ? –
N: No thanks I am ok, we are staying here. Me, my wife two sons and one lady with her four months old son. She lost her husband on the journey, the army separated them and she’s waiting for him and another girl with her brother . –
Where is your tent? –
N: This one. –
It’s empty where are your things, clothes ? –
N: We have nothing we threw everything to the sea , the boat was sinking . –
At that moment of his story, I crashed. I turned aside, turned my back and with no control I started crying .
Three families, all with lost loved ones, staying in one small tent with not even a blanket in that ugly, cold weather and they were too proud to ask even for help, where is the justice?
The next day was also hard, I was happy to get three hours of sleep during the day , but I never expected that I would regret sleeping at some point in my life. I had the worst nightmare in my life in those three hours it was the kind of dream where you wouldn’t know if you were asleep or awake when it’s happening and after a long discussion with myself I believed that I was awake which made me feel worse.
What saved me from depression in that day was meeting Alaa , Oday and Aiman. Three young Syrians who have been helping volunteers since they arrived in the camp, the three of them are so different, but together they create a very strong educated and a good hearted team. I described them as pack of wolves due to the dynamics of the relationship they have. I spent a lot of time with them and got to know them very well, I learned a lot from their company and most important , I got the answers I was looking for when I came to Greece.
I was so stuck in my own failures and successes… torn apart by society, family and myself, but I never appreciated the chances, the luck that I have, the opportunity to try and succeed or fail. To live a normal life, to fight for myself. Some people like Alaa, Oday, Aiman, Najeeb and other hundreds of thousands of refugees are crossing seas to get that chance .