Global Voices #CA1

The story of a Syrian refugee, Hassan Jamous, 24, who learns to smile again. (website)

*read the bold words at the bottom to know why i chose this story*

Hassan, together with 20 others escaped to Germany by the help of a smuggler in a city called Munich which was their first destination. They got out of the back of the chicken truck after a very long journey.

“are we really in Germany?” asked Hassan to himself in disbelief as no police came to arrest them as they change their clothing for another journey.

The smuggler then told all of them to wait at an area for 15 minutes and then proceed to go on their own. the smuggler drove off. Hassan went alone and decided to look for the first police officer. after  a while, he knew he couldn’t do this alone, so he noticed two guys and a little boy who luckily seems to have come from the same city(Damascus). he was asked if he could speak English and then..

“we are going to a city called Saarbrucken. They say the people there are nice and the procedures there are faster for the refugees.” said one of the men. So Hassan decided, why not?

A television screenshot Hassan took of his home street in Syria. Hassan lived in a suburb of Damascus called Darayya, the site of intense fighting between the Syrian regime and rebel forces. (Hassan Jamous)
Hassan’s hometown where intense fighting occurs in between the Syrian regime and the rebel forces.

they flagged down a cab. the driver asked if they had any money and with a small laughter, Hassan said, “of cause we do”. They took a trip to the nearest main bus station which was their second destination. through the journey, Hassan looked out of the window admiring the lands of Germany, thinking deeply about whether he could really build a future here in this new home of his. Finally at the main bus station they took the first bus going towards their third destination.

Six hours went by in the bus and Hassan spent most of his time sleeping as he was too hungry and tired after all this intense travelling across so many cities. At Saarbrucken, there was a huge refugee camp for many other nationalities and not only the Syrians. The camp was packed with lots of queues and noise. Noise from the refugees talking to one another about their lives and queues for the rations of food being given out. After receiving his food, he was sent to a room where he could and then rest. Hassan, starving and also tired, did all this quickly.

A week later, he was transferred to another camp in Trier, his fourth destination. When he was being transferred, he felt a bit confused but the administrator explained kindly that it is normal that this is done in Germany. Hassan was surprised or taken aback as she could smile easily and express such kindness. Next, the refugees who were going to be transferred were given train tickets and a map so they can famililarise themselves in the country.

“Is it really OK to be here?” he thought to himself as he was in the train.

He felt rather uncomfortable most of the time as he was new to everything. The camp in Trier was much smaller and contained a fifth of the total number of people from the previous camp. There was very little place to sleep in over there so he spent his first night sleeping in the hallway. The following day, a group of them had to be transferred again including him. at first thought, Hassan thought the people there hated them but his perspective changes everyday as he notices them with big smiles whenever they nicely treated them. His fifth destination.

Friendships are not easily made as Hassan knew that he wont be able to see them for a while since they are constantly being transferred. Waiting is done everyday for the refugees as they had to wait for their food, to get on a bus or to get in the shower. One thing that he cannot wait for, is the chance to be transferred to a real house where he can finally experience the life of a normal citizen of Germany.

28 days have passed since he stepped into Germany and he felt used to staying in the camps such that he came up with strategies to get food. The only difficult part to him was sleeping as he slept in a huge tent with another 200 refugees whereby some of them made lots of noises. In the day, you can see most of the refugees playing sports to amuse themselves. The children were the ones who are mostly happy as you can always see them running around. “It was a scene hard to see in Syria anymore” said Hassan. Their lives were not perfect, but at least it was safe.

Finally he got the news where he would be transferred to a house in a small town called Stadecken-Elsheim with 6 others. He woke up 6 am early in the morning the next day to bid farewell to the camp and hopes not to come back there again. After registering his name, he was driven to a house, his sixth destination and hopefully one of his last. He was told by the employees that he will live with 5 others in the same house until they got their 3-year residence visas.

At his new home, He helped his roommates when they wanted to go to the dentists or the doctors. At first he was shy when it comes to speaking with the Germans, but wherever he went he saw sincere smiles. So his trust becomes stronger everyday. Sleep was still abit difficult but at least 5 is better than 200.

One day a volunteer came to help them with their German language. Her name is Migy, a German mother to Hassan. Again, even she smiles with such sincerity. It then occured to him that everyone never forgets to smile at them even though they did not smile. It seems like the refugees forgot how to do so.

Hassan stands in front of a whiteboard during German language classes in his new hometown. Credit: Hassan Jamous
Hassan during a German language class presenting at the front.

Hassan thought, “In the end, i didn’t need food or money or even a safe country. All i needed was a good honest smile.”

10 months of wait is finally over as he receives his residence visa. It is a long road for the future for him. He may not feel weak anymore but pain does hit him once in a while as he sees the news of new political parties taking advantage and getting stronger because of the Syrian and other refugees. Some say they are not educated enough, some say they are radicals.

“It’s a price we have to accept for the things that happened in Syria. But I am a human with big dreams. I will work hard to prove them wrong.”

Why this story? Well because i was very curious to see a life i have never experienced before. I appreciate that the German community are doing a good job by allowing refugees to stay and treating them nicely. After reading this story, i have more faith in humanity and i myself learn to appreciate the privileges i get from a safe country.


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