I have an identity and I matter

WARNING: graphic images

I was a refugee in my own country long before I became a refugee because of the conflict. I never knew my father and under Syrian law that meant I wasn’t eligible for an ID card. No identity card meant I never had the chance to go to school. Life at home wasn’t easy either, I had difficult relationships with my mother and brother because they were both addicts. I remember I was only 10 when my mother kicked me out of the house because I refused to fund her addiction. Later I learnt through a Facebook video that she had been killed by Daesh.

I was living on the streets when the conflict began. I was 17 when I was arrested by Daesh. My crime was not knowing how to pray. I had never been taught. I was sent to a prison in Mosul where they tried to teach me their wrong interpretation of Islam. I was kept with other boys my age. They tried convincing me Syria was a bad place because it was westernised. I managed to escape back to my hometown in Syria and I had to hide in a flock of sheep for days to avoid them.

While trying to walk to safety, I was arrested by Assad’s police because I didn’t have ID papers and I was sent to Tadmur prison. The conditions were terrible. 14 people were shoved together into a 1.25m squared cell. I was tortured and whipped, and they extinguished cigarettes on my back. I only got out because a prisoner exchange was arranged.


I joined a group headed to Turkey where I was arrested again because I had no ID papers. They accused me of belonging to the PKK, but they let me go after 2 months because I couldn’t speak Kurdish. I crossed from Izmir to Lesvos by boat and travelled from there to Athens and Macedonia. Eventually I went back to Athens where UNICEF supported me through the EU refugee programme and I arrived in Luxembourg.

I was so weak when I arrived, I couldn’t ingest food and had to spend 3 months in hospital. It was in Luxembourg where I finally received an ID card and my refugee passport. I don’t miss Syria and I wouldn’t go back. I finally have an identity and I matter. People here are understanding and they have generally been kind to me. Unfortunately, people do generalise refugees and blame us if something goes wrong. I want them to know I am brave because of everything I have been through and I have never hurt anyone. I will not stop trying to improve my life just because I have an ID card. I want to work for the ICRC and help others, especially old people who arrive here not knowing the language. I want to help because I didn’t have any help and I don’t want others to go through the same thing. I want to help all marginalised refugees and fight prejudice.