Fleeing from Syria to Germany: Mohammed’s story

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
© Dmitriy Vinogradov
I met Mohammed in the middle of a squalid and filthy camp in central Belgrade in Serbia about a month ago. I had been covering the refugee crisis, while Mohammed was preparing to cross into Hungary with a view to traveling to Germany via Austria.

It’s a journey that many have already made, giving up everything risking a high chance of death, for the opportunity simply to live.

Mohammed is 18 and from Aleppo. He was studying back home in Syria, and has dreams of doing so again in the future. He happened to speak perfect English as well as Arabic and so we talked for about 90 minutes while he waited for a smuggler to take him to the border crossing between Serbia and Hungary. It was there he told me his story.

Mohammed painted a picture of his journey up to that point, and also gave me his view of political events in his country, which had led to his parents ploughing all their money and resources into their son’s escape from the homeland they love. It’s a story that has stayed with me ever since, and one that I won’t forget.

Mohammed’s journey from Syria to Germany is illuminating in itself. Aside from the civil war, his views on which I shall come to shortly, Mohammed’s story is like so many others I have heard: he didn’t want to leave Syria, but neither did he want to fight for the army or any of the other armed and dangerous groups in Syria. He wanted a normal life free from bloodshed, as all Syrians want, but the civil war has made this impossible. This article is a result of conversations I have had with Mohammed in Belgrade and since he arrived in Germany.

© Michaela Rehle

Journey from Aleppo

Mohammed left Syria, leaving his mother and father in Aleppo, crossing the border into Turkey, eventually travelling by boat to Greece. His journey was fraught with danger, threatened by many armed groups and opportunists happy to rob and steal from refugees, and also with many perils posed by so-called officials. Tales of police officers and border officials demanding payments and bribes at various junctures are commonplace.

His passage from Turkey to Greece was a short but potentially deadly crossing by sea, the route having already claimed the lives of many others desperate to get to Europe. Thousands have died making the sea voyage from Turkey to Greece, and also attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Africa.

Mohammed tells me that his boat was a small dinghy. On board there were roughly 40 people who traveled from southwest Turkey, reaching the Greek mainland near the town of Mithimna on Lesvos. He says that on the boat there were three families: people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and also a man from Morocco. There were six or so children on board he says, roughly between the ages of five and 10.

The boat took about 45 minutes to make the short crossing. Mohammed tells me that at one point the boat started to fill with water and that everyone on board started to use their shoes to bail it out. When the waves began to buffet the side of the boat, he felt very frightened. He says he looked around to decide in which direction he would swim if the boat were to capsize. I can’t fathom having to make such a decision myself.

Luckily, his boat didn’t sink. From Greece Mohammed trekked through Macedonia and eventually into Serbia. It was there that I met him, as he prepared to try to cross into Hungary. At the time, the Serbian government had been preparing buses to transport refugees from Belgrade to the border with Hungary.

But like so many others Mohammed had decided to take the unofficial route with smugglers to the border and wanted to cross without being registered by the Hungarian authorities. If your aim is to get to Germany as a refugee, then it is important to avoid registering your details and giving you fingerprints in any country other than the one that is your destination.

I remember thinking, before he left, of the people who had been found dead in a truck by the side of the road in Austria, abandoned by smugglers and who had suffocated. I hoped he would change his mind and take the safer option and not put his trust in smugglers, many of whom had switched their trade as drug dealers to become people smugglers, the latter option being far more lucrative.

When I received a message a few days later to say Mohammed had made it to Germany I was relieved. He had been obliged to sleep in the woods for a few days, to avoid being arrested by police and had become sick as a result. In Germany he told me his health was on the mend. He was in better spirits.

He had made it to Germany, and he now began to tell me a little more about his view of the political situation in Syria.

War, friends and family disappearing were commonplace. Things were getting worse by the day in Aleppo. Mohammed didn’t want to leave Syria.

© Paul Hanna

Political View

In our conversations, Mohammed gave me a picture of Syria, which is complicated and has no easy solutions. According to Mohammed the media has got things wrong. On both sides!

He thinks the campaign undertaken by the Western media, suggesting ‘regime change’ with the help of a Western-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ is the solution to the war, is false. It is not a view shared by the majority of Syrians.

Mohammed says there were peaceful protests held by some Syrians at the beginning of the war, who indeed wanted changes in the Syrian government, but the suggestion by Western media that this was a call from Syrians for the removal of their government with a NATO backed operation is likewise false.

It’s also worth noting that Mohammed says the uprisings in Syria in the beginning were peaceful, that the government did respond with force, but then quite suddenly, almost from nowhere (just as during the Libyan war) many so-called rebels were quickly armed to the teeth and began fighting the Syrian army.

Also key is Mohammed’s belief that even those who held peaceful demonstrations in Syria prior to the outbreak of the civil war, calling for changes to the system, did not want armed rebels fighting in their country trying to overthrow the government, nor did they want any intervention from NATO.

Internal disagreement among Syrians with the Syrian authorities does not translate into a desire for a Western backed removal of the Syrian government as many have falsely been led to believe. If you were to look through the pages of much of the media, you would think Syrians want NATO bombs to fall on their country. Unsurprisingly, and in reality, they do not.

Despite any opposition to the government, most Syrians see Assad as the only representative of Syria who can currently speak for the country at the UN, and believe that it is not the West’s job to decide the political future of Syria. Even though Mohammed believes Assad is the only person who can legitimately speak for Syria, he was also clear to me that Assad does not speak for all Syrians.

Also important, which contradicts the peddled falsehoods, is the view shared by most Syrians that many of the so-called rebels, dubbed as ‘moderate’ by Western media, are far from moderate. They have links to Daesh [Islamic State] and Al-Qaeda and have been guilty of some of the most depraved acts of murder, including chopping off heads and cannibalism.

© Stringer

The non-existent 'moderate' opposition

There are no moderate rebels. This is another fallacy expounded by the MSM. All the death squads, which have taken part in mass murder and rape, are being armed by outside entities, intent on destroying Syria and turning it into a failed state. Who those entities are is another question.

Syrians who called for change in Syria, do not want the version of it being offered by the same NATO forces and NATO backed rebels (death squads) with the same NATO strategy, which resulted in the divide and ruin of Libya.

Every Syrian I spoke to in Hungary and Serbia made a clear distinction between the peaceful political revolution taking place in Syria, and the crazed death squads murdering and killing in Syria, which involve both NATO and the so-called moderate rebels.

Syrians want their own politics and their country back. They do not want outside interference from NATO, or any other murderous groups who might claim they are ‘rebels’ of a free army.

Mohammed doesn’t see any short-term solutions to the war in Syria, but believes the arming of terror groups must stop. He, like so many others, is convinced that the war is being prolonged, in order to empty Syria of its labor force, and to bring about a change in government that suits Western interests. Syria is one of the last opponents to Israeli hegemony in the region, and Mohammed says that he and most Syrians see this as another key factor in the drive to destabilize Syria.

Mohammed is one of the lucky ones. He made it, crossing land and sea over hundreds of miles to plunged into the unknown in a strange European country. We both agree, that even if the overt and covert war against Syria stops tomorrow, together with all the wars waged in the Middle East and North Africa, the stream of refugees leaving these lands for Europe will not let up anytime soon.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.