Ref. :  000041605
Date :  2018-05-17
Language :  English
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From Syria to Libya: Stalked by war

Francesca Mannocchi

Author :  UNICEF

Bassam and his family have been running from war for five years, only to have it chase them every step of the way.

image
© UNICEF video/2018/Mannocchi


“We have seen terrible things. Terrible,” says eight-year-old Bassam. “There were tanks everywhere, and from our house we constantly heard the sound of rifles.”

Though the scene is from recent memory, it could describe most of his childhood.

Bassam and his family – father Ali Mohammed, mother Nour, and brother Kinan – are originally from Syria, but they have lived in Libya for the past five years.

They left their war-torn country in search of a better life. But after years of moving from city to city, they have only been met with more pain.

Escape from Ghouta

In Syria, the family lived in Ghouta, an area outside the capital of Damascus, and Ali worked hard to build a future for his young family. He took care of his parents, too, both of them sick.

Shortly after the war began, his father's health worsened, and the whole family travelled to Egypt for his treatment. Ali hoped they could return home afterward. It was 2013.

But the situation in Syria was getting worse each day. When the siege of Ghouta began, Ali's family knew they couldn’t go back.

After a year in Egypt, they decided to move once again. Friends told Ali that he could easily find a job in Libya, that the country was optimistically facing the democratic transition from the Gaddafi era.

There was no way of knowing that Libya was about to fall into a new civil war.


© UNICEF Video



Families should not be forced to choose between war or risking their lives at sea. Yet, this is the devastating reality for this Syrian refugee family - and many others around the world.

Trapped in war

“I started working every job I found. I did what I could to support my family,” says Ali, who settled his family in the city of Sirte at first. “Meanwhile, Kinan, our second child, was born."

At the time, Sirte was occupied by armed groups. It was there that Ali’s son, Bassam, lived out the darkest days of his childhood.

“I remember one awful day,” says Ali. “They took a man, they killed him and strapped his body on a car, parading him through the streets of the city to show him to everybody.”

“Bassam saw it, he was shocked. And since then he always wakes up terrified... Screaming.”

“I would like to go back to Syria even if I do
not remember anything from there. Syria is our
home.”



Trauma

In 2015, Ali and his family managed to escape from Sirte to Zawiya – a city in the western part of the country, about 130 km from Tunisian border.

But they couldn’t escape the violence there either.

Over the past several years, Zawiya has become a major departure point for refugees and migrants in Libya trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

The business of human smuggling has become lucrative, with armed militias in the area clashing for control of the smuggling routes.

Bassam recalls every detail of the days they spent there.

“One night a group of armed men entered the house, and they robbed everything, they left nothing,” he says. “I remember Kinan and I were sleeping, then I remember we ran away.”

Ali says that experience changed Bassam forever. “I don’t know what happened to him since then. He cries. Every day. He has experienced too many traumas for his age.”

image
© UNICEF video/2018/Mannocchi

Destroyed buildings in Libya, where Bassam's family has relocated after fleeing the war in Syria.

Countries : 
- Libya   
- Syria   

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