UN Op-Ed

5/2/2017
The Story of Shaaban- by Roy Hayek, Université Saint-Esprit De Kaslik (USEK)
"I had two months until my Brevet exam when my school was bombed in Damascus", said Shaaban, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee currently living in Germany during our interview together. He added by saying that nobody was hurt during the bombing.

As part of a project with the campaign "Together" with the United-Nations, I met with Shaaban, a Syrian-Palestinian refugee. He told me his story, and shared with me his memories and thoughts.

Shaaban grew up in the streets of Damascus, or to be more precise, one of the capital's surrounding towns called Kalden. He stems from a middle-class family that had a decent income and a relatively comfortable routine despite his parents' separation. Shaaban told me about the times where he would gather with his classmates in his street before heading out to school. He tells me about the friends he had and the dreams they shared. He wanted to become an electro-engineer. But six months after the Syrian civil war broke out, and only two months before his official 9th-grade governmental exam, Shaaban's school is bombed. The bombing left no mortal casualties according to him. The same day, his father goes missing. Shaaban and his siblings had moved to his grandparent’s place while his mother, at the time, was already married to a different man, and had moved to Iraq. Shortly afterward, he found himself on the fleeing road out of Damascus and Syria. Two months later, Shaaban joins his family at their sanctuary in Irbil, Kurdistan. He shared stories of the times after that bombing, when everybody had left his quarter and when his family was part of only two remaining ones in his street. He shared stories about him leaving the apartment for more than 5 hours every day to find an open bakery where he could buy some bread. He also shared stories of sleepless nights to the background noises of constant bombardment. But, these stories aside, Shaaban now found himself in the safe and quiet streets of Irbil, where he would be spending the next couple of years. He wanted to continue school so badly, but the circumstances of him moving to a new place denied him that. He says he had to work several jobs to spend for his siblings and take care of his family. Life was hard on him in Irbil, he didn't have time for himself, and he couldn't escape from this responsibility. He kept on saving money, as much as he could in order and in hopes of someday leaving Iraq for a better future.

In 2015, Shaaban gets that long-awaited chance. His life had changed so drastically in the previous years and was set for the most positive one yet. He says that he could start seeing his future when he discovered that he was going to Germany. He felt hope for the first time in a very long while.
A year and a half ago, Shaaban lands in Erfurt, Germany. He sets out to find his designated refugee home. He tells me about the gym court he shared with 60 other refugees while waiting for their individual homes to be ready. He says that despite the uncomfortable space he was living in, he is thankful to have passed through that gym. For it is there that he meets his current friends. Erfurt university had created at the time, by a professor Schabler, a program that gave Syrian refugees a chance to enroll and study with German students in specific programs at the university and by that help in their integration in Erfurt community. Student volunteers frequented that very gym to talk with the refugees and to have language exchange sessions.

That program to Shaaban was exactly what he wanted. He described it as "the best thing" that happened to him since he arrived in Germany. He met most of his friends through it and had classes at the university that in turn motivated him to continue his education despite the language barrier. After a year and a half in Germany and due to this community programs and the involvement of German students, peered with Shaaban's will, he finds himself today at a B1 level and ready to take his entry exam to one of the governmentally funded projects for vocational education. Shaaban found peace, friends, and happiness after having suffered for years in the Syrian war. He now sees a well laid out life for him in Erfurt, Germany and hopes the best to come.



Roy Hayek, Universite Saint-Esprit De Kaslik (USEK)

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