Ehsan worked with various humanitarian relief organizations in Aleppo before joining the revolution as an assistant surgeon and as a director of an office of civil activity. His journey to Germany took him 17 days and cost him $3,500, he arrived in Berlin in July 2015. The most frightening moment of his trip was the crossing of the Aegean to Lesbos. In Hungary, Ehsan's friends were arrested and he was forced to complete his journey alone. His parents, his two brothers and his two sisters live in Turkey now. August 19, 2015.
Karam was a photojournalist and worked as a freelancer for Reuters in Aleppo before he fled Syria. Passionately political, he joined friends in the revolution after the Syrian government tortured children in 2011, but he felt suffocated by the options. About Assad’s regime he angrily says: “I don’t want to fight. I want freedom. But they made us carry guns.” When I asked him whether he sees himself returning home at some point in the future, he puts his head in his hands and paused. Then, slowly, he says: “Don’t ask me this question. Don’t ask any Syrian this question. You’re just going to make us cry.” He arrived in Berlin in June 2015. August 19, 2015.
Najlaa, 40, with Mahmood, 5, and Jasan, 7
Najlaa left her small hometown near Damascus in 2011 soon after the government assaults started. She first went to Jordan with her two young children, now 5 and 7, and her nephew, also 7. She spent three years in the massive Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, and decided to leave after a Jordan policeman suggested it would be safer she married her very young daughter off to him. Najlaa’s journey via Turkey took 3 months. She traveled in a group with 250 people but she was the only family and felt people worried she would slow things down. In Macedonia the police caught her and threatened to return her to Greece. But Najlaa was so determined and desperate, she put a knife to her throat and declared she'd rather die than trace back her journey. Surprised, the Macedonian police then helped her to the Serbian border. In Hungary a hotel owner, after taking her money, called the police on her. She arrived in Berlin in May 2015, where she now lives in a group home. Her two eldest just started school. August 22, 2015.
Rasoul was a salesman in his hometown of Aleppo but he did not want to join the army and so his family helped him, the youngest in his family, to start a new life elsewhere. He came to Germany by truck direct from Turkey. The car drove 4 days and did not stop once for air or food, his ride cost $4,500. Rasoul arrived in Berlin in April 2015. August 21, 2015.
Ammar is a Palestinian Syrian and lived in a camp in Homs. He decided to leave when the secret police moved into the camp. Because he is a minor, and the youngest in his family, he will be able to bring his family to Germany though a regular visa process. Ammar left school when he was 13 and has since worked in cafes and as coffee bean grinder. He decided a long time ago that he wants to train as a welder in Germany. He arrived in Berlin in mid-August 2015. August 26, 2015.
Nahed, 24, and Hassan, 32
In Aleppo, Hassan owned a toy store, and Nahed worked in a shop. Life was already hard without water and electricity due to the fighting and destruction of the city, but things got worse in July 2015, when during Ramadan, the different forces fought in Aleppo every night. Nahed and Hassan decided to take their two small children and leave Aleppo. Their journey to Germany took them 22 days, and many nights they slept on the streets. In the Hungarian camps their children, 4 and 7, were separated from them for two days and placed in separate cells. The Hungarian guards threatened Nahed to take her hijab away if she did not let herself be fingerprinted. For Hassan the hardest thing about leaving home was to say farewell to his parents. Syria is their home, but Hassan says that now the most important thing is the future of their children. August 19, 2015.
Nadim left Syria in 2012 after life was getting increasingly unsafe. He went to Jordan where he studied film making, and then to Turkey where he trained as a sound engineer. Nadim made the trek from Izmir to Berlin with a group of friends, the journey on foot took them 23 days. The group walked through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, where Nadim was caught by the Hungarian police when he emerged from the forest trying to find a taxi. In the Hungarian camps, the police beat him severely and he ended up injured. When he asked for a lawyer he was told: "Do you think you're in Sweden?" Nadim arrived in Berlin in August 2015. His parents have settled in Saudia Arabia, his sister is still at home in Damascus. August 25, 2105.
Hussam is an architect from Damascus. His father came to Syria from Palestine in 1948 at the age of 1. Hussam was born in Syria but because he is considered Palestinian Syrian he was never given citizenship, only refugee papers. As a result, he is now a refugee from being a refugee. Hussam left Syria in 2012 to go to Istanbul, but as a refugee he would never have been given a work permit and would have lived the life of an undocumented immigrant, providing cheap labor. In the summer of 2015 his brother’s family and other friends joined him on his trip, from Istanbul to Izmir, by rubber dinghy to Lesbos, and through the Balkans to Germany. Hussam’s sister is based in Spain, and because Spain has a family-friendly refugee policy, she will be able to bring their parents to Spain legally. August 20, 2015.
Ahmad lived in Al Nairab camp for Palestinian Syrians in Aleppo, he worked as an electrician, and he liked his life. Then the war started and he was injured by government soldiers, and later kidnapped and imprisoned by ISIS fighters. Once he got away he decided to leave. His mother and sister are still in Syria and he worries about them a lot and hopes he can bring them to Germany somehow. Ahmad arrived in Berlin in July 2015. August 21, 2015.
Maher was born in the small village of Hama in central Syria, but he lived and taught as a primary school teacher in Damascus. His journey to Berlin took him via Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Italy, and Austria and cost him almost $5000. The sea journey between Libya and Italy lasted 9 hours at night, with 200 people aboard. His wife and baby son are still in Syria, Maher hopes to bring her over as soon as he can. He arrived in Berlin in spring 2015. August 21, 2015.