In the early days, Aleppo was the city of Love and Peace. For example, I call the living together of all Syrians. Muslims lived and worked next to Armenians, Kurds and Christians in many areas of Aleppo, but now Aleppo has become the most dangerous city in the world.
Nobody was sure if neighbours were Armenian, Muslim or Kurdish – we just lived together. My friends also had various religions, backgrounds and cultures, but this was not discussed explicitly, because it simply didn’t matter.’
Aleppo is one of the oldest cities in the world. Sis years of war ...... the old city has been destroyed. Historic castles, mosques, churches, schools, hospitals, palaces and baths have been broken.
For thirty years, I loved the city. I feel connected to it. I studied and worked there. I fell in love there, became engaged and later married there. On my wedding day, however, war came and disrupted the party as an uninvited guest.
My wife and I became acquainted on university. We were both teaching the Bachelor students of the Pharmacy faculty; this was part of our Masters study. Even before we graduated in 2009 we both found a job at one of the largest Pharmaceutical companies of the Middle East, established here in Aleppo. We had good jobs and a small house. The future looked bright.
Then, in 2012, war broke out in Aleppo too. War not only meant much violence, but also a shortage of clean drinking water, safety and a future. We started thinking about leaving. Before the war I would not have considered a career abroad, but now I did. When we got the chance to work at the Russian branch of our company, we grabbed it with both hands.’
One month before our wedding I was at our new home when the news arrived that the company we worked for had been bombed. My wife was working that day. The bomb had struck the department where she worked. I could not reach her by phone. I took me two hours to reach the factory. Thank God, my wife turned out to be unhurt.
We married on 3 October 2012. Without a big party, only for our next of kin. Three suicide car bombs exploded at the the centre of the city (Saadallah Al-Jabiri Square) and the nearby areas killing 40 people in the centre of the city. The most dangerous and bombs so far. That was a very hard day.’
Our daughter was born in Russia in 2014. At the end of our visa I tried to extend our stay in Russia but unfortunately it did not work. The situation in Syria has now become very bad and we decided to travel from Russia to Turkey. There we made plans to move to the Netherlands and build a future there.
From Turkey, I had to go to Greece by boat. A dangerous crossing that took an hour. After that, I would take the plane to the Netherlands.
‘Every day, you hear what happens to the boat refugees in the media. Before my crossing, we consciously said goodbye to each other. Fortunately, all went well and I could embrace my wife and child after nine months.’
My son is one year old now and was born in Rotterdam. Before and during my trip to the Netherlands I had anxiety for the future. Nothing is certain in life. My family was still in Syria and I had to start building a living in a strange country again. But now I'm very pleased and excited to do something. For the past two months, I have been working at my first job here.
Every once in a while, I feel homesick for Aleppo. Today's situation is worse than before. I can not add anything to it anymore. Too many civilians have become victims of the killing war in Syria. The victims are women, children, teachers, doctors, students and so on.
I'm here now because I chose life, in the broadest sense of the word. My family is safe now and that means a lot to me.