I was tortured for 18 days, so i took my family and we fled Syria

Published: Sep 4, 2015 Reading time: 3 minutes
I was tortured for 18 days, so i took my family and we fled Syria

48-years old Nabil Alshwikh fled with his wife, his two sons and his daughter from Aleppo 2 years ago, to neighboring Lebanon. „My sons were to join the army for their military service, but they refused to fight and I did not want them to fight either. And an armed group kidnapped me and tortured me for 18 days with electric shocks. My family had to pay a large ransom to free me. I was scared for my children, so we fled.“ These are the reasons which forced Nabil to escape from Syria.

The family waited in Lebanon for 2 years, hoping that the situation in Syria would improve. But the Syrian reality kept worsening: „it is impossible to live in Syria even for five minutes. They drop bombs every day, there is shelling all the time,“ describes Nabil. Nabil’s wife gave birth to their second daughter while in exile in Lebanon, she is now 1,5 year old. But the situation started to worsen for the family even in Lebanon, where today every fourth person is a Syrian. „When the Lebanese police started to conduct raids, they wanted to send us back to Syria, so we fled. We have been travelling for 5 months now,“ says Nabil.

His two sons went ahead, taking a plane to Ankara, in Turkey. Nabil followed them shortly after with his wife and their two daughters, but the family met their first obstacle already at the turkish airport. „My wife is Syrian, but I am a Palestinian refugee and my daughters don’t have travel documents. The police wanted to send them back to Syria. But they let them go in the end,“ says Nabil. Then they all together travelled to the Turkish port in Bodrum.

We were 65 in the boat, each of us paid 1500 USD

The family wanted to reach Greek island Simi accross the sea. „We had to pay 1,500 USD each to the smugglers. My youngest daughter did not pay. They squeezed 65 of us on the small boat,“ recounts Nabil. The family waited on the Greek island for their registration documents, after which a large boat took them to Athenes where the Greek police took their fingerprints. „They were very harsh on my wife. When they took a picture of her, they ripped off her scarf.Why?“ asks Nabil.

The family pursued their journey to Soluna and from there, by taxi to the Macedonian border.  From there, they walked for 4 hours under heavy sun to the Macedonian town Gevgelija. „My youngest daughter fell sick on the way, but the Macedonian police did not let us go to the clinic and instead told us we must immediately board on the train. We arrived on the border with Serbia at 11pm at night,“ reports Nabil, adding that they crossed the border to Serbia again  by walk.

Nabil and his family have been staying in the asylum center in Belgrade for one month now. „I want to stay here, i don’t want to go to Germany or France. Why go there? The only thing i want is freedom and for my children to go to school,“ says Nabil. „Now i need only my documents, so that i can work and, why not, start my own business. My sons, my eldest daughter and I, we already learn Serbian,“ he says. „I want to thank Serbia, because it is a very poor country, but they gave us all that we need,“ he adds.

Author: Emanuela Macková, Petr Štefan