“My name is Abdulazez. As I was growing up, I found myself in the middle of the war in Homs, Syria. My city became a place where you couldn’t find breath. Six months after the revolution, I left my house together with my parents, brother, sister, and sister-in-law. I left many friends behind. Now, half of them are dead, and the other half, I don’t know anything about.
After we left home, I lived in the countryside for three years. I went back to school, but I couldn’t do a lot of the things I loved because of the situation. My eyes were always looking outside, out of the box which we were in. I wanted to find purpose in my life and a way to do something for my people. But every day, I was afraid that I might die. I worried that no one would even remember who I was.
I left for Turkey with my family in 2014. I saw hope, but I was surprised by many things we encountered, racism maybe the worst of them all. I managed to go to school there and that made me happy. Soon, I re-discovered the internet, which I missed so much during the war in Syria. I loved it. I used Youtube to begin learning Turkish online. One of my best friends told me about Photoshop. Soon, I fell in love with it and started using it to create my art.
I had loved to making art about life, love, and hope before, but at the time I was thinking about life back in Syria and my life now. There are lot of people who would love to be here, but they don’t have the ability. I started using art to represent us as a homeless people. I found myself spending lot of time learning more about different ways to express myself.
After one year in Turkey, my family decided to leave because we could not make enough money to live. We were staying in an area just five kilometers from Syria, and missiles were coming all the time from that side to the border village. The Turkish people were blaming us and treating us poorly. We sold everything, borrowed some money and headed toward Europe. We did this for our lives, for the opportunity to study, and to leave the war and racism.”
“Finally, we reached Idomeni camp. After we arrived, I asked someone how long he had been there. ‘One week,’ he said. I said, ‘Oh! How you can stay here for that long?’ But then we also stayed there for a very long time. Some nights I could not sleep, thinking about where I was.
To keep my mind clear, I read books, kept my phone charged and spent time learning online. I was bored. We left Idomeni after a period of three days of rain. Our small tent could not withstand the water. We had nothing. I was left there was standing, looking, breathing and asking why I came there. I asked myself it it was better to die quickly rather than die slowly.
We left Idomeni with broken hearts. We were afraid when we left that the border would open and we would not be there, so we went to the Eko Station camp. I found a new spot for myself, a small tent and some new people, new faces and new eyes. There, when I didn’t feel like reading or writing, I started volunteering with different teams. With time, I forgot about my art until one volunteer asked me what I was doing. First, I just said that I was studying. But after one minute of silence, I said that I was working on some art and asked her if she wanted to see. She agreed and I showed her some of my old things. She liked them so much that she put me in touch with a volunteer who found a laptop for me. I started working not only as a Syrian, but as a refugee. I started saying that I was an artist with confidence.
Another volunteer from Italy sent me a small camera. I took pictures of the reality of life, not the pictures you see in the media. Later, I got my second camera from Spain, this one more professional. I decided to create a platform for refugee voices which I called, “Through Refugee Eyes.” Three months ago I got another camera, this time from Germany. Many volunteers have given me lenses, equipment and books which have allowed me to keep going.
After a while, I left Eko camp, along with everyone else. We did not choose to leave; we were evicted. But I kept doing the same things wherever I went, and have continued until today. I love taking pictures and I want to tell to the world the truth about our life.”
“Today, I have been in Greece for over seven months. I still remember when I believed it would be only seven days. Every day is like a month. But, as long as I am here, I will spread my messages towards Europe and the whole world. We are not terrorists. We didn’t come from nothing, we were forced to come. No one chose to leave their homes. We love to live. We didn’t come here to destroy anything. We used to have everything you have. We have a mind, body and feelings like you. I am a Muslim and proud of that. If you think that because I am Muslim I’m a terrorist, you’re wrong. In Syria, people of different religions were living together before the war. No one used to say anything about other people’s beliefs. My message to Europe is: ‘Open your mind. Try to learn the truth before judging anyone.’
I am here in Greece, in the middle of enormous human suffering. But, I have my road toward the future, God willing. I want to be an artist, a photographer, and to study. I always loved to show the world what I think and what is inside me. And that is what I am doing with my art. One day, I will again be a normal person.
Our dreams are not so big: to breathe, to study, to live and to have friends. Is that too much to ask? I’m here today because of the war. If tomorrow my country becomes safe, I will go back. I am Abdulazez, and I am a refugee."
Just five weeks ago, on April 25, 2017, Abdulazez received permission to leave Greece and live in Belgium. His life there is just beginning, as he begins to learn a new language, attend school, find a job, and rebuild. His dreams are becoming a reality!
“I can’t believe I am finally out of Greece. Over a year ago, I arrived in Greece. I wanted to cross the borders to any country where we could continue my studies and just live safely after years of not having it. But the borders were closed and I was stuck in Greece. I lived for five months in the camp and then moved to an apartment to try to get to mainland Europe the legal way. I waited for nine months before I was able to finally leave. Today, I finally arrived in Belgium! I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that I will be able to learn new languages and continue to study in a few months. I am happy that I have passed the difficulties of the last year and moved on to a new chapter. My dream was to be free to learn, free to live. That is the dream of many, many refugees.”
From: Homs, Syria
Current Location: Belgium
Family: Parents, brother, sister, sister-in-law