For a year now, Mohammed al-Haj has led the life of a refugee. Five mornings a week he goes to German classes at a centre in Saarbrücken. Though more fortunate than many, Mohammed is plagued with guilt and consumed by the horror of what is happening in Syria.In Germany his life is guided by rules, he knows his rights and obligations are those of a refugee.
Volunteering in Aleppo
In October 2012 he was at a hospital in his hometown of Aleppo. Mohammed is not a doctor or nurse, but he lent a hand as a volunteer. He lost 25 of his friends during this time. The relentless flood of wounded civilians and rebels continues to present unimaginable challenges for volunteers. Several aid centres were struck by airstrikes only last week.
The tragedies in Syria weigh heavily on his conscience as he explained: “If my country was not at war I wouldn’t have gone through this crisis of conscience. But my only option was to come here, and adapt.
The situation is certainly difficult.No one who comes here can say they are happy on day one, but we have to adapt because it is the only door that opened for us.”
The wave of refugees
Mohamed arrived in September 2015 when almost half a million people including over 160,000 Syrians applied for refugee status. After fleeing Aleppo for Turkey in 2014 with his family, he crossed the Balkans to Germany alone.
“The situation is very difficult especially because my family are in one place and I’m in another, and what is happening in my country only adds to it,” Mohammed continued. “It may seem like I am calm but actually inside I am not at all. “
Mohammed receives €370 per month from the government, which also pays his rent, utilities and German language course. He has to be careful with his outgoings and is anxious to find work soon so he can help support his family. Every few days, he talks to his relatives in Turkey via whatsapp.
When asked about the future, Mohammed said: “I expect, I hope that my life will be a success, whether here or elsewhere. My project is to study and to have a degree that allows me to find a job so I can help my family and my country when needed.”
German is difficult, but Mohammed seems determined to succeed. His dream is to go to University or attend a vocational course. In October he will sit his level three German exam. If he does not pass it, he will have to repeat the year and put his plans on hold.