Ten years ago, when Syrians dared to take to the streets to demand freedom and democratic reform, Ahmad Sheer was not among them.
The Arabic teacher and painter says he was trying as best he could to carry on with his life.
But one day he was left with a final choice: to flee the country, or join in the fighting.
Ahmad says he didn’t want to leave Syria, but he couldn’t take part in the killings and the torture inflicted upon his own people.
“The war was not between Syrians only,” he says. “That’s how it started, and that is how it was supposed to be. But then Russia entered the conflict to defend its ally...and to help it with aerial weapons.”
Russia’s ‘Operation Syria’ was launched two months after Ahmad left the country. And what the artist saw from afar was a military operation that would shift the balance of power in the conflict irreversibly.
Ahmad says his work has been shaped by what he experienced first hand - but also by what his country went through in the now decade-long war.
One of his most striking paintings is called Syrian Guernica, a colorful recapitulation of Picasso’s masterpiece - adapted to reflect the massacre of Syrians.
Today Ahmad and his wife are trying to rebuild. They are raising their two children in Antwerp, where the family was granted asylum.
“It is a new period in my life. I could say I am without a country. Or that maybe I am looking for a new country for me and for my family. The problem is that I don’t know if the word refugee will stick with me. I mean, even if I get the European nationality, will I remain a refugee? Or will I be a citizen? On the inside. I don’t know if it’s a short period. Or if it’s going to be permanent.”
Watch Ahmad’s story in the video player above.
In a series of reports on Syria on the 10th anniversary of the start of the conflict, Euronews explores the war through the personal experience of people who were forced to flee Syria and seek refuge in Europe.