The Price of Safety
This story was told to a staff member of Mediterranean Hope.
I was born in a suburb of Damascus, Syria in 1991, the daughter of J, a builder, and F, teacher.
In 2011, people began to protest against the government. At the beginning we did not understand what was happening but, at a certain point – I don’t remember when – we began to be afraid.
One day the Syrian military surrounded my neighborhood and bombed it for seven consecutive days. We were starving and could not leave our homes. Then one day they forced us out of our home and separated the men from women. That day they took my brother.
We fled to another neighborhood where my grandmother lived. I remember that the streets were full of blood and that there were bodies everywhere. Not long after that, they began shooting there too; snipers would shoot at us when we tried to reach the well to get water. We could no longer survive. We wanted to get away and we knew we could flee to Lebanon, but my parents decided to stay, to wait for my brother to come home. To this day, he has never returned.
I crossed the border in a taxi. I entered Lebanon alone, knowing no one. At the beginning I felt at ease, safe. I didn’t have a residence permit, but I managed to find some work in a candy shop for a little while. They didn’t pay me much and insulted me because I was Syrian. I didn’t feel great but at least I was alive.
I lived in a conservative neighborhood in Lebanon. The rent was low, but I felt the eyes of neighbors on me because, as far as they were concerned, a young woman without a man could not be anything other than a prostitute. At times women would shout abuse at me in the street.
One day the owner of the candy store asked me to get something out of the storeroom. He followed me in and closed the door behind him. I was defenseless. It was as if it were not happening to me, as if I were dead. Then he let me go. I left the shop and never went back. I did not know what men could be.
Soon I no longer had enough money to pay the rent for my room. I looked for work all day without finding any. My landlord, a very religious man, hurled abuse at me from behind the door, calling me a prostitute. I was afraid and wanted to leave. One night he silently entered my room and beat me, ripping at my clothes. This time I shouted so loudly that it woke my neighbors and he ran off.
I fled once more, this time leaving Lebanon to come to Italy. I miss my parents and my brother but at least I am safe here. However, I suspect that fear will never leave me.