no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
(PART 2 OF OUR SERIES, 6 DEGREES OF SEPARATION, "The Journey Begins" THE STORY OF SYRIAN REFUGEES IN A CAMP IN GREECE AND THE PEOPLE TRYING TO HELP THEM)
After middle school, Abdulazez moved to the countryside with his family. He had to restart his life again. Just as he started to settle in and make new friends, the revolution followed them from the city. The countryside they lived in was in a constant battle between the government and the people, the ownership switching sides on what seemed like a weekly basis.
Anjali Alwis is a Syracuse University graduate who spent two weeks working in a refuge camp in Thessaloniki, Greece. She went on a medical mission with SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society, and was able to interview camp residents, volunteers, and doctors while there. She put together this six-part piece which details the arduous and challenging journey that refugees have to face in their search for safety.
Eventually, his family had enough. They had moved 6 times through the countryside, trying to avoid the war. Abdulazez was not able to go to school, his family felt that this was no way to live. They left for Turkey and were lucky enough to make it through right before the border closed. But in Turkey, they faced a new challenge – racism.
Abdulazez said that the racism he faced was the worst part of the move.
“Being killed by the government is better than feeling inferior. Someone telling you that ‘this is not your country’…that you can’t even stand in this place”.
Abdulazez lived in Turkey for a year, mostly spending his days in an empty house by himself. But he kept very busy; it was the first time he had open and unrestricted internet access. In the one year that Abdulazez spent in Turkey, he taught himself basic Turkish. He began to teach himself Photoshop but realized it was difficult to learn Photoshop without English, so he taught himself English as well. He played around with video editing software and Cinema 4-D, taught himself Python, was learning Unity to make video games, and learned Illustrator.
He did all this while going to a Syrian school in Turkey and was top three in his class. Another fun fact? Abdulazez learned English by translating movies and memorizing the words. His favorite movie to translate was Despicable Me.
Abdulazez takes powerful photos in the camps to detail what daily life is like and has created powerful photo campaigns in the past. He runs a Facebook page entitled Through Refugee Eyes and has had photography exhibitions in multiple countries, aided by volunteers who have met him and been impressed by his work.
He is admired by many, including Madi Williamson, a field coordinator for the mission trip to Greece, spent 11 weeks from April to the end of June. They met while he was in Eko camp, an informal camp in Greece where Madi got to know him and his family very well. She remembers the kindness Abdulazez and his family showed her; they would often invite many of the volunteers to eat a large Syrian dinner with them.
Madi said that she tells Abdulazez’s story to as many people as she can because it truly humanizes the crisis. She said it’s easy to throw out a statistic, but when you hear about a family that has the same values as your family, it makes everything much more relatable.