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You may be scared of us because we come from a place of violence. But we mean no harm
Monday, March 20, 2017, 13:52 (IST)
I have a lot of fears. The sound a missile makes before it hits. The smell of gunpowder mixed with blood. The possibility I will never see my sisters or childhood friends ever again.
My name is Hussam, I'm 16 years old and from Daraa in Syria. And, while it might not sound like it, I'm one of the lucky ones. That's why I have decided to share my story and to speak out on behalf of the millions of children who haven't been as fortunate. Those who are stuck in refugee camps, who've died trying to reach safety or remain trapped and scared in Syria.
In 2014, I was sitting an exam when planes began bombing my school. The next thing I knew, I was under the rubble of my classroom.
My best friend, Majid, was dead. So was my teacher. Many of my fellow students, my friends, were badly injured. All I had was a few scratches. My mother couldn't believe I'd survived.
After that, my cousin gave us the number of a smuggler. We made plans to head to the Jordanian border. My sisters are both married and stayed behind with their husbands. It was really hard to leave them.
Over the next week, we traveled by truck and on foot. There were over a hundred of us including children younger than me. I still don't know how they made it. Their parents must have carried them most of the way. People left their valuables, food and water on the side of the road; worried these things would slow them down too much.
Walking along a highway in the dark just outside As Suwayda, our group was spotted and soldiers started shooting at us. Panic broke out, everyone scattered. Children were screaming. Somehow all of us made it to an abandoned building where we waited until dawn and another truck arrived to take us on the next leg of our journey.
We walked the final 10 kilometres to the border and were surprised when we were processed immediately and transported to our new home: Azraq Refugee Camp.
Of course, I was relieved. We were safe. But no-one 'lives' in a refugee camp. Especially not one like Azraq. It is isolated, in the middle of the desert. There is nothing to do but wait out the war. With no end in sight, it's also a place where, and this will sound strange, that you can almost physically feel your hopes fading.
I made a decision early on that there was a life waiting for me beyond Azraq. In particular, I wasn't going to miss out on an education. I started learning English and then German by watching YouTube videos on my mobile phone.
In 2015, World Vision built a football pitch for the children. Some of the adults thought the money could have been better spent elsewhere, but for me and my friends in Azraq, it was a source of happiness and a place where we forgot about our troubles for a little while. It made us feel like normal kids again.
And then, late last year, it happened. My mother and I were granted asylum in Germany. I don't know why we were chosen and others weren't. We've been here since October and my German is getting better all the time. I'm attending school and I've met many new, wonderful people.
I keep in contact with my friends in Azraq on WhatsApp. I don't feel guilty I now have a good life; just sad they don't. If anyone should feel guilty it's those with the power to put a stop to this madness.
I want to thank everyone who has shown empathy and support to refugees like my mother and me. It means more than we could ever express. And to those who have built walls around their hearts and countries to keep us out, I plead with you to tear them down.
I know some people are scared of us. I understand that a little bit. We've come from a war-zone. But I can assure you refugees don't want to hurt anyone. We don't want to recreate the hell we experienced in Syria. We just want peace.
If I ever get the chance to go back to Syria I will. I love my homeland and my dream is to help rebuild it with my own hands.