It was too dangerous to stay. Many of my friends had been murdered in the wave of killings that targeted Syrian activists in Turkey that summer.
Although Abdul Rahman, 25, was jailed for eight months because of his fight for human rights, he could not stop. He fled Damascus but continued being an activist. Here is his story.
Before the war, I went to university and studied to become an IT engineer. While studying, I used to work as a volunteer for the Red Crescent.
When the Syrian Revolution broke out in 2011, the Syrian authorities arrested me. I was in fact an activist who worked for human rights in Syria. I was detained for eight months. When released, I stopped studying. I was afraid that the regime would arrest me again.
But I could not keep myself from taking part in the revolt against the regime. I started training a group of activists so they could manage their website and organize people through social media. I also helped with how to shoot a video and how to use the material to show the world the crimes against human rights that occurred.
I was exposed to several kidnapping attempts. I remained in the city until 2013. But it was too dangerous to be an activist. Abductions, arrests, and killings were common.
After a while, I moved to north-eastern Syria. There was an opportunity to travel there and work with another group of Syrian activists. But it was dangerous. Chaos had broken out, and jihadist groups grew stronger in the area. When in the town of Dier ez-Zor, I was exposed to several kidnapping attempts. I remained in the city until 2013. But it was too dangerous to be an activist. Abductions, arrests, and killings were common. There was also the systematic bombing orchestrated by different parties in the conflict. When a good friend of mine was kidnapped, it was obvious that I could not stay any longer.
I travelled to Turkey and started to work with an international organization called Witness. We trained Syrian activists how to collect adequate evidence that would hold in the International Court in The Hague. But I was forced to flee in the summer of 2015. It was too dangerous to stay. Many of my friends had been murdered in the wave of killings that targeted Syrian activists in Turkey that summer. I was registered in the UNHCR program for quota refugees. But the process was too slow. I needed to leave immediately.
At the border between Greece and Macedonia there were several organizations that helped refugees. They were desperate for interpreters and there was a great need of help to provide people with correct information. So I stayed and volunteered for several days, before moving on further north through the Balkans myself.
I had intended from the start of my journey to travel to Sweden. It is one of the best countries when considering human rights.
When I came to Sweden in November 2015, it felt like a fresh start. I was a little scared, because I did not know anyone in the country.
I currently live in Varberg on the west coast in Sweden. Here I am comfortable. It is a fairly small community and everyone I meet greets me with a smile. I have a good social life and Varberg is close to other cities. But I miss Syria. My friends and my family, the streets of Damascus. The noise of life in a big city.
I have made new Swedish friends through one of my old friends. We went to different bars together and I was introduced to several new people. I have many friends here now.
Right now there is not any trust between the newcomers and the Migration Board.
Today, I still wait for my residence permit. Until I get it, I cannot leave the country. It feels like a prison. I just wait, the Swedish Migration Agency's answer to all my questions is always to wait.
Right now there is no trust between the newly arrived people and the Migration Board. This also affects the trust of other agencies and the Swedish state in general.
Meanwhile, newly arrived people spread information in-between themselves on the effects new asylum law which came this year has on refugees. Who has received a residence permit, and after waiting how long? Some go through the whole asylum process in six months. For others, who have applied for asylum at the same time, it may take considerably longer to even get an appointment for an interview at the Migration Agency.
The asylum process is completely random. The waiting period has nothing to do with the rules. The only factor that matters is the administrator at the Migration Office. Their stress level, their mood, that is what decides how long you must wait. In any case, that’s the theory being shared all over social media. This spreads misinterpretation and misunderstanding of how the law work.
If the Swedish system is built on vague rules without proper details, it will make integration more difficult. And since confidence is in free fall, it will be harder to inform people how to get into the labour market. Swedish authorities will be the ones to bear the consequences of this later.
The newly arrived people also have obligations. They must integrate quickly into society and get a job. They must not become dependent on benefits. Today, many rely completely on social assistance. Some try to get around the rules to take advantage of of the welfare system. For example, people that get divorced to get supplied two apartments and then renting out one on the black market. Such conduct may be of great negative consequences; it may hurt society's trust towards refugees.
I worry about the new asylum law, to get a limited residency permit. To not be able to start anew as soon as I had wished for. In any case, I probably won’t stay here in Varberg. I have lived most of my life in Damascus. I am used with the streets being filled with people. I also miss a good nightlife. Therefore, I would love to move to a bigger city. For example, Malmö, Stockholm, or Gothenburg.
I see it as my moral obligation to return if it would become safe again. In such case, Syria will need young people who help to rebuild the country again.
Or maybe I return to Syria. But it depends on the political future of the country. I see it as my moral obligation to return if it would become safe again. In such case, Syria will need young people who help to rebuild the country again. And it will require those like me who are fighting for democracy, freedom, and human rights. People that guard such values and sees to that they are respected by the new Syrian government.