I'm not used to the deafening silence in small cities.
Tareq, 24 years old from Damaskus, was hoping for a quick death, should that moment come. For the sake of his family, he didn't want to die of torture.
I did my first year in high school when the Syrian revolution started. At that point, I lived in Damascus with my parents. You could see the divisions grow in the city. It started with religious antagonism and developed to ethnical conflicts.
Life before the war was relaxed and people were tolerant. I used the mini buses, that drove around the city at all hours, to get to school. Every Thursday evening, I would go to coffee shops or fast food restaurants along with my friends. Every Friday, the whole family got together for the weekend. We would often travel to Bloudan and Madaya, mountainous areas close to Damascus. And each summer, we would spend one or two weeks at the Syrian coast and swim in the ocean.
When the war started in Syria, and the Free Syrian Army was formed, everything changed. From that moment, all of Syria turned into a huge battlefield where anyone could get embroiled. Weapons and soldiers spread around the country, and people started joining the different sides of the war. Syrians were fighting other Syrians. I didn't want to get involved, so I chose to pursue my degree instead.
I had to stay within the boundaries of Damascus and stay away from the conflict areas in the vicinity. Even inside the city, I had to stay away from neighborhoods where there were snipers and explosions. I was very careful all the time, and stayed away from people with guns, and never tried to leave home at night. There were missiles everywhere and they were unpredictable.
It's terrible to watch someone you care about get hurt, and to realize they're dying, without being able to do anything about it.
Studying was hard when the electricity only worked half of time on a good day. The worst moments were when someone disappeared for a week or so, and you eventually found out they had been killed, sometimes tortured to death. I remember wishing for a quick death rather than torture or getting seriously injured, for the sake of my family. It's terrible to watch someone you care about get hurt, and to realize they're dying, without being able to do anything about it.
Living in Syria is like living in hell. Death and injury is just around the corner, for yourself and for the people around you. You lack the most basic things. You're unsafe, without a job, without money. You're under constant stress, you worry all the time, and you have no future (at least not one physically and mentally healthy).
And on top of all of that, you can't even choose to not take part of that bloody civil war. If you live in a red zone, you're forced into the Syrian army and end upp killing or getting killed. If you live in a green zone, you have to join the Free Syrian Army and kill or get killed. If you live in a black zone, you don't have to make a decision at all, you will be killed either way.
After my graduation, my family helped me raise the money needed for fleeing Syria. I went to Lebanon, Turkey, and then Greece. The worst part was crossing the ocean from Turkey to Greece. That was the most horrifying experience I've ever lived through. I risked falling into the ocean and die at any moment. Not that I can't swim, I'm actually a good swimmer, but because the boat never stopped for people falling overboard. You can't expect the smuggler to have any sympathies or compassion.
The smuggler left us on a deserted island, but we were rescued by the Greek coast guard and brought to a tourist island. We met one of the nicest people on earth who helped us out with clothes, food and information on how to deal with the border police. Everyone helping us were doing it voluntarily and some of them were tourists on vacation.
Sweden was my end goal from the start, for several reasons. One being that my sister's family was already here, and it's good to keep close to your family. Another reason was that almost all Swedes speak English fluently, which is necessary for me to communicate with them before I learn Swedish fluently. The third reason is that I fled a war-torn Syria, and Sweden is the most peaceful nation on earth. Sweden has been trying to avoid war for a long time. I hope that Syria will become a country like that in the future.
Arriving in Sweden, I felt very happy. I was finally able to sleep, after the longest and most exhausting journey of my life. But the troubles weren't over. When I got to Sweden, the EU was discussing the whole refugee situation and no-one knew what would come out of the talks. I was afraid I wouldn't register in time.
Before I got here, I was hoping to find a job or an internship, but I haven't managed to do that yet. I was also hoping to meet nice people, which I have, but none of them are my age unfortunately. I had many expectations but none has really been realized. I feel like prisoner at the asylum accommodation, a prisoner that is only allowed to eat and sleep in wait for the decision about the residence permit. In a real prison, at least you know when you have served your time and will get released.
And we must not think that all Swedes are racists. The racists are only a minority.
The schools teaching Swedish and the Public Employment Agency should offer their services to all refugees, in my view. Even the ones whose cases haven't been dealt with yet, considering the process could take more than a year. And the people that are allowed to work should get a temporary social security number in order to open bank accounts. The municipality should arrange for meetings for newly arrived people and local residents so that we can get to know each other.
Us people from other countries have to respect the Swedish people, that welcomes us to their country. We have to respect its laws and traditions and not reciprocate their goodness with effusive actions. And we must not think that all Swedes are racists. The racists are only a minority.
In the future, I want to work as a civil or environmental engineer, resume my studies and get a masters degree in construction, and then get a PhD. At least, I want to get a job in my area of expertise.
I don't want to stay in Hultsfred, there are no jobs or internships in my industry here. There's not even a university. In a small town like Hultsfred, it's difficult to find friends your own age. I used to live in the metropolis of Damascus, so I'm used to lots of people and not the deafening silence in small cities.
It's always scary to think about the future, but since I haven't harmed anyone in the past I feel like there's nothing for me to worry about. And after having succeeded getting from Syria to Sweden, I don't think anything can stop me, except myself.