After two months in Sweden, Azzam's mother died in Syria. A picture and a voicemessage is all he has left of her now.

Azzam, 29 years old from Al-Raqqah, was being held prisoner by Isis. Today, he's living in Surahammar in Sweden and wants to study law. This is his story.​

I lived a quiet life, and I was optimistic for the future. Before the war, I studied law at the University of Deir ez-Zor and spent the days together with friends on campus. But I am also very interested in culture and was often at the Cultural Center in Al-Raqqah and Dier ez-Zor.

When the war started, life transformed from being cheerful to being difficult. Death became a part of our lives. A large stream of internal Syrian refugees began arriving at Al-Raqqah. Many people tried to help with food, housing, and clothing.

Some friends and I started a movement which we named the Haquna, meaning "Our Rights." The goal was to raise awareness of democratic principles: freedom to vote, justice, equality, and democracy in general. Word spread out and rooted in many social circles who welcomed our initiative.

But unfortunately, we had to stop when Isis took full control of the city. It was too dangerous, and we risked being arrested or murdered. I was worried that my wife and I would be killed.

The terrorists in Isis arrested and imprisoned me. But I was lucky. The international coalition bombed a building next to the prison where Isis held me captive. I managed to escape and decided to leave the country.

Death surrounded us from all sides.

Leaving the country proved difficult, especially getting across the border to Turkey. The Turkish border police opened fire on us. We were detained and sent back to Syria. We tried again and managed to enter the country. But then awaited the journey in a rubber dinghy across the Aegean Sea towards Greece. Death surrounded us from all sides.

When we had made our way through the Balkans, we came to Austria. It was the best part of the journey. We were met by loving people, and there were many organizations there providing care.

I had relatives and friends in Sweden, a country that provides the best conditions for refugees to build their future. We had therefore decided to get there.

I was happy and optimistic when I arrived in September 2015. I wanted to learn the language as soon as possible and begin integrating myself into the Swedish society.

Azzam's escape route through Turkey and Europe.

I had high expectations that sadly did not match reality. I was disappointed. We stayed together with another family in an asylum accommodation for six months. I think the Swedish Government should speed up the asylum process. They should also open schools inside the asylum accommodation, teach Swedish while people are waiting.

But there were also good times at the asylum centre. A wonderful Swedish family stopped by to teach us Swedish. We became good friends.

I currently live in Surahammar, close to the city Västerås. I wish to continue studying law. My goal is to aid disabled children and seniors​ with legal matters. I want to stay in Surahammar because I like the city and the people living here. But I worry about not finding a home or a job.

But I do miss Syria. I miss my city and its streets. I miss my relatives and friends, as well as the Euphrates river. One day, I want to return to visit my parents' grave.

Editorial comment: Some time after this interview we learned that Azzam now has gotten his permanent recidense permit.

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