Buzzfeed have asked a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, Abdul, to document his attempt to cross the Mediterranean and make it into Europe, through the messaging app WhatsApp.
Abdul was supposed to attempt to cross the Aegean Sea from Izmir, Turkey into Greece by boat in early November. The journey is extremely hazardous and hundreds have died attempting to cross the sea. The increasing instability of the Middle East has meant that despite the dangers an estimated 570,000 people have attempted to cross this way.
The messages he sent to Buzzfeed were harrowing and spoke of the desperation that the refugees must feel to attempt such a dangerous journey.
Unfortunately Abdul’s boat sank as it sailed across the sea, he survived and was forced to swim back to Turkey.
Before the boat sank, he sent photos of himself waiting for the boat. In the pictures he’s wearing a bright orange life jacket and sat with other refugees on a small dinghy. Abdul also told the the story of a fellow refugee, a mother who fled Iraq after militants threatened to kidnap her daughters. He told how she sat on the boat watching over her children. When the boat sank, the woman’s daughters survived, but she drowned.
Abdul said: “She was about 50-years-old. I didn’t know her name. She said she had to take the journey to keep her daughters safe. And now I can’t stop thinking of her face.”
He told of the cruelty of those trafficking the refugees.
When he first reached Izmir, smugglers shuttled him around the city, driving for hours at a time to homes where he would wait with other refugees.
I don’t know what you call them in English… but they’re like the Mafia… They are the men who send us crossing the sea to Greece illegal way. When we first met them, we asked about a boat, and they kept saying in four hours, two hours, tomorrow, counting down for us.
Then they forced me and many other women, men and children to get on a boat, but we could all see the boat wasn’t OK. There was water inside it, and the motor was smoking. But when we tried to get off the boat, they started shouting in Turkish, and then fired their guns in the air. Some people jumped back off and swam back to the beach.
They don’t care if I die … No matter if I die or cross the sea, to them, I equal 1,000 euros.
Abdul told how he left Syria to escape the violence at home and how his “beautiful” life with his family changed when the bombing began. Abdul fled his home country as the civil war began to worsen.
He wrote: “All I cared about was my study, and thinking about my future… I dream of becoming a skillful doctor like my mother. The bombing made studying for that difficult. I was in fear all the time, for my family and myself.”
Abdul’s story is a heartbreaking one, but he’s far from the only one affected by Syria’s civil war. Nine million Syrians have reportedly been displaced by the conflict and the only way to stop people attempting such a dangerous journey is to bring an end to the conflict in Syria.