World Pulse

SYRIA: We Cannot Let Refugees Fall into the Void

Posted November 25, 2015 from Syrian Arab Republic

Nisan Ahmado never imagined she'd become part of a massive migration fleeing conflict in her homeland of Syria. As divisions mount over a growing refugee crisis, Nisan appeals for empathy and unity.

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Hummingbird | Syrian Arab Republic

Almost three months ago, the world was horrified by a picture of Syrian Kurdish 3-year-old Alan Kurdi. The child and his older brother drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their family was trying to reach a better place after their home in Kobani, Syria was stormed by ISIS.

The image that emerged on media—Alan’s lifeless, small body lying peacefully on the sand—started an international movement. There is a growing awareness of the refugees pouring into Europe and, in fewer numbers, into other parts of the world. But the story of Alan is only one among thousands of stories that pass unnoticed.

I am a Syrian woman living outside of Syria, and my family’s story is among these.

Two years ago, my brother set off on the same treacherous route that Alan Kurdi’s family took.

No Syrian wanted to leave home. We thought that we would build a better country for ourselves. We wanted to stay here in our homes and regain some of our rights. For five years we called for no-fly zones to protect towns and establish safe shelters for refugees. Many times we called for humanitarian corridors, but our voices were ignored.

Over and over again, we said that all of this destruction would create a void, and inside the nothingness, extremists, killers, and thugs would lurk and consume people’s hope. After years of war, desperation drove thousands of us to search for alternative ways to live peacefully and preserve what is left of our dignity. Despair has crawled deep into our spirits.

When my brother decided to take the journey of death, we didn’t try to persuade him to stay. The choice is either taking the risk in the sea or engaging in a bloody war. My brother climbed into a rubber boat with dozens of men, women, and children.

On the way from Turkey to Greece, the boat’s engine died in the middle of the sea. The young men in the boat used their hands and feet to paddle back to the Turkish shores. There, they fixed the boat and tried again.

By dawn, they reached a Greek island, where a group of monks offered help. A Greek female doctor welcomed my brother and his friends in her own house. Others helped him on his way to Sweden, where he is trying his best today to show that he is a good Samaritan. Such actions of altruism towards many refugees in their long journeys manifest the essence of humanity. We are grateful for the humans in Europe and around the world who cried for us, those who welcomed us in their homes, those who greeted us in bus and train stations, those who shared the journey with us, bringing aid and water. These actions revealed to us what the future of humanity could look like, a future we wish to witness one day.

“Inclusion and empathy is the only response to fight fear.

The current reality is that there are over 4.2 million Syrian registered refugees worldwide, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). There are 2.1 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, and 1.9 million in Turkey. About 26,700 refugees are registered in North Africa. Between 2011 and Oct 2015, the number of Syrian asylum applications in Europe reached 681,713—distributed mainly between Germany, Sweden, Serbia, Kosovo, Hungary, Austria, Netherlands and Bulgaria. These numbers don’t include displaced people within Syria. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates the number of total displaced Syrians as about 10.8 million of the country’s 22 million population. These numbers were registered in mid-2014, which means now that the majority of the Syrian population is fleeing for their lives—not to mention the thousands killed, disappeared, and arrested.

After waiting for so long, and as the world started to forget what Syrians are going through, people decided to take matters into our hands and seek for ourselves our rights to have normal, safe, and decent lives, similar to millions of people around the world. Syrians marched; we found a way.

Every day, rubber boats carry dozens like my brother and little Alan Kurdi, in a life-threatening journey in the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey’s shores to Greece’s Islands. Many used their life savings to take a one-way ticket toward either a new life or toward death. They packed the remnants of their past and set off for the unknown.

Refugees are searching for a life. It is not easy to replace all that one has ever known. It is not easy to start over again, to try to heal and forget. This needs courage, and cannot be done without compassion.

Preventing the people from seeking our right to a stable life is not an answer to stop the madness. On the contrary, keeping refugees in the nothingness will make us lose faith in a sympathetic and human world. Keeping people in limbo does not solve any issue; shutting us out behind TV screens will shatter all of the promises of a better world. Inclusion and empathy is the only response to fight fear. People are living under terrorism every day in Syria, trying to survive and find a meaning for why all this is happening to us.

Placing the blame of criminal actions committed by the few terrorists on the shoulders of the victims will only empower the criminals. Doubting the just cause of refugees will make those carrying hatred smile in their shameful victory. Instead of pushing refugees back to where we will be used, exploited and killed, we must be welcomed. We must be shown that there is a way to practice our humanity and be worthy to have an equal opportunity to live in our global community.

The way this world deals with refugees in crisis is not specific to Syrians. It sends a message about the world’s current stand on human rights. Our war today is not a war of religions, races and nations. Our war in this age is to preserve the human values and principles many men and women fought for through history.

What is left for us Syrians right now is to fight the void, where nothing grows but hatred and insanity. Criminals continue to kill and spread grudges mercilessly and tirelessly all around the world. What you can do now is help the rest of us. We need to fight this void with empathy; we need to preserve the values of democracy, liberty, equality, and dignity. Light a candle in your heart so we can all pass into a better humanity.

Comments 9

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Nov 29, 2015
Nov 29, 2015

Hi Nisan,

Thank you for sharing your story and giving your personal perspective about your family's experience as refugees.  It's really refreshing to read this article and see that the only way we can support refugees is through compassion and courage.  I am first generation Tibetan American but my family were refugees forced to flee their country as well, so your story personally connected with me as well.  Anyways I wanted to say thank you for sharing your story and educating others in the community about Syria's current crisis.  

Rahmana Karuna
Nov 30, 2015
Nov 30, 2015

Greetings Nisan I am wanting to send you, your family, your people warm hugs, wondering how does one from a "safe" country go about offerring shelter for Syrian refugees? Thank you for sharing your families personal story. It is one of my ways of learning because i don't listen read or watch corporate news which usually has nothing to do with what is really going on. Blessings

Nov 30, 2015
Nov 30, 2015

Thank you. I am in the US and am going to my Senator's office and letting her staff know that she should vote against the SAFE bill that was passed by the US House and introduced in the US Senate. This bill is reactionary and willl do nothing to keep us safer. I volunteer at a refugee resettlement organization and I know firsthand the careful vetting process that they must go through before coming to this country and the immense contributions they make once they are here. 

Dec 01, 2015
Dec 01, 2015

Dearest Nisan,

Thank you for your profound piece - you have been a voice calling out for years anticipating this catastrophic devastation and meeting it with unwavering belief in inclusion and empathy as a path beyond fear.    I want your voice to be heard by the whole word today and everyday.  Much love Ellen

Dec 14, 2015
Dec 14, 2015

Hi Nisan

god with you dear i really feel sorry for you , be patient and everything it will be okay :)



Dec 18, 2015
Dec 18, 2015

Hi Nisan, 

For a very long time I feel like refugees have been painted as less than human. It is something I have always struggled to understand. I personally am not a fan of labels because at the end of the day we are all humans who have emotions and feelings and ultimately want exactly the same thing; the right to live safely and happily without fear. We all want for our babies to grow up with opportunities and to see our elders ease into the latter stages of their life without the worry that they may out live their children due to ongoing wars.  That being said, I think one of the biggest challenges right now is that for citizens of the United states/Europe/Australia etc all we are seeing is a "group" of people "invading" our country. This is not a personal view of mine, but one that seems to be perpetuated by the media. In my country we are seeing alot of vilification of muslims / refugees. Its very heartbreaking to see. The people responsible for this, to me anyway, are persecuting the label and not taking the time to see the people behind it.  In regards to the Syrian refugees being relocated around the world, I have been wondering if there would be anyway for families/people from the countries accepting new citizens to be matched with a family to correspond with before their arrival. To get to know the person behind the label and to understand their story. Luckily there are more people who care, then don't. Having never been in this position, I am not even sure if that would be something that the Syrians would be interested in doing, but I can't even fathom what it must be like to leave your homeland and your family and everything you know because you really have no other choice.  I will admit that before I read the book "The people smuggler" I was completely ignorant to the plight of someone setting foot in a boat seeking out a better life.  Bless you Nisan and your family and I wish you all the very best in your new lives.

Allison Frost
Dec 30, 2015
Dec 30, 2015


You are articulate and passionate. Please write more! And I would love to hear what your life is like now. What do you hear first hand from people who remain in Syria? Specific examples and personal stories can really help what you urge: the lighting of a candle in the heart.

All the best to you. Keep your heart and writing alive and thriving -- as they so clearly are!


Jan 23, 2016
Jan 23, 2016

Dear Nisan,

Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with Allison who wrote here also. What is life for you like now? What about your friends from Syria who have immigrated recently, how are they doing?

Do write more.



Justin M. Loveland
Mar 03, 2016
Mar 03, 2016


I am humbled by your story, and feel meek in the face of providing any kind of substantive response to it. I am truly sorry. The part about your brother's boat having to first turn around and paddle by hand, and then successfully reaching Greence and then Sweden, was at once heart-wrenching and deeply gladdening. But I know many stories, many boatfuls, are not successful.

The figures you cited are startling, and I'm not sure that many people in the West understand what that means. I empathize with you and your story. As crippling the tangible presence of despair is, the more inspiring and remarkable is the tenacity for hope.

I really liked this thought: "The way this world deals with refugees in crisis is not specific to Syrians. It sends a message about the world’s current stand on human rights."

I agree. And I sincerely hope the world will change this stand very soon, to the benefit of all.

In friendship,