It was the summer of 2012 when my parents and I, along with our neighbors, packed the food we had and left everything we knew to be home behind. Aleppo was getting more hostile by the day; we had no choice but to leave our homes, hoping one day to return.
We fled to Turkey in five cars along a route clear of Assad Regime checkpoints carefully mapped out by (defectors of the Syrian Armed Forces) also known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA). We traveled through unfamiliar roads and streets, not knowing what to expect. As we traveled, we recalled stories of refugees who were kidnapped, girls and women raped, and families murdered, and we began to fear that our lives would end in the same vicious manner.
Once we neared the border, we paid a Turkish man to guide us to the nearest city, but miscommunication led us to Northern Turkey, to a city that bordered Russia. We felt far from home and very lonely. With no source of income, it became challenging to live, despite our conservative housing arrangements of two families in one home. No one expected the revolution to continue past the summer—but it did, which left us with little money to continue living in our temporary haven, let alone afford the basic necessities. Since our living arrangement was not getting any easier and the school year was about to begin, my parents decided it would be best to return to Aleppo.
My senior year was filled with obstacles and dangers that threatened not only our safety but also our lives. Going to school involved the possibility of being kidnapped, raped, or killed at the hands of the regime, and if we could not find safe routes we would just head back home and miss school.
Given the unpredictable nature of the Assad Regime, teachers often called to inform us of alternative routes or advised us to stay home because it would be too dangerous to come. The days I hated the most were when we would finally arrive, only to find that the school was under threat, or worse, attack. Danger was not limited to school. Five months ago, a neighboring apartment building was bombed, blasting through the windows, living room, and bedroom of a family in that complex. Fortunately the family escaped with minor injuries, but it was another reminder of the unpredictable and psychologically abusive nature of the Regime. I now live with the constant fear that my family or friends could be attacked at any moment.
That moment came soon enough. One day, the hisses of bombs were getting uncomfortably close, when suddenly our entire building began to shake violently. We realized the floor above us had been hit. I started screaming and crying and after checking on me, my parents checked on our neighbors. I thought of escaping, but recalled a vicious tactic used by the Regime where snipers would target and hit any person attempting to escape. Those who were not shot were considered lucky to have been kidnapped, and if returned alive, they returned with horrific stories of inhumane torture.
I did not realize that I was shaking franticly until my mother rushed to my side and held me. AlhamdulilLah (praise be to God), it was a close call; after that experience, I cannot help but fear what might happen next. It is only with the knowledge that Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He) has power over all things and that only He is our Protector from the unexpected and unpredictable dangers that we may face in this dunya (world).
I end with a hadith (narration of the Prophet ﷺ, peace be upon him) that I feel will relay this message:
“O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you (have need to) ask, ask of Allah; and if you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that even if the Nation (or the whole community) were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with something, they would not be able to harm you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” –Reported by Abdullah bin ‘Abbas, radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him).