Will and I ran into our friend Ahmed from Raqqa, Syria while we relaxed at Sugar House before we embarked on our fourth overnight shift. He ran across the busy Mytilini street and greeted us warmly. He joined us at the table and told us that he was meeting a UN journalist later that day and motioned for his friend to come join us so I could hear his story.
His friend Osmaa, 27, sat down at the table and fully relied on Ahmed to translate since he’s never had the chance to learn english. Osmaa was a soldier for the Syrian government army under President Bashar al-Assad before paying off an officer so he could flee to Greece.
He served in the regime once before but left once his tenure was up. He was forced back into the army as the civil war continued to gain traction. His second bout of service only lasted for seven months.
Osmaa said he was forced to kill innocent civilians. He said they would put him and many other soldiers on the outskirts of a town, and they were forced to advance into town and kill innocent people. He said he would have been killed had he not adhered to the orders to kill those people.
“I don’t want to fight my own people,” he said. “I cannot.”
Osmaa fled to Turkey and took the usual route across the Aegean Sea to Greece. He arrived in the camp nine months ago and has already received his decisions: three straight rejections. Now he will be deported back to Turkey, but the timetable for that in unknown to him. He said he regrets coming here from Syria. He’d rather be in Turkey.
“I want the world to know I’m in prison here,” he said. “I feel rejected in this camp. My self is destroyed.”
He wants to return to Syria at some point, but he doesn’t know when that will be. He believes the war in Syria will finally end once Assad’s son is killed. The al-Assad family has held power in Syria since 1971 when Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez al-Assad became president, and the trend is projected to continue.
“God help us.”