Even though his laptop is the most valuable thing Karam brought with him when he fled Syria, he would get rid of it right away to make sure his parents are safe and to enjoy life the way he did, before the war.
As hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Germany, the country is facing the challenge – and opportunity – of the century. In this DW series, “My piece of hope,” refugees share their personal stories of persecution, escape and waiting. Each individual shows one significant object they’ve brought with them on their journey – their “piece of hope.”
“In Syria we don’t follow dreams. We follow logic,” Karam Al Yusuf says. Perhaps pure logic is why he just brought his laptop to Germany. When he packed his belongings earlier in 2015, he didn’t ponder about the things he might miss. He took a red laptop and some clothes. “It’s a laptop, you know, but I could get a new one. It’s just a device.”
Karam is 28 years old and the oldest of five children. After studying in Aleppo, he was beginning to build his career in the eastern city of Deir ez-Zor: “I studied geology at the University of Aleppo and graduated in 2012. My life before wasn’t bad. I was getting a good income, I had my own house, I could see my parents regularly. They were doing well, everything seemed possible.”
When fights between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Assad regime began in 2011, Karam still stayed for another three years. He “believed in the revolution, the concept of helping people, of supporting them, of doing whatever it takes to take the regime down. That was enough [reason to stay].” But along with the excitement of demonstrating for a better future, the downsides quickly dragged him down: “I lost a lot of friends back then. It was mad.”
Karam felt as if he was becoming a little numb to death. He regularly had nightmares of getting arrested by members of the Assad regime.
When Karam and his brother finally left Syria, they were among the last of their friends to do so. “The conditions in the city were really bad, my brother had recently graduated and was summoned by the regime for the military. It wasn’t acceptable that he would become a soldier.” So the family decided together that they should escape.
After a short halt in Turkey – where his brother still lives and works under “terrible conditions” – Karam has lived in Germany for five months. He shares a flat with his cousin and one of his best friends from home. It’s the little things he misses, the “unexplainable atmosphere of home.”
If he could go back to those moments of playing basketball by himself at sunrise in Syria or drinking tea with his friends next to the river in his hometown, he would. He would happily exchange his laptop for a few seconds of getting that sense of home: “I can go to a lot of places in Berlin where everyone only speaks Arabic. But you’re not in Syria, you’re not in your city. This is not home.”
Berlin perhaps also doesn’t quite feel like home because Karam feels the tensions within the German population: “Sometimes you feel not welcome here and I understand that. It’s nobody’s fault. Maybe the situation is oversensitive, you’ve been through a lot and then you come here and…”
Despite all the hurdles, Karam is confident that he will find a job here within a few months. He needs to get his university degree equalized first though, which proves a dangerous endeavor as he will have to send someone to his old university to get some documentation. He fears that “Islamic State” (IS) will “take them instead of me. They wanted to take me for the military and I was also part of demonstrations.”
But his biggest concern is the wellbeing – both physical and mental – of his parents. When he left, he knew that for once, they were were the ones at risk. “They either die or I’ll see them again.” It’s as simple as that. Karam has never seen his father crying until when they said goodbye. They have moved to Al-Raqqah in the meantime, which is also under ‘IS’ occupation. The family is only occasionally able to communicate via Whatsapp.
The shiny red laptop may be one of the few original remainders of home, but he knows it’s useless while his parents still are in constant danger.