June 19, 2017 17:57

World Refugee Day 2017: I lost my son in the airstrike


On the occasion of World Refugee Day on 20 June, we tell the stories of some of the refugees and displaced people that are supported by our members.

I lost my son in the airstrike, says Mohamed displaced from Aleppo. He is one of 11 million Syrians uprooted from their homes

There are more than 5 million Syrian people, nearly a quarter of the country’s population, seeking refugee outside Syria today. Even greater than the number of Syrian refugees, is the number of Syrians who have been uprooted from their homes and remain displaced within the borders of their country – the internally displaced populations.

When you start counting people in millions, or as fractions of a population, the individual humans disappear almost entirely. Yet, somehow, it is easier to present refugees as numbers. It is much harder to see the human figures within the numerical ones; to bring humanity to the enormity.

Today, 20th June, is Refugee Day; a day to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of refugees and internally displaced persons. Alliance2015 member People in Need support Syrian refugees and internally displaced people inside Syria. Today is a day to remind ourselves of the individuals; the humans and not the numbers.

This is Mohamed

Mohamed is a 37 year old man from Aleppo. He was a father of 7, now a father of 6, after he lost his son in the war. He and his surviving family members were forced to flee their village in northern Aleppo countryside last year when it became too dangerous. “Before the war my hometown was lovely,” Mohamed describes. “It used to host many summer resorts, restaurants and villas, it was beautiful. Now, it is almost totally destroyed.”

“About a year ago, there was an escalation in fighting in the northern countryside of Aleppo and my town was being hit day and night. It was hit with barrel bombs and vacuum bombs* in addition to heavy artillery shelling. I lost my son in one of these airstrikes. He was killed this way.”

Having tried to live through the bombardment and suffered from the trauma of losing family, friends and seeing his hometown fall to ruin, Mohamed and his family made the agonizing decision to leave everything behind, including their home, community and source of income, in search of safety.

“After escalation in the levels of violence and bombardment, life was impossible there and there were fears that our town could be besieged,” Mohamed explains. “So, my family and I moved to a village in western Aleppo countryside. I had no other choice but to rent a house which is costing me 40 US Dollars each month. It is not a large amount, but since I am jobless and struggle a lot with my diabetes, I see it as a very large burden.”

Mohamed is one of over 11 million Syrians who have been uprooted from their homes since the start of the conflict. Though he has faced similar obstacles to his fellow Syrians, many of whom have also struggled with the pain of loss, unemployment, poverty and exhaustion, the details of his personal battles are known only to him and his closest family and friends. We cannot generalise about him as a ‘displaced person’ or assume anything about him because of such a label.  His hopes, fears, dreams and plans for his future are unique to him. There are many ways to describe Mohamed and ‘displaced’ is only one of them. ‘Displaced’ does not tell his story and captures neither his suffering nor his bravery. ‘Resilient’ might be one of the better and more human ways to describe Mohamed, but there are many more.

- Sari Haj Jneid, Eleanor McClelland, People in Need Syria

*Also called volumetric weapons, which work by dispersing an explosive element or fuel, which creates an aerosolised cloud on impact. The weapon's explosive then ignites the aerosolised cloud, producing a powerful shockwave and high temperatures.


This story is part of Alliance2015 World Refugee Day campaign, featuring stories of refugees supported by our members. For more information about the campaign and other stories, please click here.