I never could understand why we were living in these shabby dirty tents here. Why had we left our homes and countries, and come to this unwelcoming place? I always asked everyone and they never had an answer for me.
I remember playing with my friends, with our little dolls, in the neighborhood. I miss Sarah and Maryam. We were three best friends, aged the same, twelve year olds. We had our birthdays also on the same dates but in different months. People always thought we were triplets and I always wished it had been that way. Sarah, Maryam and Sana’a, we were so close, yet now I didn’t even know where they were.
We had left homes in a hurry, I couldn’t even say goodbye to Maryam. Just like Sarah had left, a few days earlier. They were the first amongst us to have left Deraa, the town where some Uprising was supposed to have happened. We didn’t even get to bid farewell properly. I saw Sarah’ s father rush in to the house that evening.
Soon, all of them were out. Sarah was crying and telling her parents to let her say her goodbyes to us. Hearing her cries, we ran out, but by then, they were in a car that had already started moving. When Maryam and I, saw her, we desperately waved our hands. We don’t even know if she saw us do that.
Mother said, she might have. I kept asking mother, where they had gone, if they would return, but as always no answer was given. I heard mother tell father something though. And it gave me a ray of hope, that we would meet again. It seems her uncle, who lived in Germany, had arranged a permit for the family and they had left before anyone even questioned them or asked for help. I don’t think, Sarah would have left us like that if she felt the place was unsafe.
Three days later, father rushed in and announced that we all needed to collect whatever necessary yet important things we had. He said, we were going to leave this place, before the Uprising destroyed all of us. I never understood that word. If it was a rising upwards, then why was there so much fear. If we were hoping to see a rising future then why were we leaving. If it was for the future, then why was everyone running away. Was the future so bad to face?
I don’t even remember how many days passed, while we rode in the truck like cattle and sheep. Father and mother’s faces had a strange fear and worry. I had cried when we started because, like Sarah, I too hadn’t met my friend. I couldn’t say my byes properly. Why were we being separated like this. No one told me!
We stopped, we rode. Papers were checked,soldiers checked the trucks peeping and glancing. Finally we were told to get down. And then began my life in this place called Zaatari. There were so many people here. Suddenly a thought came to me. Could I find Sarah here? Was this the place mother had said? She said some name, oh yes, Germany. I went and asked mother, to which she just nodded her head and said I should forget about Sarah.
I realized it wasn’t Germany.
We walked along with father. He took us around. It didn’t look as bad, as it had seemed when I got down. There was a market-like place along the main street where I saw vegetables, some more shops, and even a clothes shop. But there were not many people inside, rather most of them were out. Maybe it was very expensive inside, I thought and giggled to myself.
And since then, each day that I stay here, I hate it more. We live in tents, which are so weak, that I fear they may fall anytime on us. Every day we walk with mother for miles, till Fathima, my younger two year old sister would cry. Mother and I always had to pacify her, so that we could walk ahead. Poor mother would have to carry her.
We would wait in long lines. Not a single person would allow the other to move an inch. It was sad to see, my own countrymen, being so harsh and rude to one another. The old ones would be tired and exhausted. Some of them even fainted. I got a lot scared seeing them. I was scared, if something happened to Mother or father.
Here we had a different name, we weren’t called countrymen or citizens but as “Syrian refugees”. Once we returned back to our homes, the tents, these were called Camps! For hours, we would wait for trucks. They would bring grains and food and other things. There were Red Crosses on some and Red Crescent on some of the trucks.
Nobody would know what was going to be distributed, yet everyone waited because there was nothing they had. Whatever mother could collect, we would try to manage, sometimes eating less. Sometimes Mother would skip a meal, saying she wasn’t hungry. Sometimes Father said he was too tired to eat. I always wondered how they could not feel hungry after having just the breakfast. Fathima and I were always made to eat till we would say no!
Sometimes, I could hear the people screaming and arguing. The other men complained of the “inhumane” system, while some would tell father that it was better to go home and die with respect than live here in this coop like conditions. Going home was a good idea, but why would we be killed there, I never knew.
But death wasn’t very far away. In our “camps”, we saw children die. There were no doctors around and those who were there couldn’t find out what was wrong with them. And so people died everyday. Each day there would be a grieving family. A crying mother and a despairing father, or a young man or even a young boy, crying while carrying the coffin of his father or mother. It gave me shudders to even think. We were just four in the family and we needed each other always. I always prayed to the Lord to keep us safe and together always.
I never knew after that, where Sarah was or where Sanaa was. I didn’t even know if they were alive or dead.
Was it a crime to live in our own homes? Was there no way to go back and live as we had been living earlier. Why did we have to live in fear everyday? Why were we left like orphans on to the land by the Creator? Had he abandoned us? Did we do something wrong to earn his wrath and fury? What about the rest of the world? Did our lives not mean anything to them? Had everyone on this planet forgotten about us? Were we not humans? Was there no respite from this pain?
With these questions blurring my mind, with prayers on lips, with images of Sarah and Sanaa, with tears of fear and some distant memories of good times at home, I fell asleep. To wake up again, and help mother to clean, wash, collect and live in this Camp called home!
P.S. Let us not forget the people around the world who are living in such despair. Let us remember them in our prayers and wish no more children suffer like Aylan or others who have died a silent death!