In order to give people outside Chios the possibility to understand how it is to be in a refugee camp on the island, A Drop in the Ocean will present an alternative Christmas calendar this year. Each day until Christmas, we will post the story of 24 amazing people, that we are so blessed to spend our everyday with. The stories are written by our wonderful volunteer Diana Valdecantos and photos will be done by our amazing coordinator and photographer Nickie Mariager-Lam.
December 5th: Ahmed Abed Rohman
Written by Diana Valdecantos and photos by Nickie Mariager-Lam
“I cannot stay here any longer. I cannot. I don’t think straight, I’m very tired. This place is dangerous, they stole my money, I was in a fight, and I haven’t been able to take a shower since I got here. I need to leave”.
Ahmed Abed Rohman has only been in the Souda Camp for nine days, and his experience hasn’t been exactly promising. This would be understandable under any other circumstances, but the fact is that this 27 years old was born and raised in Gaza Strip. His life has been all about fear as long as he remembers, however, he finds Europe confusing. “I have a very complicated feeling about this wild situation. I’m given food three times a day, but I don’t need food, I just need to get to Sweden and find a job”, he explains with an aura of profound despair.
This young Palestinian man married his girlfriend years ago. Unfortunately, she left Gaza in 2012 looking for a brighter future in Otansho, a northern city in Sweden were she finished her studies and found a job. The 21st of October, Ahmed left his country following the woman he married and running away from a claustrophobic way of life.
“The Gaza Strip is a big prison. There is no freedom at all and there are limited things you can do. For example: I’m not allowed to have a cup of tea with a girl. I could go to prison, they can shoot me just for that. We can’t drink any alcohol, it’s illegal. Hamas controls every aspect of our lives and we aren’t free. There is no freedom”. If you’re a member of Hamas or you work for the government you can’t even smoke cigarettes” he explains.
It’s not only his own government he fears, Gaza has been a war zone for a long time now. “We had a war in 2008, then again in 2011 and the year after. It’s a very dangerous place. Bombs are something really common in my city. I lost one of my brothers in one of those bombings. I am not safe there, it is not safe”.
Abed Rohman brings up these two words constantly: Safety and freedom. A luxury life has never given him and the reason why he risked it looking for an opportunity.
He expresses himself in a direct and crystal clear manner, convinced that he has the right to, at least, try to live without fear for a change.
Ahmed started working the moment he could, while attending school and university. His days went by in an almost normal way and he finished his degree as an X-ray technologist with no problems. He also worked building the tunnel that links Gaza with Egypt were trucks full of food and goods make the way in every week. He likes action and romantic movies and can’t stop thinking about his wife.
“We speak everyday, all the time. I think about her every minute, every second, right now”, he says while he looks at his phone as if she lived inside it and could almost touch her. “I want a family. I love children. I come from a large family. I have eleven brothers and four sisters. I want to start my own. I really need to meet my wife soon. Four years is a long time and I miss her so much”, he says.
That’s the reason he paid 3.500 dollars to the Egyptian government in order to be able to fly to Turkey. Apparently, they allow these journeys for two or three days approximately every five months, and when Ahmed was able to put together this important amount of money, with his family’s help, he didn’t hesitate.
From Egypt he flew to Istanbul where he paid another 1.800 euros to walk across the Greek border. A very disturbing journey that ended up in the police department after being arrested by Turkish officers. They identified him and he stayed there for two days, while only being fed once.
But Abed Rohman has a reason to believe, and after negotiating with another smuggler, he got into a bus to Basmena to try and reach Greece by boat. He stayed there, waiting, for almost a month, and paid 700 euros for a ticket to Europe. One night, at 2 am, he finally set sail. In an inflated rubber boat, with other 28 persons, including a two-month old baby, they made their way through bad weather and impossible waves. All his belongings fell over and sank during that trip, but his passport and money was safe in his pocket. “I wasn’t afraid. I am a good swimmer and then, well, I’m from Gaza after all, nothing scares me. Only Allah”.