The thing that hurt the most

I am still awake, waiting for the latest news. I think I am living in a state of anticipation and panic due to the shock of the earthquake. I am also waiting for the latest news about us refugees.

Now I live in my sister’s house. I left my house because it is located in a tall building, and I don’t feel safe there.

My name is Ahmed. I am from Syria, I’m 27 years old and I live in Gaziantep, Turkey. I’ve been a refugee since 2013. I work as a laboratory manager in an adhesive manufacturing company, I’m also a filmmaker and actor for independent projects.

I do not see a future here, I didn’t even before the earthquake. I still feel the resentment of the experience that I had failing to cross into Europe.

The fourth day after the earthquake, with a group of friends I went to Antakya to help in the rescue operations. We took with us some clothes and some bread to distribute.

The aim of the trip was to help the rescue teams and film a documentary to witness the situation there, equipped only with my mobile phone and a flashlight. We were eight people, all Syrians. We wanted to volunteer in the Red Crescent, but we did not find the person responsible for letting us volunteer, so we had to return back quickly. Some decided to remain there, their relatives were under the rubbles.

I recorded the destruction and the work of the rescuing teams. That place was a ghost town. Survivors were taken out of the smashed buildings, it was like resurrection over the rubble. I saw a toy, a teddy bear. I don’t know who this toy might belong to, Syrian or Turkish, I didn’t know if they were alive. I thought came into my mind: “this toy is a victim of the earthquake”. I started to cry.

I photographed a camp. When I saw the camp, I felt pain, first because the tents are similar to the ones in Syria, and also because they were made in a better way than those we had in Syria.

I feel sorrow, I feel sad, both for my people in Syria and for the sons of my second country, Turkey. No matter how much racism I see in Turkey, I cannot say anything about Turkish people except that they are my people, my second home.

I have relatives in the city of Aleppo, which is under the control of the Assad regime and its militias. One of my sisters and her family are in the city of Azaz, which is under the control of the opposition forces. I am glad they are all fine there.

Frankly, I love to talk about the matter of Syria, and I promised myself to talk about the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allies at every opportunity I get.

In Syria, I used to live in the city of Aleppo. When the barrel bombing intensified, I fled to the city of Azaz, in the countryside. It was there when I witnessed a massacre for the first time.

It was a very hot summer day. We were attending the funeral of one of my relatives who had been shot in the head by regime snipers.

After the funeral, we went back to the house to rest from the summer heat. We were all exhausted. It was so hot and it was Ramadan, we were fasting from drinking and eating.

Around three o’clock in the afternoon, the city heard a sound coming from afar and getting closer, and as the sound got closer, it became stronger.

It is the barrel of my void, as they say, those who have heard this sound many times.

My mother was talking on the phone while I was lying on the ground because of the heat, my father was lying under the fan.

The barrel bomb fell on the street behind us. I rolled onto the floor of the long room. When I regained consciousness and balance, I reassured my parents, my brother, my brother’s wife who was pregnant, and their child. I put my feet on the ground. The floor was full of glass and had some scratches.

I went to the street, but I couldn’t see anything, only dust and thick smoke. Just a few after my vision became clear. I saw something similar to the scenes we saw in the earthquake these days, but with the sound of a plane in the air and a strong smell of gunpowder on the ground. Rescue teams have seen and carried away the bodies of children and women. At the time I was 17 or 18 years old. There are still records of the bombing in Azaz on YouTube. I am in one of those videos as well, coming over the rubbles. It was right after that massacre I decided to flee to Turkey.

In Turkey, I did not find my right to asylum. I was exploited a lot at work. I worked in very difficult conditions in order to secure my livelihood. I am 27 and I have chronic back pain.

I always dreamed of being an actor, and a professional and famous filmmaker. I see in the cinema something that cannot be described, in terms of beauty and freedom of expression conveyed in a message, while shedding light on the issues of people.

Few days ago, I was in the queue at the bakery, waiting for bread. After the earthquake there was a shortage of bread and people were just rushing to the closest bakery to get food for the whole family. There I saw a woman, she was in her forties.

In Gaziantep, you can clearly understand where people are coming from by the way they dress. It is easy to determine who are the people of the countryside and who are the people of the city. She was a rural woman, and signs that she was a recent city dweller were visible. I was the only Syrian standing in this line.

In my nature, I love to help, I wanted to be nice to her and give her my turn to get bread faster. The weather was very cold and she seemed exhausted. She understood I was a ‘yabanci’, the word by which Turks call foreigners. ‘Yabanci’ also means ‘strange’.

When she learned that I was a stranger, she said to me: “we do not want your help in anything, go to your country. She was speaking in plural. The episode got noticed by everyone in the queue. I started to think that everybody agreed with the lady’s words, because no one moved a finger. The fact that no one said a word, well, that was the real hurtful pain for me.

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