Amal, a 28-year-old Syrian-Palestinian refugee, who managed to make it safely to Germany with her family, says making it from Damascus to the border with Turkey, “was the hardest of all” the chapters of her migrant journey to Europe.
Syria remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Nearly half of the population has been internally displaced or has fled to other countries, and the war has claimed the lives of close to half a million people. Over the past five years, Syrians have devised countless ways to escape the killing and violence.
While residents of towns and cities in northern Syria have relatively easy access to Turkey, the journey for those who live in the country’s center or south is much more dangerous. Syrians traveling out of Damascus must cross dozens of active battle lines and navigate hundreds of government and armed opposition checkpoints before they reach the Turkish border.
The danger and difficulty of the journey has increased dramatically since the autumn of 2015, when Turkish authorities sealed the border with Syria.
And while most international media outlets focus intensely on refugees travelling by sea from Turkey into Europe, they have overlooked the similarly dangerous, and illegal journey from Syria into Turkey and other neighboring countries, a trip that often results in detention and, sometimes, death.
Others make the trip because they are wanted by the Syrian government, either because of an arrest warrant issued by one of the security branches or for mandatory military service, which means the person cannot legally leave Syria.
“An agreement with the smuggler on the destination of the trip is not enough at this point,” says Ahmad, a 22-year-old from the capital. “The deal must include guarantees of no ID checks on government checkpoints.”
Ahmad tells Syria Deeply that despite multiple attempts, he had been refused another permit to delay his obligatory military service after graduating from the Commerce Institute of Damascus. “I couldn’t imagine myself as a combat officer in the army that has committed war crimes against my people,” he says. “I had to risk [the journey]. It was a choice between life and death.” READ MORE