No, the war is not over. ISIS is not defeated, Assad didn't step down, and all the dozens of terrorists groups are still destroying Syria. Which is why it was shocking for me to hear "I'm going back to Syria" from Mustafa, a Syrian refugee, who not only made it to a safe state, but made it to Germany - the sexiest state in the globe!
Mustafa is a 24 years old engineer, fluent in English, Arabic, and now in German. He's one of the smartest people I have had the pleasure to meet since I arrived in Germany. Brilliant by all means. I met him the first day I started volunteering at a refugees shelter. He was nice enough to show me around, and since then we hangout everyday during breaks. He always has this big smile on his face that makes you feel that everything is alright with the world.
Mustafa arrived in Germany in July, after 8 weeks of walking, running, swimming, boat rides, car rides, and more. I cannot talk about certain parts of his journey in details... and there are other parts I REALLY don't want talk about: "At least once a day, I was sure I was going to die" He once told me as he was fighting back tears, and added "we not only had to survive the bandits who were ready to kill us for the money we had and the watches and jewelries we may or may not have in our bags, but we also had to survive professional blacks-op killers, who successfully drowned many of the people who were on the boat I took".
So why on earth after such a long journey would Mustafa file to retract his asylum application? It's Germany, after all, the most welcoming country for refugees! Wherever you go in Germany, the "refugees welcome" flags and signs are everywhere. Concerts and events for refugees are held every weekend all over the country, and Merkel reaffirmed again and again Germany's welcoming stance on the Syrian refugees issue.
Mustafa decided to satisfy my curiosity by answering all of these questions in just one line "Germans are great, Germany as a country is so harsh on us!!!". He further described how wonderful, kind and welcoming people in Berlin have been to him since he arrived, and how genuinely empathetic they are to the asylum seekers cause. He then explained the "Germany as a country'" part of his statement.
He described Merkel's statement as hypocritical . "Germany doesn't want any of us here" Mustafa said, and he added "German bureaucracy and bureaucrats go out of their way to make it clear that we are not wanted here. Just visit LaGeSo once and you will see how really welcoming Germany is".
LaGeSo is acronym for Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales , meaning State Office for Health and Social Affairs. It is the office responsible for registration of asylum seekers, setting court dates, housing people in shelters within the state of Berlin, and distributing essentials - from transportation tickets to food and cloths. Asylum seekers' lives basically revolve around LaGeSo, and by god, it's HELL! If you go to LaGeSo at any given day, at 3 am, you will see an endless line of asylum seekers. Thousands of people. Hundreds of them are children under the age of 5 years old, many pregnant women, and old people who shouldn't be standing for so long. All have to come this early with the slim hope of getting one of the 50 first tickets.Because only 50 people will be served in that mind-numbing bureaucratic institution each day. After 16 hours standing, the others are simply told to come back the next day, and are given a 1 day pass to enter one of the shelters; which will lead them to another line to enter the shelter. People usually make it inside after 9:00 PM, most are in by midnights. They get 3 hours of sleep and then start the process allover again.
"What's even more frustrating is the corruption inside LaGeSo" Mustafa said. " Many refugees get a ticket not because they stood in line, but because they have a deal with a translator who works inside the building. He explained. " And it's not like it's done discreetly , numerous reports of corruption have been filed, and all fell on deaf ears, just like all the reports of violence ,against asylum seekers."
"I didn't take so many risk on this journey for this kind of treatment. I endured feeling like a livestock on the back of that truck only for the chance of feeling like a human being again. I don't need Germany's money or shelter, I just want my humanity to be acknowledged - I am a living breathing person, not a number or a statistic. I'm heading home not because Syria is safer than how I left it, but because despite the fear, I felt more human there than I do now. I may or may not live for much longer after I go back, but at least I will feel human for as long as I will live. I just wish Germany will start treating those who are staying at least the way dogs are treated in Germany. That would be a major leap forward". Mustafa said.
I had to stop the interview at this point, as I couldn't take it anymore. I started welling up as he said these painful words, and I choked on my own words after that. We hugged it off, poured some coffee and lit a cigarette that felt very much like a post coital cigarette ( but not the good kind of coitus, the other one, where you feel guilty and a little ashamed after. )
It's noteworthy that Mustafa is not the only refugee to start the process to go back to the war zones. In fact, at least 30 people stationed in the shelter I volunteer in are leaving to Syria any day now, and many more are filing for asylum applications retraction everyday. Over 50 Kurdish Iraqis went back to Irbil in the past month, most of them have no homes there anymore, yet they prefer to live in tents just miles away from ISIS over staying in the Promised Land of Germany. What future is there for people willing to live safely in dignity?