Imagine what it means to live in a devastated country, riven by inner divisions, whose future will not be written by its own citizens, but by men dressed in suits and sitting comfortably on their chairs while discussing which solution is best to meet everyone’s interests. Now, think what it means to be disabled when the war breaks out. When one is unable to run and move like everyone else to shun bombs and artillery fire. When one is unable to help their loved ones lying on the ground. Imagine this disarming impotence, capable of driving a person crazy.
Alan Mohamed and his sister Gyan lived through these feelings when the black militia of the Caliphate knocked on the doors of Al-Hasakah, located in the northeast of Syria. Both of them are affected by muscular dystrophy from birth; both are doomed. Yet, it is precisely in the most difficult situations, when all hope seems to vanish, we discover a force we could not even imagine before.
They did not allow the events to overwhelm them, but planned their escape. They sat in the wheelchair and began an extraordinary journey. From Syria, they arrived to Greece, crossing deserts, mountains and the sea. They did so without being able to move freely, as any other person would do in normal conditions. Their example is a slap in the face of those who underestimate the potential of the weakest.
“For normal people it is very difficult, but for wheelchair users like us it is a true miracle”, Alan tells Askanews. At present, he is in the Ritsona refugee camp. “When the bombing started, with my family we tried to reach the Turkish border – he recalls -. We made three attempts and every time they shot at us.”
Alan, Gyan and part of their family fled to Iraq. From there, they climbed mountains to reach Turkey. “When we got to the top, we took two horses,” the young man explains. In bags tied to horsebacks, they crossed the border together with their mother, brother, and sister who dragged the wheelchairs. Then followed a journey in a boat overcrowded with migrants to the Greek island of Chios. That is when the surprise arrived: “On the Internet, they said that the borders were open for pregnant women, the elderly, and for disabled people – he explains -, but when we arrived there, we realized that we were stuck in Greece.”
Alan’s journey and that of his sister stopped in the Ritsona refugee camp, not far away from Athens. It is a tent city that hosts about 500 people although it is difficult to estimate their precise number. The majority of the refugees are from Syria, but other ethnic groups are present too. Everyone is waiting to know their fate. Everyone has to pre-register and register to be able to apply for asylum or family reunification. There are many children in the 155 tents and Alan has decided to devote his care to these children. Day after day, he teaches them English, helping them to communicate and create a future in the West, far from the horror they left behind.
Photos taken from Askanews’ video