syria is real: mustafa

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Syria is real. Is it? Or is it not?

Yesterday in the late afternoon I went for a walk  just to clear my mind after work. Because the weather was nice and yet not so cold for a November day, I was thinking to sit down a bit on a bench. Two benches further a seemingly (it was dark already) elderly man sat there, smoking a cigarette and finishing the first of his three bottles of beer. I was aware of that, but felt a bit uncomfy though when he was shouting slightly drunk “hello” and asking for my name. I told him, I wouldn’t tell him. A fact that encouraged him to take his beer bottles and to switch places so he could sit down right next to me.

In Syria, they are all gone, he said.

He introduced himself as Mustafa from Syria. And then he started to tell his story. Since he seemed kinda lost, overwhelmed and – I have to admit – smelled quite unpleasant, and since I was remembering seeing him here before napping on one of these benches, I started to ask him questions, just to make sure he was okay.

But of course, he was not.

With very little German and using my right palm as a map he told me that he came from Syria via Turkey to Hamburg, where he was in a hospital for some medical treatment on his head, as I could see, as he showed me a large bump on the back of the head. But somehow Germany sent him back to Syria, his home, where he was the only survivor of his whole family from this ongoing war. Using my right hand again, he took each of my fingers to describe and count the members of his family: one son, another son, a daughter and a wife. A marriage for 20 years. And then he got very upset when he told me, all of them were shot by Assad. They all are gone, all gone, he said.

Germany is good, he said. But it isn’t, I thought.

I asked him if he is here in LEipzig all on his own. And he said yes. I asked him where he is staying, if he is in the asylum center, and he denied. And then he said, no papers, not the right papers, not the right passport. He has nothing. He told me he went to Chemnitz, the point of contact for asylum seekers in Saxony, and all they said was: wrong papers. But Germany is good, he said. Germany is good.

But having no papers means, he cannot stay here. He must return to the place where there is war.

He offered me a cigarette, which I declined with thanks. I asked him, if he has friends in LEipzig where he can stay and he denied. I asked him, where he uses to stay and he answered: in the park. I told him, there is a cold winter coming and he said, his parka is warm and the beer helps him to forget. Shortly thereafter he got a phone call which he answered with yelling. And then I remembered another time I saw him before around this place yelling on the phone.

I told him many times, he should try to go to the home for homeless people. I told him the place I know of, encouraged him to try it. And he said, no papers, not the right papers. I told him, he should try it without papers. But he said, no papers, no passport.

Goodbye, I said.

I needed to go. I told him the address of this place for homeless people again and said goodbye, as I wished him good luck. His last words where thank you and if I had one or two Euros to share.

Unfortunately, the one and only thing I had in my pockets was the key to my fancy, warm and cozy apartment. Where I went to drink a freshly prepared smoothie of exotic and regional organic fruits as an appetizer for the homemade spinach and feta puff pastry bags.

Couldn’t enjoy any of that. Couldn’t stop thinking about Mustafa and how unreal and far away the war in Syria seems, when you only knew it from the news. In fact, how unreal life seems at all, when all of your work and most of your social life is based on the help of a computer and the internet.

How can I help, I asked myself.

And then my man and I discussed ways to help Mustafa. Should I go down again and give him money? How much does it help if he spends it on beer and cigarettes? How about bringing some food and hot tea, something healthy to eat and drink? Or maybe our sleeping bag and pad, just to make sure, he won’t freeze to death? What other warm clothes do we have that we can live without? Then my man called the asylum center for help, but the office was closed by then. Meanwhile I asked my social worker friend about this place for homeless people I know and she said, he probably can go there anonymously.

But what is he doing there, I suddenly wondered. 

Before preparing him a first aid package with food and money and clothes, I wanted to see if he still was there on the bench. I spotted him right in the moment of leaving the place, staggering towards the street where there was a rush hour in full swing. I was worried about him getting hit by a car, ’cause instead of walking on the sidewalk, he walked down the street. First I was thinking he wanted to cross the street. But then he took a turn and walked the other way. Well, he certainly was lost.

Or wasn’t. Cause he stopped at every car just for a second. He walked, and stopped. Walked, and stopped again. Well, it took me a while to recognize that he was checking the cars for open doors.

And then I went to check the internet for more info about that place for homeless people. I printed the contact and draw Mustafa the directions from here to there, which I will hand out to him the next time I see him.

Yes, I know.

So even though there were these certain voices popping up when I saw Mustafa checking these cars and even though I have to admit I was a bit shocked, I still felt the urge to help Mustafa somehow. Why? Just because for the one and only reason that I think that a person that gets drunk in the afternoon, that is telling a stranger pretty personal things and that is occasionally sleeping on this particular bench (and feels so desperate that he’s on a criminal path) cannot lead a happy life. So in my opinion such a person needs help. However and no matter where this person comes from and why this person wants to stay.


So now there is the time when birds move from here to the south just because of the weather. So why (of course, I do know why, but still) isn’t it possible for humans to just live where they want to live? As simple as it sounds: There is the earth and there are people. Just like that?!

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4 thoughts on “syria is real: mustafa

  1. So fucking sad. I lived up until the last few months in a country where many people risked their life to sail towards its shores (Australia). Many died and the rest were locked up in detention centres off shore for 3-4 years waiting an outcome on their asylum claims. the whole thing made me (and many other Australians) sick. One of the reasons I left. The whole thing still horrifies me.

    1. Hi Cate, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The longer I think about it, the more angry I get. I cannot believe that one human on one side at a desk can reject the one on the other side even if they are begging for help. I know that this happens everywhere, but here we are talking about war and death. I mean, the actual people are here, begging for help. Who cares about papers? So I would say, welcome to Germany, the “good land” of bureaucracy. :-(

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