Fouad, 24 years old

I escaped to Lebanon with my mother and 3 of my sisters about a year and a half ago, around September 2013. We come from al-Quassayr in the province of Homs where we lost our father, who went out one day to collect his salary, and never came back. We had asked and looked for him but we could not find any clue as to his whereabouts. We still do not know what happened to him: maybe he died, or has been living in some basement, only God knows.

Before leaving al-Quassayr we had spent close to a year living underground. I stayed in a basement with my family and the fights took place above us.

My sister Batoul contracted a skin disease for which we cannot find a cure. It started while we had to live in that basement for a year. Our never ending fear and all the traces of the war were reflected on her face and eyes. With no electricity, barely any food, we stayed there. At some point we could not find any candles anymore so we started burning oil, and along with that came the choking from the fumes. We were in a desperate situation and we had to use anything that was available. In the end the regime army wanted to get into the area where we were staying. If they had managed to enter then the civilians would have been stuck. That would have been the end of us: we would have ended up slaughtered no matter what.

My problem is that I am the only boy in the family. I have 7 sisters. Four of them are married and they live in Lebanon with their families. The remaining 3 and my mother are with me. I was a student at an institute back in Syria and I could not finish my studies. My father was the one providing for the family and he disappeared in the beginning of the events. I was born with a hole in my heart that prevents me from doing any physically demanding activities. I was wounded in Homs in one of the air force attacks of the regime on the city. I was on my way to arrange a car that would take us to Lebanon when it felt as if the sky started falling down on me. As the bombs were falling down they began to grow in my eyes, and became bigger and bigger, right behind me. One of the shells hit me and broke a bone in my skull. You can still feel it when you touch my head. Another metal fragment hit me in the arm.

Our lives resembled the story of the ancient caveman. Have you ever heard of anything like it? Burning wood in a basement to heat some water! And on top of that, towards the end, the distance between the regime forces and us hiding became as short as the distance from here to the exit of Koucha. Every civilian they saw they would shoot on the spot. We spent 3 nights in the woods with a group of rebels until we arrived in “the city of dreams”, an area I had heard of before in Syria but I never got to visit. We felt a drastic transition as if we were moving from hell to heaven. The stores were open, the streets were full of people and life was normal. When we arrived to that area the rebels told us that whoever wants to stay there can do so, and that we had arrived at a safe place. Those who would like to come with the rebels to Yabroud can leave in order to continue to Lebanon from there. We told them that we wanted to continue and leave Syria. I mean we had no one in the “city of dreams”; We had no relatives there. My sister and her husband were staying in a camp in Tripoli. She was my way out. We spent a night with a family who took us in; or better said they took my whole family in except for me. At that time my head and arm were covered in bandages, and my beard and hair grew very long. In the “city of dreams” I was considered one of the rebels so I had to spend the night at the doorstep. Someone felt sorry for me and gave me a pillow. The next day we took off for Yabroud. A week later we were able to sneak into Arsal in a big, crowded car in which people were sitting on top of each other. It felt like a judgment day. We finally arrived and with the help of some relatives in Arsal we were able to pay the fees to go to Tripoli, where my brother-in-law was waiting for us. He took care of the rest. First we stayed in Maniara camp for a year, and then we moved to Koucha.

We have been here for about 8 months and with the help of people here I found a job that does not require a lot of physical effort. Our situation is better. However Batoul still suffers from the skin changes and her state remains the same. We found out that the only cure is to change the climate, which means to travel. I tried to get in touch with my aunt who migrated to Norway. If I would reach her she could then apply for a family reunification as soon as possible and we could finish the treatment for Batoul. All I care about is her state now since the doctors told us that the older she gets the worse it will become. The disease will progress on her skin… We are waiting…