Crossing ‘Al Teel’ …Mouna, three children and myself

January 9, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Qosai Amamh

Mouna and her three children had been running for some time through rough fields towards Al Teel after it got dark, for it was the best time to avoid the Turkish Border guards.

The smuggler, who took us from Afreen in north Aleppo towards the gathering point which is too close to the separating border line, said “once you get to this place, consider that you’re safely into Turkey.” We didn’t know nor care to know the name of that place because everybody was too busy reaching the asphalt road the smuggler guided us to.

“Don’t even whisper” the smuggler said, “we’re getting into Turkey now” and unlike usual, he was going to cross the border with us as he was going to accompany Mouna up to the city of Mersin, according to a deal he made with her husband a couple days ago. He made another deal which took place between the fig trees, to take one of Mouna’s children with me, and so did Tareq, while the little one ‘Hala’ stayed with her mother.

It was about five o’clock and the sun was fading away, the smuggler was concentrating and so careful that he ordered us to hide behind a hill, which we obeyed completely. He stood on the hill watching the road and speaking Kurdish on his cellphone. There were also other Kurdish men there, whispering and watching the borders. A few minutes later, he ordered us to move on.

Mouna carried with her two large suitcases, stuffed to the extent of tearing. The smuggler advised her (and so did we later) to abandon each other because the road is never easy to cross. We were four men and a lonely girl with Mouna and the three kids. We all had enough reasons to cross the borders illegally from Syria to Turkey. Tareq was officially requested to the army, and so was Gaith, while Zaher ran away before the recall. Every one of us is Syrian and had a choice to enter the border either via Bab Al-Salameh or Bab Al-Hawa, except for Mouna and her children, as they are Palestinian, and they had no other way but the heavy armed ones. For Syrians, a sign copy by the Free Syrian Army on a passport, which means suspending the entrance to the Syrian land again or losing the chances to get to Europe, was more terrifying than facing the Turkish Army bullets. Some of us felt as if he was avoiding two armies by facing a third one.

We continued walking on recently plowed, wet land, one by one forming a straight line, and every one’s velocity with every one’s load determined the space between each two of us. A few moments later, I was not able to see who was in front of me, and who was behind. I also didn’t know who was pushing the other’s hand more, me or Yazan, the boy?! It felt like the land was abandoned by the farmers five minutes after walking, so that the body crosses it faster, then they plowed it back at the seventh minute. They had overrated making the plow tooth, so every step we made looked like getting out of a well, then going down a trench, and finally crossing a wooden board over a land collapse. I was looking for the asphalt road but I couldn’t find it! All I saw was the smuggler with Tareq and the second child, pointing to me to hurry, and when I got there to him he asked me about Mouna. We were at the top of the hill so I went down with Yazan, his brother and Tareq, while the smuggler went back to look for Mouna. He wasn’t too far from us when we heard the sounds of the guns.

That night, Turkish soldiers were shooting on us so much to the extent that we had to run like gazelles away from a monster. I ran grabbing Yazan as if I tore his arm from the shoulder, carrying one of his mother’s suitcases which she said had all she owned in her life in it, and carrying all I had in my own life on my backpack. A Turkish soldier shouted in Turkish, and Yazan cried in Arabic, while my heart almost jumped out of place and beat strongly in no language. I threw Mouna’s life, the hidden treasure in the large suitcase, hoping I could get faster, so it fell with Yazan who was faster than me to fall and stand up again. As we continued running again, some olive trees so close to each other suddenly struck my face, falling down between two of them. Yazan lied down to my left, and until this time, I don’t know how the little Hala was lying on my right too.

The Turkish soldier couldn’t see us, though he was shooting. I tried to freeze Yazan and Hala’s movement with my arms and asked them to breathe quietly. The soldier was shooting on or above us or even close to us! We would have known if he targeted us whether he wanted to kill us or just drive us crazy. With every new bullet, Hala’s cries got clearer. She was frightened, looking at me as if I wasn’t a stranger she just met a half an hour ago. I felt Yazan’s heartbeats through his back, and I felt mine through each vein in my body. With my rapid beats I could get up and I said “Oh Allah .. Oh Allah”, surrendering at probably the most honest time in my life. I couldn’t feel the time going on anymore and I didn’t know how much time we spent till then. I asked the two kids to walk towards the Turkish soldier on their own, as I supposed that he had their mother, and as he supposed that he had more bullets nearby. I realised how mean I was as Hala was begging me to stay with her. I breathed rapidly through my mouth and tasted the sand stuck into my teeth, and directly said to the children: “We’re giving up now”. They had nothing to say.

 

*Al Teel: the tangled wires on the borders

 

 

 

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Qosai Amamh

Is currently Director General of Bina Radio in Syria, having worked as a broadcaster and freelance journalist previously in Damascus.

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