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Our only weapon was words

Our only weapon was words

Haleemah Al Mahamad (30) is a Syrian refugee living in Turkey. She is a qualified English teacher and nurse, and currently works as a Health Officer for GOAL.

My family is totally opposed to bloodshed, so our only weapon was words.

“We left Syria in 2013, when the violence became really bad. Every day our town was being bombed. My family is totally opposed to bloodshed, so our only weapon was words. I believe, in the end, words will prove more powerful than violence, but words alone could not protect us in 2013.

“I studied English literature at Albaath University in Hama, and qualified as an English teacher. My favorite authors are William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. After becoming a nurse, I took a degree in Art and Humanitarian Science, at the department of English, but we had to leave Syria before I could do my Master’s.

“We were quite a well-off family in Syria. We had a very large library at home, with thousands of books, in many different languages. My father would read a book every day, and always encouraged me to read. “A human being should try to be like a bell,” he would say, “where if you are asked a question, your voice can ring out with the answer.” Father had to leave his library behind when we left Syria. Many of his books were very rare and valuable, and can never be replaced.

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“I am one of seven children. The fourth child, with three brothers and three sisters. They are all married except me. One of my sisters has disabled children, and could not leave Syria at the same time as the rest of us. My older brother, Moyaser, stayed behind to help her.

“Moyaser was a humanitarian aid worker, he delivered food and water to the displaced people in Hama. He was such a lovely person, always smiling, always thinking of other people and how he could help them. He refused to leave my sister behind. Moyaser was killed when a rocket landed close to where he was standing. He was only 38, and left behind a wife and four children. Moyaser often visits me in my dreams. He tells me to stay strong and not to worry because he is watching over me. I take great comfort from this.

"When we came to Turkey, we had nothing. It was as if our lives had been turned completely upside down. We had to start again from the beginning, it was like being a new-born."

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“There is no such thing as luck. When people talk of how lucky someone is, they are really talking of someone who is always ready and able to take an opportunity when it comes along. This is what makes you a lucky person. So I see our situation in Turkey as an opportunity. I always wanted to work with the poor in Syria; and now I am working for Syrians who are poor refugees in Turkey. I have a very strong faith, and my faith and my family taught me that violence and bloodshed are totally wrong. Bloodshed is never the way forward. They also taught me to help people whenever you can.

“My father is now managing a Syrian school in Turkey. He is 71-years-old and should be retired, but the Syrian community here needed him, so he did not hesitate. He is the most intelligent person I have ever met. He is a qualified lawyer as well as a teacher. He is my role model in life.

“I have so many ambitions. I applied to Warsaw University to study for a Master’s Degree in International Relations and was accepted. Again, some reasons stopped me, but this has only made me stronger and more determined than before to pursue this. I want to do the best I can to help the Syrian refugees, and someday to start my own charity. I want to help people to be builders for the future, and I consider my work with GOAL as the key to that.

“My favorite wise saying is:

"try to make your way to the moon. If you get lost, you will surely be among the stars."

So, let us all have big dreams, and taste the true meaning of life. My story has only come a little way so far, there is so much more for me to do, so much more for me to dream about and achieve.”

- Haleemah Al Mahamad, GOAL Health Officer

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