Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Nightingale of Homs: From voice of the Syrian revolution to a disabled refugee

Features | 2019-05-22 05:00:00
Nightingale of Homs: From voice of the Syrian revolution to a disabled refugee
(Zaman Al Wasl)- From the central city of Homs to a forgotten camp  on the Greek-Albanian border, a long journey fraught with dangers and pain, where Mohamed Al-Mohamed fought his pain and injuries, that he got in and out of the besieged Homs years ago and made him disabled.

At the beginning of the revolution, Al-Mohamed, nicknamed by the activists of “the nightingale of Homs,” left his studies to join the demonstrations, set up after every Friday prayer. He went up on the shoulders of the demonstrators to cheer slogans of freedom and dignity, and sing songs of revolution every evening.

On 10 March 2012, he was shot in the foot in his neighborhood, Karm al-Zaytoun, during the military campaign on the neighbourhood  He told Zaman al-Wasl that he then went to the countryside of Hama where he was wounded by shrapnel from a Russian missile, and later moved to the liberated countryside of Aleppo, where he was hit by a land mine in the summer of 2016.

On November 20, 2016, the young man decided to visit his family in Turkey and had no choice but to be smuggled. As he approached the border, he says, he was shot by a gendarme, causing him paralysis and inability to walk.

He remained in a Turkish hospital for a while before being transferred to a physiotherapy center to continue his treatment, but did not improve because the damage to his spinal cord was great. After a year and a half of injury, his health and living conditions worsened. He decided to leave Turkey and cross the sea to Greece and then to Germany to undergo a surgical operation, but things didn’t go as planned.

Al-Mohamed tells his treacherous journey from Izmir where he was forced to sleep with his family in the woods and empty areas for a day or two. In his first attempt to head to the sea, he was placed with his wheelchair in a truck with 80 migrants, then the Turkish gendarmerie arrested them in Izmir.

He repeated his attempts for refuge more than five times until he finally arrived in Greece on June 5, 2018. He was surprised - as he says – by the maltreatment and the long waiting period of up to three years to obtain Greek residence and a passport.

He confirmed that he was, immediately after entering Greece, investigated by the Greek police, which accused him of belonging to the regime after seeing the flag of the revolution on his wrist, before he was placed on the island Moria Mytilini.

Al-Mohamed said he spent nine days in the open without a tent, because the island was crowded with thousands of refugees, before he managed to get half a tent with his family of six, while in the other half lived a family of four, the two families were separated only by a blanket. He stayed there for three and a half months to be transferred later to the refugee camp of Agia Eleni in the town of Ioannina on the Greek-Albanian border, a camp of concrete containing small rooms for refugee accommodation. There, he was forced to live with his family in one room and to share other benefits with dozens of refugees.

The young man revealed that things before his arrival in Greece were better for refugees, where the UN staff were all from Europe. But when Intersos took over all the houses and camps three years ago, the situation deteriorated, pointing out that the authorities of the camp would take long periods to study their files without regard to the health conditions of some of them, adding that his spinal cord needs stem cells transplantation at the site of injury or electrical pulses treatment and such methods of treatment are available only in Germany.

Al-Mohamed thought that his stay would last no more than a month to complete his journey to Europe, but that he spent a year in Greece without medical treatment or attention and he still has two more years to get his residency.
The ‘nightingale of Homs’ described life inside the camp as a “large prison” far from the city or hospitals, fenced with iron, with security guards standing at the gate. The young singer laments, “The only thing I want and dream about is to walk again, but this is impossible here in Greece.”

Zaman Al Wasl
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