A letter to my mother: the journey of a Syrian man

We have all heard the numbers. Statistics and statements. That this is the greatest refugee crisis of our time. Millions of people being internally displaced in Syria or fleeing to other countries.

The letter I share below, is just one story of one man’s journey.

His name? Abd Alkafe Mohammad. He is a teacher in our school in Beirut where we provide ‘catch-up’ education for those children who are at risk of becoming a ‘lost generation’.

Journey of a Syrian man

“I know that you are tired and that the darkness around your eyes is a dove floating everyday around a holy shrine.”

Oh my beloved mother, they asked me to write and when I started writing you were the first one who came to my mind. As they say, the mother is the home…

My name is Abd Alkafe Mohammad and I am Syrian. I was born in Al-Jazira on the Euphrates river and graduated from the University of Damascus in 2014 with a degree in Political Science. Forced by this cursed war to leave my country along with many other families and sons of this nation.

SB overseas

My destination was Turkey. I made it across the border. I arrived in Istanbul keeping in mind that I must rebuild my life here despite the many difficulties. Within two months many things had changed and I had to return to Syria. My plan was to take the rest of my family to Jordan. We all met in al-Raqqa and at dawn we made our way across the desert towards the Syrian-Jordanian border. The trip lasted until the dawn of the following day. I was not aware of the situation waiting for us and I was shocked on arrival. The area was an arid desert with people hiding in tents made of the cloth of handmade blankets. We had to wait long for our turn to enter Jordan.

The first day, we built our small tent and for the first time in my life, I felt responsible for the security and safety of my family. The situation was tragic in all its aspects, from the food, to water, to medicines. There was no medicine for sick people.

That is the curse of war! Once, somebody described this war as “a test to our humanity, a test we must not fail!”. My only strength in that moment was the forbidden book I had smuggled from the eyes of Daesh (ISIS). This book, ‘The Forty Rules of Love’ was my only friend whilst I was in the desert. I will never forget the comfort it gave me in the desert.

I remember all the times I cried because of what I had seen: a child dying from lack of medical treatment, a woman in labour pains giving birth behind dusty curtains with other women surrounding her and another woman collecting the scraps of bread gathered by mice. She would wash the bread, dry it in the sun so she could feed the mouse and her children. Oh my God, everything was cruel… the expansiveness of the desert, the sandstorms, the stones on the harsh ground, the faces of people burned by the sun… everything everything!

Three months passed by and after being sick, it was our turn to join the blue camp. That was not better than the previous camp except that you received food and water. It was a large prison made of metal, not helping with the heat of the summer or the cold of winter. Leaving the camp was forbidden…

We stayed there for eight months until one of my brothers in Jordan managed to get us out of the camp. I was released from the grips of death. We decided to move to Amman. Exhausted by the desert, I had lost the taste for life and was left feeling hopeless. Some dreams seemed too far from me and I could not see any light in my future.

Amman was a city, despite its beauty, that fed on its inhabitants and made them tired. As soon as I arrived there, I realised I could not stay there for long. I accompanied my family to my brother who had been living there for a while and spent one whole month in Amman. I managed to repay some of my debts and get a passport. Returning to Turkey was impossible. Reaching other destinations was also as impossible as I needed money that I did not have. The only solution was to move to Beirut. Determined, I booked my ticket, packed my small bag with only a few clothes and some books. That’s all I have!

I got to know Beirut. A city which sees you as a refugee with empty pockets but full of thoughts. Despite it all, I am still standing on my feet….yes, I do not have anything, only my will is still there…

SB overseas


Seven months have passed since I arrived in Beirut. I am now a member of SB OverSeas, which focuses on providing education to refugees without asking for anything in return. I have seen a team putting humanity at the top of its priorities and that has rolled up its sleeves to rebuild the Syrian humanity which has been shred by the war.

If life is not full of challenges, then what is it?

Mother, I hope you recover soon. I will keep thoughts of you in my heart.

Family, the moment I am able to support you, I will not hesitate to do so.

(You! Far from my sight, but close to my heart. I know you are waiting for me and I promise you I will do all my best so that we can be under one roof).

Beirut, 21 July 2018.

Abd Al-Kafe Mohammad

Originally translated from Arabic.

SB OverSeas provides education and empowerment programs to refugees living in Lebanon. Click on our website to find out more.