When Mountains Fall
Intisar and her children
Fleeing death, finding separation
My cry could shake the whole world but it couldn’t call your name. I fell down, I couldn’t follow your advice. I fell, like when a mountain falls
Im Ali, song to her husband
In 2015 Intisar (Im Ali) and her husband’s lives came apart without warning when Hussein (Abu Ali) overheard a murder plot being discussed. Discovering this, the killers came gunning for him. Abu Ali fled with minutes to spare.
The killers then came after his family, who also fled for their lives. For nearly a year they lived in hiding in a destroyed building, going out only at night to search for food.
A year later word came from Hussein that he had reached Austria and had been given asylum. Alone with four children, Intisar flees Iraq, crosses Turkey and takes a dangerously overloaded raft to Greece. They present themselves to authorities and request to be reunified with Abu Ali in Austria.
However, during the months of terror and flight, political change in Austria has brought in a new government pledged to stop the flow of refugees. Intisar’s request to rejoin her husband is rejected. They are unable to reunite, unable to return to Iraq for fear of their lives, stateless, without papers and vulnerable to any change in policy.
Above: Intisar and Hussein’s children; Aya, Ali, Rousoul and Melak.
Feyruz and her sons:
How it started
The events began about seven years ago. It was like a nightmare, a bad dream. In our area it started early one morning with shelling and the sounds of the shooting. Then shrapnel started flying through the rooms of our house. The children were terrified. And so we began a new chapter in our lives, filled with terror. Feyruz, how it started
Feyruz and her youngest son, Rooni, are both severely diabetic. After their flight from northern Syria, they spent months in Turkey, adrift among a sea of refugees from the war in Syria. There was no money to buy insulin, so they did without. Finally, desperate for her boys’ futures, Feyruz uprooted them one more time and paid human smugglers for passage on an overfilled raft to the Greek islands. There, she started to try to build a life for herself and her sons amidst dim prospects, in a country devastated by economic austerity. With the borders closed, they could go no farther.
Manar and her sons:
Between two deaths
“We stood there, and I felt we were بين موتين – between two deaths. Behind us was death, and everything we had was gone. And in front of us was death. I knew that we might all die, or that only some of us would get to the other side, which would be much worse. But we had no choice. This was our only road.” Manar, describing putting her children into a leaky raft.
Manar and her family fled their Damascus home under artillery fire. After many displacements, they ended up, like millions of Syrians, in Turkey. And, like millions, they tried to make a go of it there. After many months, Manar understood that there was no future living as a refugee in Turkey. They took the dangerous night passage by raft to Greece. They drifted, lost, and their raft nearly sank, before they were rescued and brought to shore. They immediately headed north to cross the border, only to discover that it had been fenced with barbed wire just days before. With thousands, they waited, hoping to see the gate open. They camped in the open, in mud and snow. When it became clear that the borders were not going to open, they applied to be allowed to move to another country in the European Union. Their request was denied without explanation. Their fate, and the future of their children, now lay in economically devestated Greece
Melaz, from Syria
Rousoul, from Iraq
Melaz with his mother, Manar
Moaz, from Syria
Manar, from Syria
Ali, from Iraq
Rooni, from Syria
Rousoul and Aya, from Iraq
Rooni and his mother, Feyruz
Intisar, from Iraq
Melak, from Iraq
Melak and Intisar
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