Jowan’s Story, Greece

Photo by Clara Palma Hermann

Photo by Clara Palma Hermann

I was working as a journalist in Syria. In 2004, along with other young writers, we started a magazine called “Youth’s Thought”. Although it was very successful, we were  forced to go  underground due to censorship. At the end of 2006 I was arrested by the Syrian Intelligence.I was tortured and detained for 18 months. On 4 March 2009, without the presence of a lawyer, I was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in the infamous Sednaya prison.  In June 2011 I was released, but I remained deprived of civil rights, having still to face another court. I resumed my journalistic activities, becoming soon again wanted by the Regime. I therefore crossed the border to Turkey, on 24 July 2012.

For 400 euro and along with other 30 Syrians, soon afterwards, I crossed the Greek border at the Northern land border with Evros river. We went to a police station where we were registered and released with a one-month’s note to leave the country.

I went to Athens and in a while my papers expired, so I tried several times to leave the country. In January 2013, with another 58 persons, I attempted to reach Italy by boat, but we were arrested before boarding. On our way to the Corinthos detention center, we were insulted and beaten by the police. My 67 year old father had to cross irregularly to Turkey in order to send me the documents that could prove I am Syrian. During 50 days in Corinthos, I watched daily how detainees were beaten mercilessly. Medical needs were left unattended. With a severe inflammation in my lungs, I did not receive any medicine.

After release, I decided to apply for asylum. In mid-May 2013, my wife and son were kidnapped by extremists for three days, so I had to try to get them out of Syria as fast as possible.

My interview at the Asylum Service was on 11 July 2013. After five months I was granted political asylum. However, my documents still have not been issued. Without a proper ID and passport I cannot travel, therefore I have missed several work opportunities. The provisional card I hold, does not guarantee protection from the police; I have already been arrested during random “sweep” operations just to be released thereafter.

Unfortunately it seems that the law for family reunification is not fully implemented yet. However, I intend to apply soon for my wife and son to join me here in Greece, with the legal support of the Greek Council for Refugees.

My 9-year old son has only lived with me two years. If I can’t make him join me, what is the point of staying in Greece? On 8 March he sent me a message: “Soldiers searchedthe house. I was afraid. They were holding weapons and made the whole house dirty, destroying many things. Daddy, where are you? I am afraid”.

As any father, the first time I held my son I felt I would do everything to keep him safe. But unfortunately, to this momento, I cannot offer him even the minimum: to be present at his side.

Despite the odds, I still resist. I am carrying on with my journalistic activities and finishing my first poetry and short stories book. At least in this I don’t need to wait for a permit.


Text by Jowan Akkash/2014







1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at