Marwan’s Story, Greece

Photo by K. Kehayioy/2014.

Photo by K. Kehayioy/2014.

Marwan is the eldest child of a six-member family, originating from south Latakia, a seaside town in Syria. He was 21 when he lost his right arm and left eye from a shell explosion in August 2012.

I was doing my military service in Damascus.  After the outbreak of the war I was sent to Hama. There, I refused orders to participate in shelling areas where anti-regime demonstrations had been organized.  I went into hiding in a friend’s house at a neighboring village, and decided to flee to Turkey.

Upon leaving on 22 August the Army began shelling. I tried to hide in a house, and suddenly, I saw my arm being torn away from the rest of my body. My friends used wire to tie the wound of my amputated arm to stop hemorrhage. I took my arm on the bus. I was hoping I could have it reattached through surgery.

When we reached a makeshift hospital, one and half hours later, I lost consciousness. Doctors tended to my wounds and removed a piece of shrapnel from my left eye.  There was nothing more they could do there, they said.

But I refused to give up.  Along with two good friends, we entered Turkey and I was hospitalized in Antakya.  I was willing to travel anywhere I could receive treatment for my eye and a prosthetic limb.

We were determined to cross into Greece, but we lacked passports and money to pay the smugglers.   Then we took a big decision.  We would swim to the island of Kastellorizo. We would unite Asia with Europe by swimming!

On 1 November 2013 we reached Kas in Turkey and the closest cape to Kastellorizo. We dived in the water with our clothes on at around 8 pm. We had wrapped our cellphones in plastic bags and tied our shoes around our belts.  The sea was calm but cold. We swam quietly, making no noise.

We reached Kastellorizo after an hour and twenty minutes. We lit a fire to dry up and turned ourselves over to the police. They wouldn’t believe us! They kept searching for the dingy and the smugger.  We received a six-month “suspension of removal”.  I did not want to submit an asylum claim in Greece because it would not secure me a prosthetic limb or the bare necessities for a normal life.

Marwan is now in another European country where he applied for asylum and gets proper medical care.

My dream is to be able to start a new life in safety, to work, to get married, to live.


Text: K. Kehayioylou, UNHCR Greece


1 family torn apart by war is too many

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