To be a stranger in your own country, Settam.

I am from a little Christian town in the middle of Syria. l always thought that I was indigenous in this land. l used to live in a house and had a farm which belonged to my family for more than a century. I used to pray in my town’s old Church which is about 2000 years old. It was built over an old Greek temple. In my town we have a special accent from the old Aramaic language.

Settam (002)

Since 2011 lots of changes have happened in Syria. What had started as a public movement asking for change in political life and to improve living situations, changed into a fight. A lot of groups, most of them with a religious backgrounds appeared. Suddenly it wasn’t safe to go out of town. A lot of people were kidnapped because they were Christian and released for money or killed. Everything started to become expensive because it wasn’t safe to go out of the town, but that wasn’t the worst.

Many young men were asked to become part of the military force and were sent into hot spots. Many of them were hurt or killed which made many young men leave the country. Radical forces such as Alquaida started to appear in the surrounding villages. These developed later into ISIS in other areas and what was called Al Nusra Front in my area. The worst was about to come when the government forces took over a hill close to my town. That made the town in the middle of the war zone. More than 10,000 bombs have fallen over my town in the last few years which has caused a lot of people to leave the country for safety.

My family was one of those families. We were lucky because Australia thankfully gave my family, as well as more than 50 families from my town, the opportunity to be here and have a stable, safe life. But there are other people including members of my family still struggling to survive the toughness and the terror.

Meanwhile in Geelong, I contact my family in Syria. Yesterday 10 rockets landed in my town. My mother told me this via Skype from the shelter under our home.  Will I be able to talk to her tomorrow? We live with this fear every day. But still we laugh and enjoy our children and our classes. We try to hope for the best and do what we can to give back to the country which helped us and gave us the chance to start a new life full with dreams and hopes.

Story: Settam has been living in Geelong for one year with his wife and two kids. He is studying in Level 3 at Wyndham CEC in Geelong CBD. Watch out for his wife’s story which will be posted later this week. Photo supplied.

#humansingeelong celebrating Refugee Week 2019 16 – 22 June. All welcome at the ‘Human Library’ at The fOrT 4-6pm tomorrow. #withrefugees #refugeeweek2019