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Mohammad: Once I see my family, I will put everything behind me!

21-02-2013 Feature

In February 2013, the ICRC helped a 15-year-old Syrian boy who was in Lebanon to join his family in Al-Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Fierce fighting, lack of security and the destruction of their households have forced thousands of Syrian families to flee to neighbouring countries. In such turbulent situations, family members can easily be separated, and when they cross an international border, it becomes especially hard for them to get back in touch. The ICRC helps reunite family members separated by conflict, by establishing their whereabouts and putting them back in touch with each other.

Mohammad, originally from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, was visiting his grandfather in Lebanon when the fighting in his hometown intensified, forcing his father Ziad, mother Samar, brother Laith and sister Zeinab to flee to Al-Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan last July.

Daraa is one of the cities that has been hardest hit by the ongoing violence in conflict-torn Syria. "I spent the last month or so before I left for Lebanon in a shelter with my family. The shelling was non-stop," said Mohammad.

Last July, with Mohammad's uncle planning to go to Beirut on business, Mohammad's father suggested that he join his uncle and visit his grandfather in the Lebanese capital.

"I wasn’t expecting that the situation would worsen in Daraa, forcing my family to flee to Jordan. My family was torn apart," said Mohammad, downhearted.

"I haven’t seen my family for the past seven months," he said while staying at his grandfather's house in Beirut's southern suburbs. "I feel so lost without them," he added.

Reunification journey is about to start

Mohammad's journey started when his parents went to the ICRC office in Al-Zaatari refugee camp and asked that he be brought to the camp. In parallel, Mohammad asked the ICRC delegation in Beirut to reunite him with his family.

The ICRC delegations in Amman and Beirut set about obtaining the necessary approvals from the Lebanese and Jordanian authorities. They also had an ICRC travel document issued to Mohammad, who did not hold a passport. After all the documents were assembled, the reunification was set for 6 February.

Despite warnings from friends and relatives that in Al-Zaatari camp his living conditions would be much harsher than in Lebanon, Mohammad never wavered in his determination to rejoin his family.

"I am very determined to go to Al-Zaatari camp, because most of my relatives and neighbours are there. My parents have enrolled me in a school at the camp," he said. In Lebanon, Mohammad could not attend school because he did not possess any official papers, a pre-requisite for enrollment. Instead, he took a job working with a local carpenter.

First time on a plane

Mohammad was very anxious about going back to his family and feared that the reunification might not happen. He frequently called the ICRC for news about his departure. Although ICRC delegates in Beirut tried to reassure him, explaining that papers take time to be processed, he was still restless.

"I had had my luggage packed and ready for travel for two and a half months," he said. "I couldn't believe it was finally going to happen."

On the eve of departure, Mohammad was very excited. His hazel eyes sparkled. "I don't think I will be able to sleep at all tonight… It will be my first time ever on a plane."

The next morning, happy yet tense, he boarded the plane to Amman accompanied by an ICRC delegate.

The joyful moment of reunification

At Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Mohammad was met by a tracing officer from the ICRC's Amman delegation. After completing formalities at the airport, he began the final leg of the journey as he headed off for Al-Zaatari refugee camp in an ICRC vehicle.

It was late in the afternoon. Mohammad paid no attention to the rainy and cold weather outside. Instead, he kept talking about his longing for his family, especially his little sister Zeinab.

"I miss my sister most of all," said Mohammad on his way to the camp.

The trip usually takes around an hour, but for Mohammad it seemed like a lifetime. He kept repeating the same question: "Are we there yet?"

The sun had almost set when Mohammad and the ICRC staff arrived in the camp. An ICRC delegate called the family and gave them the good news.

"When the ICRC called and told me that they had arrived in the camp with Mohammad, I couldn’t believe it," said Samar, his mother. Soon afterwards, the parents had their son in their arms.

As soon as Mohammad spotted his parents, he jumped out of the car without waiting for it to stop. Ziad and Samar burst into tears as they caught sight of him.

"He has grown up so much," the father said with a twinkle in his eye and joy all over his face.

"There is nothing like family!" said Mohammad, surrounded by his thrilled siblings and parents.

"Before this happened, I didn’t know what I would do in the future," said Mohammad. "Now I know: I want to join the ICRC!"

With warm words of gratitude, accompanied by big smiles, Mohammad and the family bade farewell to the ICRC staff… Finally, Mohammad is with his family.


Photos

Beirut. An ICRC delegate hands Mohammad his travel document. As a minor, Mohammed was able to travel from Lebanon to Jordan with a one-way travel document that was issued by the ICRC. 

Beirut. An ICRC delegate hands Mohammad his travel document. As a minor, Mohammed was able to travel from Lebanon to Jordan with a one-way travel document that was issued by the ICRC.
© ICRC

Beirut, Lebanon. At the airport, before entering the passport control section. 

Beirut. At the airport, before entering the passport control section.
© ICRC

Mafraq, Jordan. Mohammad taking his first steps at the Al-Zaatari camp where his family is residing. 

Mafraq, Jordan. Mohammad taking his first steps at the Al-Zaatari camp where his family is residing.
© ICRC

Al-Zaatari refugee camp. Mohammad is finally together with his family again. 

Al-Zaatari refugee camp. Mohammad is finally together with his family again.
© ICRC