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Berry Ahmad, Syrian refugee tells the story of how she came to France

As a kurdish girl living in Aleppo, Syria, belonging to the minority made me feel an obstacle between me and others wherever I went. On the other hand, everyone had a very specific space which should be carefully filled without crossing the lines, and so we did. All went quite till that day in 2011 while I was attending a lecture at Aleppo University (English literature dept.), when I suddenly heard loud cheers from a few students in the college's yard. It was very dangerous to witness the rebellion movement unexpectedly happening every now and then in the Universities. Despite the difficulties I was able to graduate but I couldn't go on working after the peaceful cheers expanded out of Universities. They spread all around Aleppo and then much worse, they turned into violent arms by the authorities. The conflict between different parties left me jobless, paralysed like, at home watching death roaming around my area indiscriminately taking children’s and people's souls every day. I tried to bear the lack of essential needs under the bombing, too frightened to run in the streets seeing torn bodies, crying children, screaming death approaching us. My family and I finally managed to escape at the beginning of april 2013 and in order to survive we went to my home village which was also under extremist’s siege. I tried to do something good for the disadvantaged children there, I started teaching them in that isolated world. The worse feeling I ever felt is having nothing to give to those little children in need.

A persecuted and obscured nation, the kurdish people have been helpless for ages, they have lost their official right to their own lands, history, culture and identity. This made us an easy bait for ISIS to invade, they called us disbelievers and under the pretext of spreading Islam they started to kill, as they did to Izidi kurdish in Shengal, Iraq. They were coming closer minute by minute, we fled again, till thousands of people gathered on the Turkish borders where I spent horrible nights under fire. Some people were accidentally killed stepping on land mines and others were beheaded nearby. The coming danger forced us to rush into the Turkish fence, crammed in that crowd we hold each other’s hands with closed eyes refusing to believe that the cries of children we heard was very possibly from underneath our feet. After few minutes of being on Turkish lands I should have felt safe but unfortunately, I had lost all my senses behind. We settled in a small home in a city near Syria hoping to go back there as soon as the kurdish fighters got it back. People of that society were freely allowed to steal from refugees anything they had left, health, faith, hope and money. Under the great difficulty of being able to pay the bills or to integrate in those surroundings we decided to go back to our town but on 25/06/2014 we saw on the news that ISIS committed a massacre in our town. At 4am ISIS groups broke through it again disguised as kurdish fighters and slaughtered more than 289 civilians while they were sleeping, the names of the killed were published, there were even people we knew. The inevitable result of all the horrible scenes we witnessed was the decision to travel to Europe by sea like thousands of Syrians stuck in Turkey between life and death, at least we were sure that the boat trip must have an end, whatever that end should be. After we got to Izmir we bought all the required equipment for the crazy trip, me standing in front of sea in that dark and cold night listening to the violent winds pushing up our destinies with the huge waves into the unknown, abandoned by the whole world feeling lonely under God's providence wings. When we were ready to leave my mother fainted so we stopped there and decided to look for legal and safe passages as far as we could, and we ended up in Istanbul. In the big city my brothers had great difficulty finding work but eventually found menial tasks, with terrible hours and badly paid. After many failed attempts with UN, I heard that the French consulat was granting some visas for asylum, so I sent an email and got an appointment. Seeing a gleam of hope to live normally again motivated me enough to seek a host in France and strengthened my chances to be accepted. My sister suggested a few websites to contact, it wasn't easy to find a help online. We didn’t believe that anyone will answer us until we got an answer from Kester Ratcliff and Gaelle Téquie from the Visas for Asylum Facebook page. These two of God's gifts paved the way to know Jacky Malotaux who offered us two homes for our family, one of the houses, for my parents, my 2 sisters, one of my brothers and myself owned by Alan Vigouroux, and the mayor of Lauzerte offered his to my other brother with his wife and baby. I’m sure that they can't even imagine how much they helped in restoring my family’s lives and futures.

After 3 months the consulat informed us that we were finally accepted, so we got the visas. The consulat employee warned us to be careful at the airport because the police there were causing a lot of problems to Syrians. We tried to be relaxed when our luggages had been checked for the fifth time, but in front of the airport police office it was too difficult to maintain our composure: 15 minutes left while we were still waiting for them to find that we are not criminals and gave the control our permits to pass. When were standing at control table it took quite a long time, more than anyone can expect, and finally he said that there were problems with the miswritten family name. He let my sisters and mother pass and ordered us to go back and correct the family names. When we looked at the clock it was 11:15, we realised we had missed the plane at the moment he started stamping our travelling documents one by one. We heard sounds of flying planes and what was more painful and familiar were of my sisters crying that they couldn't leave us. I called Jacky to tell her that we couldn't make it and hearing her tender voice for the first time made me forget all about the bad things. She planned everything again and asked me to book again and fly the same day. I couldn't believe that there are still angels in this world who truthfully care about others fates, people who had never even met. We finally flew free out of Turkey no one will understand these amazing feelings except the children crammed in camps or those working all day in terrible conditions in Turkey or Lebanon. So on 02/08/2017 we arrived in Paris. One of the sweetest and strangest moments was when we heartfully met Jacky and Michel at the bus stop in Montauban, the arms that fetched us in the deeply rolling dawn and put us in warm shelters caring for us like mother does.

After all the incidents I've been through, I feel the need to do something to help by telling the good and the bad things. So thank you Jacky and all of the association members, to the families Vigouroux and Giordana and to the French government for making this possible.

Please help if you can, you might be lucky to discover more about hidden miracles in this vast universe.

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