Photo Credit: Muse Mohammed
Waseem is a 13 year old boy from Aleppo. An adult living in the body of a young boy, the experiences in Syria have forced him to mature years beyond his actual age. Originally from a small town in Aleppo where he lived with his parents and six siblings, he remembers the early days of the war, when it came to his home. “I was sleeping at the time when a loud explosion woke me up. I went outside to see what was happening and when I opened the door I saw a dead child on the street and a plane circling in the air. All of a sudden it dropped a bomb near our house killing my neighbour,” he recounts.
“It wasn’t long before my school was bombed. After that, none of us could go to school anymore so we stayed out on the streets because we had nothing to do and we were also scared of being bombed next.”
With no school, Waseem decided to work as a child labourer for nearly a year selling snacks like popcorn to provide for his family.
“We stayed in our home for some time. As the war raged on, it became harder to find things like food and petrol. People started to use benzene to fuel their cars because it was all that was available.”
“One day a plane dropped a bomb that hit our building and blew up the store on the first floor which had containers full of benzene which all caught on fire. My dad was on the balcony when the building collapsed and he fell and was burned to death. I was taken to the hospital to treat the open gash on my hand but the hospital had almost no supplies. They had to stich my hand with no anaesthetics.”
Despite these horrors he has endured, he remains calm and unnerved in his demeanour. “I saw a lot of children become orphans during that time. I just got used to seeing my family and friends die.”
After coming to Turkey with his family in 2013, he worked for nearly three years in a local bakery to help make ends meet. “At first I started cleaning the floors and helping to keep the place clean but slowly they started teaching me how to bake bread and by the end I was working as a professional baker. Sometimes I would even bake at home for my mom, brothers and sisters. They loved my pizzas and breads!”
Waseem is now enrolled at the community centre run by Syrian Social Gathering (SSG) which provides him free education and a chance to finish his studies alongside thousands of other refugee children who have had their studies interrupted by the ongoing war.
Even though he now is beginning to have a life resembling normalcy, he does not feel at home in Turkey. “I might be here in Turkey but my heart still lies in Syria where I left it behind. I just can’t forget and move on from what is happening there. I know it in my heart that I have to return at some point. I want to become a doctor or architect to help rebuild my country.”