Sascha Förster, co-founder of Bonn.digital, speaks to Rami, a 30-year old war refugee from Syria. Rami is one of the nearly 1.1 million refugees and migrants who arrived in Germany in 2015. He is talking about his life in Syria before and during the war, his hopes for the future and how he made his way from war-torn Syria through the Balkans, to Germany and on to Bonn.
Rami is a founding member of the Bonnections story telling project. The launch of an intercultural book club was his idea. Sascha conducted the in-depth interview in English in late February and wrote a Bundesstadt.com blog post (in German) after his encounter with Rami, the first refugee in Bonn he personally met.
Since then, Rami has been granted asylum status and done volunteer work as a translator for the DRK Bonn (German Red Cross) at a refugee camp set up in a school gymnasium. With the help of a German friend, he found a small apartment in Old Town and recently moved out the collective accommodation for asylum seekers at the former Pestalozzi School.
The Bonnections book club was successfully launched in early April. About 60 people, newcomers and old Bonners, attended the first meet-up at Bonn’s public library on April 6. The audience listened to two essays from “Innenansichten aus Syrien” (inner views from Syria), an anthology published by Larissa Bender in 2014 that provides a window into contemporary Syrian art and writing since the uprising.
Rami could very well relate to the first text, “Jeder Blick ein Abschied”, by Khaled Khalifa, an award-winning Syrian novelist, screenwriter and poet, because he lived in Damascus during the time as it was written. In the essay, Khalifa describes his sorrow and fears and how the city and his daily life have changed since the outbreak of the war.
“The Syrian revolution paid the most expensive price, not only because of the blood that has been shed, but also because of the destruction that happened to the society. People in Syria now are asking fatal questions: ‘Are we Arabs? Are we Syrians? Are we tribes and sects? Are we tolerant or extreme?’ These are the questions that are posed now,” Khalifa said in an Ahram interview two years ago.
Rami, who holds a MBA degree and is a certified tax accountant, was studying economics and working part-time at the Finance Ministry when the armed conflict erupted.
“When I left the house in the morning, I wasn’t sure if I would make it back alive in the evening,” he said.
After receiving a letter from the Syrian army to report for military service, he decided to flee Syria instead of getting involved in military actions.