Alaa on arriving in Berlin

Alaa Muhrez on the reasons for her flight from Syria and Egypt, the decision for Germany and what she learned to appreciate about Berlin.

© Alaa MuhrezI am from Homs. This is the first city that was destroyed by war. My husband’s apartment was destroyed, my parents’ apartment was destroyed as well. Many men and women were kidnapped from Homs by al-Assad’s groups. Because we are religious, we were perceived as enemies of al-Assad. The war in Syria is not a religious war, but people were divided in this way. My parents and siblings stayed in Syria. We keep in touch through WhatsApp and FaceTime.

We have compared between Sweden, Holland and France. We read that there is more work in Germany than in the other countries. Here you can also study and learn German faster. That is why we went to Germany. Germany has a very good reputation in Syria: All great things are made in Germany. That’s why we thought that there is perfect work here.

In Berlin we registered in a city hall. They gave us a certificate so we could sleep in a hotel. We lived in the hotel for a year, on Antonplatz on Schönhauser Allee. […] Then my husband and I looked for an apartment. That was very difficult in Berlin. I wanted to move to Munich, but I think it was fate that we found an apartment in Berlin after all. I love Munich – Munich is more European than Berlin, Berlin is more multicultural. But Berlin is also great. I am not thinking about moving to Munich at the moment. In Berlin I heard about many new ideas: for example about gender and LGBT activism. I was very closed to this topic. But I met with people who were completely different than I had imagined. This is an advantage of Berlin: You can meet many different thoughts and cultures and be more open. And being more open changes a lot for my life and my personality. And that is an advantage. The disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time.

In the wake of the crisis in Syria, Alaa Muhrez and her husband fled to Egypt after 2013. After the installation of the new president in Egypt, the problems for refugees increased there. It became more and more difficult to find work, so Alaa and her husband decided to go to Germany. From Egypt to Italy she and her husband went by a small boat with 400 other people on it. They changed the boat several times. “If you got up, you couldn’t sit down again,” explains Alaa, that’s how crowded it was. After the dangerous journey, they arrived in Catania, Sicily. There their personal details were recorded. They knew that it could be difficult to apply for a residence permit in Italy to continue their journey, so they did not wait for their papers to be received.

They arrived in Austria by plane and from there to Munich. From Munich they were brought to Leipzig, and they were assigned an apartment in a nearby village. Alaa reports on several incidents of discrimination that she had to experience there. After more than a year, they came to Berlin, where they found an apartment and work after some time. Alaa tells why she and her husband had to leave Syria and Egypt, and why they decided to come to Germany. Alaa’s first choice in Germany would have been Munich, but in Berlin she also sees advantages, including encounters with different people and life realities that were previously closed to her.

The interview with Alaa Muhrez was conducted by We Refugees Archive in Berlin on June 30, 2020.

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