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 Muhrez
Alaa Muhrez © Minor Kontor.

Ich bin aus Homs. Das ist die erste Stadt, die vom Krieg zerstört wurde. Die Wohnung von meinem Mann wurde zerstört, die von meinen Eltern auch. Aus Homs wurden viele Männer und Frauen von al-Assads 11Bashar al-Assad (geb. 1965), Präsident von Syrien seit 2000. Gruppen entführt. Weil wir religiös sind, wurden wir als Gegner von al-Assad wahrgenommen. Der Krieg in Syrien ist kein religiöser Krieg, aber die Menschen wurden so eingeteilt. Meine Eltern und meine Geschwister sind in Syrien geblieben. Wir halten Kontakt über WhatsApp und FaceTime.

Wir haben zwischen Schweden, Holland und Frankreich verglichen. Wir haben gelesen, dass es in Deutschland mehr als in den anderen Ländern Arbeit gibt. Hier kann man auch studieren und schneller Deutsch lernen. Deswegen sind wir nach Deutschland gegangen. Deutschland hat einen sehr guten Ruf in Syrien: Alle tollen Sachen sind Made in Germany. Deswegen dachten wir, hier gibt es perfekte Arbeit.

In Berlin haben wir uns in einem Rathaus angemeldet. Sie haben uns einen Schein gegeben, damit wir in einem Hotel schlafen können. Wir haben ein Jahr im Hotel gewohnt, auf dem Antonplatz in der Nähe der Schönhauser Allee. […] Dann haben mein Mann und ich eine Wohnung gesucht. Das war sehr schwer in Berlin. Ich wollte nach München ziehen, aber ich glaube, es ist Schicksal, dass wir doch in Berlin eine Wohnung gefunden haben. Ich liebe München – München ist europäischer als Berlin, Berlin ist mehr Multikulti. Aber Berlin ist auch toll. Ich denke im Moment nicht daran, nach München zu ziehen. In Berlin habe ich zum Beispiel von vielen neuen Ideen gehört: zum Beispiel von Gender- und LGBT-Aktivismus. Ich war sehr verschlossen diesem Thema gegenüber. Aber ich habe mich mit Menschen getroffen, die ganz anders waren, als ich mir vorgestellt habe. Das ist ein Vorteil von Berlin: Man kann viele unterschiedliche Gedanken und Kulturen treffen und offener sein. Und offener zu sein, ändert vieles für mein Leben und meine Persönlichkeit. Und das ist von Vorteil. Der Nachteil ist, dass das viel Zeit braucht.

    Footnotes

  • 1Bashar al-Assad (geb. 1965), Präsident von Syrien seit 2000.

“I 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 11Bashar al-Assad (born 1965), President of Syria since 2000. 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 close to 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.”

    Footnotes

  • 1Bashar al-Assad (born 1965), President of Syria since 2000.

In the wake of the war in Syria, Alaa Muhrez and her husband fled to Egypt after 2013. After Abdel Fatah El-Sisi came into power by a coup d’état, 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.

Translation from German into English © Minor Kontor.