Syrian family flees one war only to face a new battle in Bulgaria
GOTEVA, BULGARIA – Syrian family had been chased away from the city Elin Pelin, because locals don’t want to live with refugees. Although they have a humanitarian status from the state, the municipality of Elin Pelin refused to issue documents to them.
“Here a Turk has not lived and a Syrian will not live! Go home! We don’t want you here!”
With these words local citizens of Elin Pelin “welcomed” the Syrian family Jaber to their city. These people from the refugee’s family are 3 of the only 4000 refugees who want to stay in Bulgaria, hoping that a country known for its hospitality and responsiveness would offer them a chance to start a new life. But the reality has been very different, as they have found it difficult to deal with the local population that does not welcome them.
The year is 2011. The civil war broke out in Syria. The old town of Aleppo was destroyed. Fatima and Fahim are Syrians with 5 children – 2 boys and 3 girls.
“One night we were having dinner when… we hear bombs falling near us. We got up from the table and hid in the basement“ Fatima says. Four bombs fall above their home.
The decision was taken. The 7-member family left the beloved town of Aleppo and took with themselves only clothes ... and memories.
„I will never forget my friends. We scattered all over the world and I hope one day we will meet again” Ahmet (the son) said.
The family cross the border and went to Turkey. The daughters of Fahim and Fatima got married there.
„Turkey had opened its doors for us. There were no obstacles. It was very easy for the Syrians to cross the Turkish border. Turkey closed the doors to the Syrians when an Islamic state was established. Now it’s very difficult for migrants to pass“ Fahim says.
In 2015 and 2016 the number of refugees who are registered in Bulgaria is 39 809. Less than 4000 of them decided to stay in Bulgaria. They have been passing from there to reach richer countries such as Germany and Austria. Together with the refugees from Syria, people with radical thinking began to enter the country. At the same time terrorism attacks in Europe become more and more. Many of the terrorists reach Europe crossing Bulgaria.
So Bulgaria and Turkey built a fence on the border between the countries to restrict the access of illegal migrants.
The year is 2016. Fatima, Fahim and their son Ahmet went to Bulgaria.
“We have heard that Bulgarians are civilized, conditions are very good, and we can be integrated into this society”.
They have also heard about the beautiful small city Elin Pelin - situated in the mountains 40 minutes away from the capital Sofia. They had no doubts and choose Elin Pelin for their home. Some of the locals understood that migrants will live in their city and revolt.
The mayor of the city also supported people who don’t want them.
“They have to find another place to live. I do not intend to let anyone interfere with the peace of my fellow citizens” said the mayor Ivaylo Simeonov.
The protests against them continue more than 4 months.
“I remember meeting a guy on the street who was in a hurry for somewhere and I thought he would try to attack me” Fatima says.
Surprisingly the family receive proposal from Kemal Tinev – Bulgarian businessman who offered them house and work in a village called Ustina. There are living 2000 people – both Christians and Muslims.
“I could not watch these people suffering and nobody trying to help them“, Kemal says.
Even more surprisingly the family receive personal ID cards. Akram Nayuf of the Free Syria Association, who also helped the family says:
“Finally, justice triumphs. This is thanks to the pressure that was given by the Fourth Authority-media, which should be the first!”
The year is 2017. Fatima has a smile on her face for the first time in two years. Now her family has documents, home, work and memories.
“Bulgarian people are good. Not everyone in Elin Pelin was against us. Those who protested were radicalists. They have to know that there are no difference between people.Yes, we are Muslims, you are Christians. But do you know that Jesus Christ is one of our prophets?” Fatima asks.