The five-year war in Syria has stolen 470, 00 lives. 45 per cent of the pre-war family has been forced to leave their home. The Muslim population in Ireland has increased from 4,000 in the early 1990s to an estimated 45, 000 today.
I speak with Ahmad Alsaadi who tells me of his journey. Ahmad moved to Ireland two years ago following a prison stint, the kidnapping of his friends and the deaths of his loved ones. Before his migration, he lived a life similar to any twenty something year old. He went to college, he hung out with his friends and worried about his future. Nothing could have prepared him for what was brewing. His former town no longer exists due to bombings and cannot be found on Google Earth.
So when you left it was not a safe place?
No it wasn’t safe, it was dark, there was always trouble, kidnaps, shootings, bombs. Everywhere, cars bombed, rockets, and snipers.
And you say that men were kidnapped to be taken to the army?
Yeah yeah, it happened to me, they kidnapped me. I don’t know why, they went to town and they took around 30 young men. When I had been in the prison for about 8 days, they had hit me on my back maybe about 100 times.
What were they saying when they would come into contact with you in the prison?
They say bad, bad things like, cursing and everything like. I don’t know I was sleeping most of the time because we had no food or and we were kept in an enclosure with no roof. I didn’t want to be awake.
So what happened when they came to arrest you?
I was up in and around 4 or 5 o’ clock in morning, That’s the time like, and I heard a lot of commotion outside. I said I am not opening that door.
But 3 or 4 minutes later, the door was gone and there was 4 or 5 soldiers in my room. They took me outside the door of the house, put me on the ground, they walked on my back.
From my house to the prison, it took maybe 20 minutes and they kept hitting me, they wanted me to cry or something but I didn’t.
That must have been terrifying.
Did you think, that they were going to kill you?
Yeah because I have few friends, they’ve been in the prison, and they’re in the prison maybe 4 or 5 years and nobody knows where are they and nobody knows what happened to them.
They put me in the room and there is 90 person in it.
And for 8 days, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, I didn’t do anything.
They took me every six hours to question me.
Two or three of my friends, they’re in the prison now but we don’t know which prison and we don’t know if they are still alive or if they’re dead. We still pray like, I don’t know.
Have you lost friends or family in the war?
I have lost friends but thank God I didn’t lose any of my family
They’re safe until now like.
But I have 2 or 3 friends that are dead by bomb like, they was going to work and we had breakfast together and they say oh yeah, I need to go, then there is no signal, no coverage.
We go looking all around, they give us names for the hospital and we look for our friends, and we find them. They are alive for three minutes and then they are dead. After three minutes, they are gone like.
Do you think about your friends and family who are still behind in Syria?
Sure like, they are my friends like, we grow up together we hang out together, we study together, my brother like, my sister, I have 18 nephews and nieces still back home.