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ISBN: 9781935552017
My City of Aleppo Is Destroyed
But I am determined to help create a more peaceful world.

One Syrian Teen's Story

This July, I traveled to Greece to volunteer at Ritsona, a Syrian refugee camp where 600 families live. There I met teenagers who were forced to flee their homes in Damascus and Aleppo.

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Before the multi-sided war, these cities were centers of culture and learning, like New York City. They have both been bombed and destroyed by ISIS and the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposing rebels.

These families hoped to get to Europe to start a new life. But many European governments have closed their borders to these refugees and almost 60,000 who are mostly Syrians, are stuck in Greece indefinitely. Before the war, these young people went to school, played sports, hung out with their friends, and dreamed about their futures. But now their lives are on hold.

Here is a story written by Yazan, a 17-year-old Syrian with an easy smile who is currently living at Ritsona. His favorite subject is math and he hopes to study engineering in college. He’s a serious soccer player. This story originally appeared in the Ritsona Kingdom Journal, a youth magazine created in the camp and has been slightly edited for YCteen.

—Holly St. Lifer, Editorial Director, YCteen

War in Syria has been going on for six years now. It all started with peaceful demonstrations and strikes demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down. Then he chose to use bullets, tanks, and even warplanes to take down the peaceful protestors. All of this drove people to use weapons against his regime, and a savage war started there, leading to death and destruction all over the country.

My aunt died in this war. I lost many other family members and friends. Under these circumstances, I had to leave Syria with my family. My family and I, just like many other Syrians who flee the war, are now depending solely on aid provided by humanitarian organizations. We are living in refugee camps, which have extremely bad conditions. Some call it inhumane.

image by YC-Art Dept

I am currently living in a refugee camp in Greece. I was cut off from education two years ago, and many other kids are left without any sort of education. This worries their parents, who are just thinking about the future of their children.

There is nothing like the destruction that happened in Syria, especially in my hometown of Aleppo; it has been classified as the second-most destroyed city by war in modern history, after Hiroshima during World War II.

I can’t describe the emotions I have when talking about a country that was peaceful and prosperous. We had dreams we wanted to achieve and hopes for our future. And now we look around unsure of where to start and what the future holds for us. We live in constant anxiety and fear of the unknown.

As I look into my young brother’s eyes longing for a toy and asking about the time he will be able to go back to school, I think about my future. Will I be forever stuck in a refugee camp waiting in a queue for food, clothes, and hygiene products?

War has destroyed our dreams and left our hopes hanging in sadness. But I am holding on that I will have an opportunity to learn and succeed in a country I don’t know, a country that is not mine, a country whose people are kind and generous.

Syria is now torn apart because of war and over 13 million Syrians are now displaced. Hundreds of thousands of children aren’t getting their education, poverty is everywhere, and nightmares haunt us at night. I have noticed children have become more aggressive due to the circumstances they have been through, and that by itself is worrying for me.

War cannot be described in just one word like poverty, sadness, displacement, death, fear, or hopelessness. One of these words is enough to make the world a dark place to live in, but what if all these words were combined in one place? But I do not despair. Instead, I am determined to change the reality of the world and help create a place where there is love and peace.

Photo (top) © Caterina Verde.

The Ritsona Kingdom Journal is a monthly magazine made in collaboration with Lighthouse Relief, an organization that provides emergency and long-term support to refugees in Greece, with a focus on women, children, and youth. To learn more about Lighthouse Relief’s operations, visit their website or follow @LighthouseRR on Twitter.