Lama Darayya is a Syrian refugee currently living in Turkey. Five months ago, she was forced to flee her hometown of Darayya in the Damascus district because it was no longer safe for her to stay.
Like over 2 million people still in Syria but displaced from their homes because of the violence, Lama had already fled her home with her family three times before she crossed the border toward neighboring Lebanon. It was exasperating for her to flee for a fourth time.
She undertook her midnight voyage to Beirut with three of her friends, leaving behind her father, mother, and five siblings.
She fled with only a small backpack. She left all her belongings behind, at home. “Under pressure, a person hardly has time or energy to gather any personal belongings,” she explains. In her backpack, she has the minimal items needed for a person to be on the go: her identification papers, a money purse, and a mobile phone.
It has been five months since Lama was compelled to flee her home country. Working as a translator, she has traveled between Egypt, Turkey, and Lebanon to avoid being a burden on relatives and relatives’ friends. At 28, she yearns to live a normal life of a young woman, and not be a burden on her family, whose main source of income is her father’s monthly pension.
Before fleeing Damascus, Lama resigned her full-time job after random checkpoints were erected. On her way back home from work, almost every evening, she stood for hours waiting for her turn to be let through. Often, she had to wait until well after sunset when it was no longer safe to be outdoors.“There is no special treatment for young girls or women. You wait for hours before you are let go,” she says.
You can hear her pain when she describes the checkpoints that crisscross and divide areas of the once-united district of Darayya.
She is seeking to be economically self-reliant, but it is not easy. She managed to find a short-term translating job in Turkey, which has helped her make a living. She is able to communicate with her family once a week, which is a significant improvement to times when, she says, “my parents did not know whether I was alive or dead.”
She will remain a refugee in exile until the moment arrives when peace and justice prevails in her beloved country, Syria.