Meet the Saudi who spent months with migrants
Zouhour Asiri is a young Saudi woman who lived and experienced the hardship of the refugees
Zouhour Asiri is a young Saudi woman who lived and experienced the hardship of the refugees, she saw death wraps its hands on the neck of those fleeing injustice in small boats buffeted by the waves and the dirty money of brokers. We met with her and she told us about the stories that affected her most in following dialogue:
What do you remember from it all?
What I experienced with the refugees fleeing to Europe is beyond description and difficult to explain, or tell to others. Some of the things I saw can seem surprising and flabbergasting to the people who don’t have firsthand experience with the situation. I remember finding myself asking whether what I am seeing is actually true. Each country I volunteered at had a memory of its own that can never be forgotten, but I will tell you some of my stories:
I will always remember the Keleti Train Station in Budapest with memories of pain and hunger. It was very cold, I was having a quiet moment sitting next to the boxes of bread, fruit and water donations we received every few days. The donations were very little and they usually ended before sunset. The boxes were completely empty, and I was waiting for a new shipment when I heard a little whisper: “do you have anything I can eat? I said to him: "No, nothing, come back in the morning, maybe they will bring breakfast.” He then said to me: “I just want bread, I didn’t eat anything for three days.” He then took the bread crumbs out of the boxes and licked his fingers. As I helplessly stood there watching, I thought to myself that there came a day when we couldn’t provide a piece of bread to a hungry person.
What about Slovenia?
Slovenia, Dobova station: the motherless child
Trains came from Croatia, stacking refugees in without taking into account the train capacity. They would board 1000 refugees in one train, some of whom would get lost or leave their families behind. What happened was, whenever the number of passengers reached 1000, they would close the doors, which meant that some of them got separated from their families. They were treated as if they were commercial goods without paying attention to humanitarian aspects. When the trains arrived at Slovenia, the search party of the lost and separated family members began. Screaming, weeping, wailing and anxiety added to the exhaustion of asylum, escape and crossing the border. In my time there, a Moroccan refugee came to me and handed me a toddler, he told that the baby was not his and he only carried him to help his family who are now in Croatia after they were separated. I asked him if he knew his last name. He replied that he heard people call his father Abu Wael.
I could not take the child so I asked the Slovenian army to provide support for the Moroccan refugee and allow us to search in other trailers hoping to find the child’s parents there. We cooperated with the Slovenian army and we checked all the trailers but we didn’t find them. I asked them to keep the baby with the Moroccan refugee until the next train comes, which usually takes 3 hours. We waited for the other train but no one came. The refugee took the child and stayed at a camp rather than wait at the station, he would be registered as soon as his family gets there because the army refused to register the child without his family.
After four trains, the mother came looking for her son, I will never forget her face for as long as I live, I can’t talk about this without shedding few tears. As soon as the train opened its doors, the mother started hitting her head against the flour and screaming: “my son, I want my son.” She was pulling her hair and banging the trailer’s door the one after the other. The military were in a state of shock, everybody froze. I approached her with an Algerian volunteer and tried to comfort her, telling her that we found her son with the Moroccan refugee. She finally calmed down and stopped yelling. One of the army officers took her to the camp, the child was still with the Moroccan refugee and one of the employees of UNHCR, and you can imagine the mother's condition when she reunited with her son.
What happened in Greece and Hungary?
At the Alcatla train station in Budapest, we were having a busy day helping the refugees, I was approached by a man who told me he has stomach cancer, that he gave up on treatment and he wishes to help one of the female refugees by marrying her and hosting her children. He was willing to give her citizenship and provide her and her children with a small house. The whole situation was very strange and peculiar, I talked to him and I told him that I cannot convince a Syrian refugee to stay in Hungary; since everybody wants to leave. He cried a lot, and it made me sad, but I was also so happy to see such a humane selfless touch of philanthropy.
Reunion at the borders of Greece
I loved helping refugees reunite with their loved ones, it meant the world to me. This is a story about a 17 year old Iraqi girl who lost touch of her parents when they escaped ISIS. For 4 months, she lived away from her parents. Her aging father looked for her everywhere; he went to all camps looking for his daughter. With the help of volunteers, we were able to find his daughter in the Idomeni camp on the Greek borders, my colleagues captured the moment of reunion on tape because they know how much it means to me, the father could not stand still when he saw his daughter, moments like this bring joy to my heart.