I was pulled into their home by their daughter Miran, she wanted me to take photos of everyone including the new baby. This was my first visit into the ‘home’ of a refugee family. Their home consisted of two rooms, the one we sat it had one window, with no glass, a second window had been lost to the air-conditioning unit that ferociously blew tepid air into the room. They share the kitchen space with two other families, and when I asked for directions to the toilet I was directed back to the communal shower block in the centre of the camp.
Dahan is the father, there were six other children and two women with them. I tried to work out who was parents to whom, which caused much hilarity, but I left non-the-wiser, except that the younger woman’s husband was not living with them. The newest child, Viran, was only months old, swaddled in a towel and lying on a cushion sound asleep she was unaware of the world she had been born into.
Trying to talk to a family about their experience when my Kurdish is non-existent and their English confined to the most basic of words was a master-class in sign language and being able to laugh at yourself whilst attempting a game of charades when you don’t know the answer.
The family was clearly happy for me to meet them, and posed for photos. They had come from Syria, they were Kurds, and from our rudimentary conversation it transpired they had come from a village just south of Kobane. ‘Kobane’ the father said whilst miming the crushing of material between his hands. More gesticulating implied going back was not an option. Tea, and then food was shared; food I later learned they often struggle to afford.
When the photo album came out we were shown photos of a large family, wedding pictures, and of photos of many sons and nephews, ‘army’ Dahan informed us – but whose army was unclear. I became aware that other than Dahan all the other relatives in the room were women and girls, a younger son Yusef would periodically enter and do tumble rolls on the floor, but where the boys from the photos were seemed to a topic that was not discussed.
One of the older women, whose name I could not make out had lost her leg. She was coping with her wooden leg well. ‘Allemagne?’ she kept asking. I told her I was British. ‘Allemagne’ she said again throwing her arms in the air. Later through a translator I asked to clarify what I thought she had meant. ‘Yes, they want to go to Germany, that is the dream, but they have no money, getting to Europe is the dream.’
Asking around this is the common theme: there is no money from the aid agencies anymore, and jobs are limited, therefore providing for food has become a struggle again. Everyone wants to go.
‘Those who have money for food have used it to get to Europe. Those behind have nothing and no hope of getting away.’