Behind the Headlines

The Real Cost Of Fleeing A War Zone

This story is part of a Refinery29 series that explores the women behind the headlines of the Syrian refugee crisis. Read the full multimedia feature, Behind the Headlines: Daughters of Paradise, here. More coverage on the human faces of the world's refugee crisis can be found here.

Reem Mohammed is pregnant but apprehensive about it. She’s hesitant to bring a child into her world after seeing what she’s seen in the past eight months.

“I wasn’t all right with the idea of having a baby here,” she said. “We went through so much…. Who knows when it will end?”

And at 29 years old, she has been to hell and back. Today, Reem lives in Gaziantep, Turkey, as a refugee — in a single room that functions as both a bathroom and a kitchen, where she fears her baby will “inhale the gas from the heater.”

A year ago, she was a newlywed and a schoolteacher, living in Jableh, Syria, and optimistic about social change.

“I was for the revolution,” Reem said. “We were looking at the uprising in the streets. How people of all ages were rising up — the educated and the worker, all types of people.”

She was too afraid to join the protests herself, but was driven by hope for change. But then her brother was drafted, and another brother was imprisoned. When her husband was called to military service soon after that, the two of them decided to flee. A pregnant Reem went first, and her husband followed the next day, in case the authorities might recognize him. They traveled through seemingly endless, terrifying checkpoints, in constant fear of being found out.

“[I thought] if he got caught, what would they do to him? I was very stressed and under so much pressure by myself. And, to be honest, all of the stress and the pressure, even physically enduring the trip, caused me to have a miscarriage. All of those things caused me to lose my first baby,” she said.

And yet, despite all that, she’s filled with hope. Even while living in Turkey as a refugee afraid to show her face, and endeavoring to educate the children in her community, she looks to the future. She said, “Our future is when we go back to Syria, there we make our future, we fix our life, build the country, rebuild the infrastructure.”

It's an incredible gift, to be able to see possibility in the face of difficulty, loss, and fear.

That's the strange plight of the displaced: longing for a home that no longer exists, but still filled with hope for the seemingly impossible. Today, Reem does her part to make that dream a reality, working to educate the children of other Syrian refugees. She said, “We’re trying our best to get them to read and write, and that’s it. Encourage them to enjoy learning, tell that their country needs them.”

Watch Reem tell her story in her own words, above, and if you're moved to help her, and the 4.2 million other men, women, and children displaced by the conflict in Syria, donate to the UNHCR to provide desperately needed aid, such as food, sleeping bags, and mats for refugee families.

About Behind the Headlines

Refinery29’s original series “Behind the Headlines” takes an in-depth, human look at the policy debates dominating the global news media, from American immigration reform to the continuing struggles of Syrian refugees and Afghanistan’s lingering gender inequality crisis. Bypassing the pundits, we’re dedicated to spotlighting the stories of the people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by these issues, and believe that their voices must be heard.

Released on November 10, 2015