Khaled al-Masri

Age: 25 years old

Interviewed in: Berlin, Germany

Date: October 18, 2015

Homs, Syria
Berlin, Germany

Khaled in Berlin. © Miguel Winograd

My name is Khaled Almasri. I am from Homs in Syria. I am 25 years old. I graduated as an anesthesia technician from the Institute of Health. After that I had a chance to register in the University to continue my studies. I registered, but I couldn't begin my studies because the revolution began.At the time, I had a job in the hospital, in the operations room as an anesthesia technician.

In the beginning, the revolution was not as hard as it is now. So there were not so many patients. But then, when the war began, when the Assad regime began to kill people, we had a lot of work in the hospital, to save people's lives. It was so difficult and hard for me. I decided to stay in my city, Homs. I stayed in the Old City of Homs under siege about two years. It is such a hard and difficult situation. Everything is death. Everyday, more death, more death: death by shelling, death by snipers. We didn't have electricity, we didn't have medicine: all the medicine we had was expiring. The food was not enough. I had to eat grass, cut the grass and make a soup for about one year. It is so difficult and hard to explain this.

After Geneve II a group from the UN medical crews entered the Old City and took people, people needing medical help, old women, patients. After that I left Homs. I stayed outside the siege area for three days. Some friends helped me leave Homs, because the Assad regime wanted me because I worked in a field hospital [for the Free Syrian Army]. I left Homs to Lebanon where I saw my family. I hadn't seen them in three years, since they had left to Beirut by car in 2012. I stayed in Beirut with my family for two months. I started to search for possibilities to continue my studies or get a job.

After two months I left to Istanbul, where I stayed 8 months. I worked in an organization for a humanitarian unit. After that I decided to leave Istanbul because it's hard for refugees in Istanbul to work and find a house. I could also not continue my studies in Istanbul. I took a small boat in Marmaris, at night. I arrived to a small Greek island called Symi. It was about three and a half hours by sea. I left from Symi to Athens after two days. I talked with some people there to see how I could leave Greece. I stayed 15 days in Athens. After that I got a fake ID, which allowed me to board an airplane. I got a Belgian ID; I bought it.

After that I took the plane, flew and arrived in Berlin in Tegel Airport. I've been here for five months now. Everything is OK. I have documents. I'm waiting for some papers to register for the German course so I can continue my studies. I need the language because it's so necessary to continue my studies. I just have to wait now. I have many dreams and objectives in mind. I want to advance in life and continue my studies. I also want to send a message for the world: I want to express what happened in Syria and especially in my city Homs. Life is so hard in Syria.

Tell me more about working in a field hospital in Homs.

The situation is so hard. All the people in the old city are under siege. People are weak, they haven't eaten meat in one year, haven't eaten vegetables, nothing fresh. So many mutilations: people without arms. People look unhealthy and weak; they have tired faces. All the medicine is expired. I had an operation room when I was working there to perform surgeries. It's so hard, because you have to find a different way to anesthetize patients. Everything is different from the normal procedures. Imagine the situation now if this how it was in the past. It is such an abnormal situation. When I saw that people wanted to help in such a hard situation, something moved my heart to want to help them and protect them so they could stay alive.

I made friends with two children when I was living under siege. The girl's name is Heba, who was shot in the arm and legs. We thought we might have to amputate the legs, but everyday I cleaned her wounds and made new bandages. She had a friend called Adnan, an 11-year-old boy. Adnan decided to be a doctor when he saw me take care of Heba. He decided to work at the hospital and clean and do small tasks. So he stayed everyday when I finished my work. And my work was never finished because I was on call 24 hours, and all the time listening to the bombs fall in the ceiling. I talked a lot with Adnan about the future and the world outside. I told him how in the future he would be able to eat chocolate again, which he liked so much. I also told stories to Adnan about how he could study medicine in the university and help people.

The first day when the UN went in to help people trapped in the siege, Adnan left. I stayed behind until the last moment, because I wanted to see my patients. I cried a lot because I was a good friend of Adnan. When I left Homs to be in a safe place in Lebanon, Adnan sent a message to my WhatsApp saying that he was fine and registered in school in a liberated area [controlled by anti-Assad rebels]. He said he wanted to be a doctor in the future. We are still in touch.

What are your plans?

I want to study medicine. My dream is to continue my studies and finish. I want to give something back to Germany, because people here have been so nice to me. I want to specialize in anesthesia. When my country is free, when there is a Free and Democratic Syria, I will come back to help rebuild my country.

Everyone here has welcomed me, even when they don't know my story. When they hear my story they are even more welcoming.