Pushed Across The Border: When Europe Is Not a Choice

Jordan — She was one of the first welcoming faces I met in Jordan, and the only familiar one.

We had met five years ago in Damascus, on the streets of what was then a peaceful uprising against the Assad regime. We would discuss locations for protests, and meet before dawn to hang the anti-government flag in our neighborhood with local activists, hoping security agents were still asleep.

And like the lingering smog that hung over the city, a sense of furtiveness cloaked every interaction. No one used their real name, not even on social media. It was too risky. We both left Syria in 2012, and shed our pseudonyms soon after. That’s how I got to know Bayan Al-Adawi.

We did not meet in person again until September 2015, in Amman. After spending more than three years in the Jordanian capital, Bayan was once again preparing to move, this time to Turkey, where she hoped to find work and stability. Europe was not on her mind, but then again, neither was becoming a possible target for ISIS.

Bayan’s friends in Jordan give her a big goodbye at the airport. Photograph by Hiba Dlewati

Surrounded by friends coming to say goodbye on the eve of her big move, Bayan recounted what it was like to leave Syria. The regime had tightened its clench on protesters and aid activists, and many were detained, forcibly disappeared, or killed, and often their families became targets too. Realizing she was likely next and fearing for her family’s safety, Bayan smuggled herself out of Syria and into Jordan.

“It was a very quick decision, and not one I wanted to make,” said Bayan.”I thought it was a nightmare I could wake from and find myself home again, but unfortunately it wasn’t.”

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