Ali Jasam is a 6’4” veterinarian who sold his car, emptied his bank account and fled from Syria with his extended family.They are ten: Ali, his wife and four children; his brother, Yassir, his wife and child; and his brother-in-law, Mohammad Abbas, who was too poor to bring his family and hoped to find work in Germany and send for them next year. Yesterday he was turned back at the German border.
They left home 50 days ago, Ali said, and for the last 15 days they walked – mostly in the woods and often in heavy rain – across Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary to the Austrian border. In the forest, Ali’s 16-month-old daughter got a nasty rash, which grows steadily worse. Yet, like other refugees we met, the Jasams, with astonishing resilience, seem never to despair.
Ali’s brother lives in Vienna, and he too hopes to settle in Austria. To stay, he must be fingerprinted, but he cannot get into Camp Traiskirchen because it is full. “Syria is our motherland," he says sadly, but he expects never to return to his ravaged country.
“We had to leave because Bashar al-Assad’s planes were bombing us. They came every day; and then they destroyed our house and killed my older brother.
“They tell us to say we are fleeing from ISIS,” he said. “But it was Assad’s militias who were bombing us.”
This evening I ran into Ali at the Vienna train station. He said he will return at 7:30 to be fingerprinted. He is happy.