My name is Mahmood Najjar, I was born and lived in Racca, Syria in 1993, I am 24 years old. There are seven children in my family, my father has died. My passion and love since a child has been to be a world champion break dancer! Yes, I had very big dreams when very small. I used to watch break dancing on American films and shows I copied what I saw in my garden. Slowly I developed my own moves and started to get some recognition for my skills. Dancing has always brought a lot of joy to my heart. The more I danced the happier I was.
“we were all filled with hope”
Then when just about to enter some serious competitions in Syria the civil war started. In fact it was quite good at first because the free Syrian army took over Racca. It was a very big change for us, more freedom to do what we wanted and an excitement that Syria was going to change and catch up with the rest of the world. Girls could wear what they wanted which was very beautiful, I could dance as much as wanted, we were all filled with hope.
Then the blackness came, with bullets and bombs and cruelty. Isis took over our town with better weapons and trained foreigners. Everything changed very quickly. Woman wore black, men and boys were forced to fight. My family and I packed up and fled to Latakia, a government held town in Allawite territory by the Mediterranean. More troubles came because at every check point along the road we were stopped. My two older brothers were always asked “Why have you not joined the army, why are you not fighting for your country?”
“Dear God, please help me. I do not want kill, I just want to dance and bring joy to people.”
As soon as possible they borrowed some money from a friend and bought a ride to the Turkish boarder about 25kms away. My oldest brother made it all the way to Germany very quickly, he was the smart one in the family. My next brother made it as far as Athens.
For myself I was close to 18. One day some soldiers stopped me and said I must join the army, they also said only girls dance. This made me very angry. They took me by force to the army base. I was taken underground for interrogation. While sitting in a room waiting I closed my eyes, bowed my head and said a prayer from my heart. “Dear God, please help me. I do not want kill, I just want to dance and bring joy to people.”
I was taken down a corridor by two soldiers. Just then a door opened and a man wearing pyjamas stepped out. He was only in pyjamas with slippers on his feet. He told the soldiers to stop. I realised he was an officer. He said, “Where are you taking this boy?” They replied, “To interrogation, he is from Racca, he is selling weapons to Isis!”
The officer then said: “Can’t you see he is only a boy? His mother will be looking for him, he is not selling weapons to anybody, let him go.”
The soldier’s then left me standing in front of this strange man in pyjamas. He asked me “Are you all right my boy, can I help you.” I said: “Please let me return home to my mother in Latakia.” He said: “Go quickly.”
I ran all the way home and my mother said:
“Mahmood, it is time for you to go west, leave here before they make you fight.”
My mother gave me some money which she borrowed and my younger brother and I travelled to the Turkey . On the way we were stopped by Russian soldiers, then more Syrian troops, finally we passed into free Syrian army territory. They were kind to us, good people, fighting for freedom and a new life. They helped us across the border into Turkey.
From there we caught a coach to Istanbul. We spent two years in Istanbul looking for work. We were lucky and got work, I sent money back to my mother and she repaid our loan. It was not easy in Istanbul, so when I had enough money my brother and I travelled to Avalick on the Turkish coast. Here we paid to join a rubber boat with 40 others and crossed the sea last August. Thank God the crossing was smooth and the weather warm.
One day all will be good, I know because God heard and answered the cry of my heart. “Let me dance and not kill.”
Since then we have lived in Moira camp. To stop me getting bored and depressed I have found a place outside the camp where I can teach other boys how to dance. This has given them joy and a smile on their faces. I like to teach dancing and it is good to have the freedom here in Greece to do so. It is normal here which is good, the Greeks like to dance.
I hope my brother and I can travel on to Berlin where my smart older brother lives. I want to break dance on the streets of Berlin. Then maybe live in Austria, I have seen pictures of Austria, it is a very beautiful country and they like dancing. I want to enter competitions and become a world champion. Even amongst all the difficulties I hold on to my dream. One day all will be good, I know because God heard and answered the cry of my heart. “Let me dance and not kill.”
I know there is a God who hears and answer’s prayers. I do not know if he is Muslim or Jew or Christian, I just know he is there and he hears. I don’t want to say I believe in one or the other, this seems to only bring pain and suffering and war.
I am so happy that I can come to Next Wave on Wednesday night. I see so many joyful people and smiling faces. The music and singing are very good. If there was room I would dance! So many nationalities helping and being helped. There is goodness in the world, there is hope, there is freedom.