Escaping from one's country and crossing the Mediterranean: the stories of who makes it and who doesn't

In order to bring their families to safety, they face the journey, the fear. Without knowing if they will see their children go to school or get lost in the waves. Many, like Alan's dad, are left with nothing but tears. Abdikadir, on the other hand, did it. Raised in a refugee camp, he graduated. And he teaches his daughters that home and salvation can be found anyway. Even if the price to pay is very high


We are instinctively inclined, thinking of the destinies of fleeing peoples, to identify the pain of the exile with the figure of the mother. It is mothers, in the collective imagination, who carry the weight of the pain of their husbands or sons in struggle, who mourn their adverse fate if wars take them away. It is the mothers who wait for news of their children embarked on the dinghies and of whom there is no more news.

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It is the mothers, in the shared thought, who wait. Too little attention has been spent on the figure of fathers. Figure that is celebrated, in our country, on March 19th. An anniversary that allows us to recall some stories, and with them the burden that many men, forced by war or famine, persecution or poverty, carry on their shoulders: not being able to provide for their families, not being able to guarantee their children the inalienable right to dream and wish for a better future.

A NEW CHILD, THE SAME NAME – Eight years have passed since, in 2015, the sea returned the body of little Alan Kurdi, 3 years old, to the beach of Bodrum, who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea fleeing the Syrian civil war. In the early hours of dawn on September 2, 2015, the family crowded onto a small dinghy right on that beach in Turkey. Within minutes of starting the journey to Greece, the dinghy capsized, Alan, his older brother Ghalib and his mother Rihanna drowned, joining the more than 3,600 refugees who died in the eastern Mediterranean that year. The indignation of the photograph that portrayed the body lying on the sand generated a wave of solidarity across the continent. Never again, said Europe. Alan's father, Abdullah Kurdi, gave a voice to the fleeing Syrian people, to the atrocities of the war that has been going through the country for more than ten years. He asked for justice, he asked that fleeing families no longer be forced to make extremely dangerous journeys to save themselves. A year later he would repeat: «Refugee children continue to drown every day. I see states that build walls and others that don't want to welcome us. My Alan died for nothing, little has changed.'
Abdullah Kurdi now lives in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, has remarried, had another son and named him Alan, after the little brother he won't be able to know, and runs a charity that helps children in refugee camps. Because the hardest thing to do, and fathers know it, is to guarantee their children in exile an education, the tools to avoid ending up - in vulnerability - victims of the sirens of fundamentalism or forced into labor exploitation.

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FATHERS WITHOUT CERTAINTIES - What is humiliating to tell for refugee fathers who end up trying to escape into the sea is that uprooting from one's land is not painful only because one is forced to abandon one's hometown, one's family of origin, but also because in the giving up one's job also loses the ability to provide for loved ones. Thus millions of fathers find themselves exhausted by the impossibility of having access to the world of work in the countries that host them, such as in Lebanon where there are almost 2 million Syrians but where the Beirut government does not guarantee permits for adult men, with the as a result, it is the children and adolescents who have to work, underpaid, in the fields and in construction. It is to escape all this, the early marriages of the daughters, the child labor of the sons, that fathers often embark alone, they try what they can to settle in a place that opens up a possibility, even one in a million, for them to be to work and not the sons, let them bring home food and not the dowry of their daughters, who have become
child brides.

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ORPHAN AT 10 YEARS OLD – Abdikadir Abikar is 32 years old, he arrived in Dadaab, Kenya, from Somalia when he was 10 and was already an orphan. His father had died of illness and his mother had been killed by members of a militia in Somalia. Fearing for their safety, Abdikadir's older brother Adam, who was only 15 at the time, fled with him to Kenya. They found refuge in Dadaab twenty-two years ago. Like everyone thought of moving temporarily to a refugee camp before being able to return home. But the civil war never ended, and for Abdikadir the word home was synonymous with a tent, just as the word school was a large plastic sheet that shaded the desks. Abdikadir grew up like this, studying with ninety, one hundred other children. As soon as he arrived at the camp he enrolled in primary school, knowing that accessing higher education from a remote place like Dadaab is not easy. But Abdikadir, thanks to the technology, obtained a teaching diploma from Kenyatta University in Kenya, one of 23 universities that are part of a United Nations project. Then he had access to university education and attended a master's degree in computer science 12,000 kilometers away. To attend the online lessons he had to walk for two hours on the sandy streets of Dadaab, until he reached a laboratory from which to connect to the online learning platform.

TODAY ABDIKADIR HELPS THOSE WHO WERE BORN IN A TENT – Today he says that studying has changed him and made him a man. He gave him a responsibility, that of becoming a teaching assistant for the boys and girls of the camp, who are 18, 15, 10 years old, and were all born in a tent, far from the land to which their parents belong. Abdikadir says she has already defied adversity many times in his life. He did it when he fled the war with his brother and when, growing up in a refugee camp, he didn't get lost and decided to become the man his father would be proud of. Abdikadir is also the father of two daughters, and like all exiled fathers he would like the girls to have a backpack, a pencil case and a notebook in which to learn
to dream. She tells her daughters every day that it doesn't matter where fate forces us to live, what matters to her is building the tools to become solid people even in the middle of a storm. She promised them to take them home to Somalia one day. He will tell them the story of the exiled orphan who managed to graduate by living in a tent, seeing the university only from a screen, walking for hours every day driven only by the desire to learn.

THE PRESENT OF THE FATHER – This is what moves his present as a father. The example that he wants to give to his daughters, the example and the hope, because, he repeats, 'without education, a person's eyes are destined to remain closed'. There are millions of fathers who raise their children in refugee camps, as refugees. Exiles who cannot go home, and often see news about their hometowns on a television screen, without being there anymore and not even in the new home that is not there, in a repeated, renewed middle ground where the effort the greater is trying to pass on an identity to your children while losing a piece of it every day.