04 Mar Dalia’s Story, Refugee from Syria
The war broke out in Aleppo just after I had finished high school. I got married and we escaped to Lebanon, but we returned to Syria when I was pregnant with my second daughter. When we returned to Syria, I was shocked by the overwhelming presence of ISIS. You can’t imagine how hard it is to be a woman under ISIS. It was one thing to endure the bombs, but the presence of ISIS was suffocating. I had to cover every inch of my skin, even my ankles and wrists. I could not even ride a taxi without a male escort, and if they found me alone, they would whip me. I had no freedom.
On the day I gave birth, it was winter and ISIS was everywhere. There was gunfire in the streets, the hospitals were very far away, and there were no female doctors. If a male doctor would touch me, ISIS would kill me. I begged my brother in law to drive me to the hospital, but it was too dangerous to leave. I gave birth at home all by myself. I didn’t know if my baby would survive. She drank the amniotic fluid and there was no one to help me. But I cared for her and she survived, thank God.
In 2014, my house and four of my neighbours’ homes were destroyed by a bomb. My mom was doing her daily prayers when the bomb hit. She was seven months pregnant with my youngest brother. Her body was buried under the rubble and my family thought she was dead. But after 6 excruciating hours of digging through the rubble, we found her alive. Sadly, my neighbour and her three children were not so fortunate.
ISIS told me that I had to stay in my city, Aleppo. At that point I was separated from my husband so I could only rely on myself to find a way to escape. I paid $1000 to a man who drove me across the border into Lebanon in a sheep truck. My daughters were 3 months old and 18 months old. We wore ragged clothes so that if they caught us, we could say that we were shepherds. I was so afraid – if ISIS found out about my plan, they would kill me. We had to pass many ISIS checkpoints, and drove many hours. It was a very difficult journey.
After I crossed the final ISIS checkpoint, I knelt on the ground and kissed it. I threw off my veil, my gloves, and my socks – I took off everything. I was unbelievably happy. It’s as if I escaped from the old era and arrived in the modern era, from the past to the future. You can not imagine the joy that was overwhelming me – I felt like I was in Heaven.
Of course, on the day I arrived in Canada, I also kissed the ground.
When the UN heard my story, my daughters and I were approved to come to Canada. We arrived in March 2020, just before the borders were closed due to Covid. My life in Canada isn’t easy as a single mom. I still have nightmares – I often wake up to find tears on my pillow. My mother and brother are still in danger, and my only wish is that they can come to Canada with me.
New Hope is very nice. Everyone helps each other. If I ever need anything, all I have to do is simply ask. I do not feel alienated in New Hope. There are many people here, but we are one family.