Previously, I was living in the countryside of Damascus, running a restaurant. Conflict increased in 2011, and life became hard. As the war began, there were separations and divisions among the nation between those who were in favor, those supporting the regime and those who were purposely against the regime.
The violence continued to escalate, with air raids and shelling, and then a massacre and protest took place. The population in that area took to the street. The regime bombed them, and hundreds were killed in this shelling. There were half a million people before the massacre, and afterwards, about 80% were internally displaced. At the time my wife was pregnant and we had to move to my father-in-law’s house, in the city for safety. She delivered a day after the massacre, but I was not able to attend and our first son, Zain, was born with birth defects as a result of the tension of the time.
We took to the streets in protest for many reasons: the oppression, the injustice, the distress, the poverty, and more. One of my brothers was in the military and ended up defecting from the army – that is, leaving the force and standing in opposition to that regime. As a result, all three of my brothers and I became wanted by the government. They managed to arrest my brother who was previously in the military, and he was killed on the spot. My older brother was also captured and passed away in captivity under torture. My third brother was tortured and released with kidney failure. In July 2011, I was arrested by the intelligence forces, and I remained in captivity for 45 days.
Ever since, I can’t stop the nightmares and flashbacks from the torture I experienced.
A year and a half later, I received a call from my friends who worked with the government, and they informed me that I had been labeled a terrorist. I was shocked, as I didn’t partake in suspicious activities. After the deaths of my siblings, we heard about search operations taking place by the regime, and neighbors told me that they were searching specifically for me. I hid and tried not to go into public, and in a panic I took my wife and three kids and we went to live in her parents’ house. During one of the research operations by the regime, they knocked on the door where my family lived. They told them I was at work and not at home, and in response they took two of my kids, threatened and separated them from everyone else to interrogate them with clubs in the house. They pointed their rifles at them and asked them questions about their father, and abused my daughter. I had no idea that this would happen, and afterwards I decided that we should escape. We smuggled ourselves out to Tehran, then Mafraq, and then we walked the border to Amman.
Before coming to Amman, we met with locals who were also refugees like us. I noticed my kids, especially my daughter, were having physical and psychological problems due to what happened. She would wake up in the night, crying, screaming, hallucinating. We figured out it was a result of the trauma and the abuse that took place.
I also had nightmares, and since we are an Eastern culture, it was hard for me – actually impossible – to admit I had an abused daughter, because of how people would label her and because of the stigma. We were exhausted by the news of the deaths of my brothers. I didn’t have the courage to speak out and talk about the things I experienced. I was discreet, even with the refugee status interview with UNHCR, I didn’t open up to them. I managed to state only the facts of what my family and I experienced. But, we resorted to getting aid from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused on children, who then ultimately referred us to CVT.
When I first went to CVT, I wasn’t able to speak up. I was still being discreet. After 15 sessions with my counselor, I don’t know how she managed to continue to bear with me. I was hopeless, but I eventually opened up and spoke out. I trusted her and she reached out to the social services department, and they were able to contact other organizations, including one that decided to cover my daughter’s healthcare and medication fees.
Mohammed and Hiba, those were the therapists I was with – I owe them big time. They were quite patient. They taught me how to work with my family. I was not able to manage my family, I had hate towards them because I thought they were part of the problem. But Hiba and Mohammed taught me that family always comes first. With this kindness and affection, I managed to transfer these feelings to my spouse and children; I started building new relationships with them, not thinking it would ever be restored. I felt like I was transferring my negative feelings to Hiba. In exchange she would give me positive vibes and hope.
In addition to learning about how to build and maintain relationships with others in the community, I have learned how to rebuild and maintain relationships with my children.
Every time I came back home from CVT, my children would surround me to ask me what I learned and to practice together.
I started to improve my relationship with my wife after receiving mental health and social services from CVT, and learned how to rebuild what was between us. After my arrest until now, I had back pain and pain in my left leg. But after the exercises I learned from Ahmad Taj at CVT and the care shown to me, my pain has improved and I can use my left leg more efficiently.
When I say CVT helped me – it’s the solidarity, compassion, affection that they showed me – they even helped me indirectly to also help me create better income, to improve my financial situation, and I’ve started to praise simple acts of kindness.
At CVT, I found a safe place to get things off my chest.
There is a lack of justice everywhere in this world.
But there are people out there, like that work at CVT, that have humanity in them, who are willing to extend a helping hand to everyone in urgent need of this type of help.
I extend my advice to all of the people in a similar situation who need help – they should go to CVT and start a new life. I told the former country director, Mousa, that it’s too bad CVT is only in Amman. I felt sorry, there are thousands of people who urgently need CVT’s help outside of Amman, in less fortunate areas. I recommend CVT start building different centers in Jordan and across the world.
I recommend supporters to double their efforts to support CVT. With more assistance and more grants to CVT, I know you will be able to extend your helping hands to outside Amman and other cities.
Name has been changed for safety and security.