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“I don’t sleep much, I lie awake”

The view from his living room on the ninth floor of the Aquamarijnflat is fantastic: the Gravenburg district, the meadows, and beyond it lies Aduard. Impressive clouds and a great sunset when the skies are clear. The bathroom even has a bathtub. Alan Abdo, now 27, has been lucky, so it seems. He has been living here since September 2016....

The view from his living room ...

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“The police officer said: ‘Okay, just drive on.’ Seriously! Unbelievable!”

Last week, the two brothers Youssef (18) and Mohamed Nour (22) Alagha decorated the Christmas tree. It stands in the corner at the window in a jar filled with sand and wrapped in a plastic Aldi bag. Christmas baubles and coloured lights. “We are actually Muslims, but in Damascus we would sometimes see a Christmas tree at Christian people’s homes....

Last week, the two brothers Yo...

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“We grew up in a dictatorship. When people need you they are your best friends, but for the rest we grew up in distrust.”

Mohammed Al-Mansour is having a bad month: "My grandmother died in Syria. I basically grew up with her, she was like a mother to me. She had problems with her heart and that’s what killed her. There’s no medical care in Deir ez-Zor anymore, that's the problem." He was distracted, cried sometimes – "not many tears, but a few," – and...

Mohammed Al-Mansour is having ...

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“Then I explain that this phone is a necessity, my lifeline with my family.”

His bicycle is inside, behind the front door of his apartment in the Oosterpark neighbourhood. Complete with big panniers and all. The walls and ceiling of his apartment are painted a crisp white, and there is new laminate on the floor. Cabinets and tables are from the thriftshop, but the red three-seater sofa is new. “In Syria I would’ve had...

His bicycle is inside, behind ...

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“Ah, the Dutch weather! A moment ago it was sunny and now it starts to rain. You often see four seasons in one day here!”

“I dream of becoming an engineer. I want to start studying as soon as possible. My favourite football club is Barcelona. Sadly enough we can’t watch football here, so I can’t follow the European Championship. I don’t speak Dutch yet. I’ve been here for eight months now and if I could have gone to school I would’ve been able to speak...

“I dream of becoming an engi...

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“Religious oppression is the reason I travelled halfway around the world with my family. In Kabul there is no respect for Sikhs.”

“We are Sikhs and do not cut our hair. That is not allowed. How long my hair is now? Roughly this long, halfway to my thighs. It’s all inside my turban. My sons’ hair may also not be cut. Thamanpreet, the eldest, has his hair in a bun, just like I do. Hasimran, the youngest, has his hair hanging loose, it’s...

“We are Sikhs and do not cut...

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“What fear is? Not knowing if you’ll still be there tomorrow, or if your family and the house will still be there.”

“What fear is? Fear is when today everything seems fine, everything is quiet, but out of the blue a bomb can fall. Not knowing whether or not you’ll be alive tomorrow, or wounded, not knowing if your home and family will still be there. That’s what it is to be afraid. That you could be dead tomorrow. Especially in Aleppo,...

“What fear is? Fear is when ...

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