Unstoppable Syrian Refugee


Mousa is a 92-year-old man who comes from Deraa, in the south of Syria. Since September 2012, he has been beating the odds.

That was the month his town suffered many bombardments, forcing Deraa’s inhabitants to seek refuge in underground shelters. One day, while he was trying to run to the closest shelter, Mousa fell and fractured his hip. He had a hip replacement operation, but without access to physical therapy to help him regain his strength and mobility, his ability to get around suffered.

When the bombardments started again, most people fled. Mousa refused—a choice that put his frail body in the path of a bomb. The weapon destroyed part of his roof, but not Mousa. His children returned home to find him safe.

Over the following days, the bombardments continued, and despite his son's pleas to take shelter, Mousa refused. "I told my son that I was old, and if I was going to die, I would die,” he recalls. “My son said, ‘armed men could come into the house and hurt you.’ Well, let them come, I said to him. I am waiting for them. In any case, they would not do anything to me, I am old, they would not dare."

Only, they did. In the following hours, armed men came to Mousa’s home, threw him off his bed and dealt him blows with the butts of their guns. At that moment, a bomb fell on the house, but was halted by a wardrobe next to Mousa. The men screamed, but Mousa says he challenged them: "kill me, if you want," he recalls.

The men fired two bullets, but they struck the bed frame, not Mousa. A second bomb exploded on the house and the men fled. The neighbors came running to find Mousa, and used a wheelbarrow to cart him to a nearby house.          

A few months later, most of the family left Deraa, and took refuge in Jordan. They were received into the Zaatari camp, but left a few days later, opting for Irbid, where they still live today. Six of Mousa's eight children remain in Syria, and it is difficult to stay in touch because telephone communication is so unpredictable.

Mousa calls himself a ‘Jack of all trades’. In Syria as well as in Saudi Arabia, he did all sorts of jobs, including being a stonemason and gardener. “I travelled a lot for work,” he says. “I did not often see my family, but I was happy. I was able to support them."

When it was time to retire, Mousa could finally enjoy life. He never thought he would see his house destroyed and have to flee his country. On some days, when morale is low, he repeats ceaselessly to those close to him, “it would be much better to die now, but God does not want me...”

Nine people, including Mousa and his family, live together in an unstable building that was never finished, in an Irbid suburb. Mousa moves about only inside the house, between his bed and the bathroom, because he is afraid of falling since he fractured his hip. To help him improve his ability to move around, Humanity & Inclusion teams have given him a walker and a wheelchair. They have also prompted his family to encourage Mousa to move around more, to try to overcome his fears.

Humanity & Inclusion staff realized that Mousa’s family needed financial help, too. They set Mousa up to receive cash assistance, providing him with a pre-set debit card in November. At the start of the winter, he received about $945, which allowed his relatives to meet their most pressing needs—spending priorities that they defined themselves. Like many refugees, these include above all paying rent, and buying food and medicine.

Despite great sadness, Mousa still finds joy when he is surrounded by his grandchildren. With so much experience, he tries to give them some advice for their future, even if, in his heart, he knows that they are fated to live in exile for a long time.