Escape from Syria pt1

Published by Victor Barr on

Mahdi thought back to the day he escaped Syria in the fall of 2014. 

Mahdi held on for dear life as the van roared down the highway. Farron drove like a man possessed. He glanced at Karim and saw the grin on his face.

He’s actually enjoying this. Thought Mahdi.

He watched road signs pass and saw them head toward an exit off the highway. The sign read “Gaziantep 120km”

Ahead he saw an armoured vehicle next to the road. Two soldiers were standing next to it and they held out their hands to stop the van. Farron looked out the window both ways and turned to Karim in the passenger seat, “hold on we are not stopping. If it looks like they are going to fire at us, shoot first.”

Karim nodded. The smile on his face betrayed the hope they would start shooting.

Farron pressed down the gas pedal and accelerated toward the checkpoint. The man beside the armored vehicle ran toward the passenger seat and the other jumped to the other side. Karim lifted his gun and pointed it out the window at the men in uniform.

He pulled the trigger.

The sounds of gunfire shook the vehicle and Mahdi crouched down behind the passenger seat. “What are you doing? He wasn’t shooting.”

The army man on the passenger side went down in a hail of bullets and the other hid behind the hood. Farron roared up to the checkpoint and stopped. Karim leaped out of the passenger seat and rolled behind the parked vehicle. One man was down, obviously dead, the other stood up and went to shoot at the van. Karim made sure standing up was the last thing he did. He jumped back into the van and began laughing, “go, go, go!”

Mahdi shuddered and held himself tight. Who are the good guys in this war anyway?

He felt the van lurch forward and they headed down the road toward Gaziantep, Turkey. He knew there was a border to cross first. It was beginning to get dark as they drove slowly down the back road toward A’zaz, the last town in Syria before they left his homeland.

“What is the plan, Farron?” Karim sat in the passenger seat and looked at their defacto boss.

“I am now on the most wanted list from Assad and the Free Syrian Army was going to trade me for a couple of political prisoners. I am betrayed on all sides. So, it is time to leave this hell hole.” Farron Bin Basheer glanced into the back seat at Mahdi, “I assume you are coming with us. If you want to stay here tell me now and I will let you out.”

Mahdi wanted out of Syria more than anything. He didn’t want to stay with these two mad men but what choice did he have? “I will come, there is nothing for me here.”

They pulled into A’zaz and slowed their vehicle to a stop. Farron parked the car on a side street and went into a run-down house that stood on the corner. The house next to it had no windows and its door was hanging on the hinges. Mahdi looked at his wounded arm and was relieved to note that there was no blood showing. He could feel the pain throbbing, but it was the least of his worries.

Farron came out of the house with a medium-sized man wearing a turban and a black sash over his shoulders. He had a bag in his hands and was gesturing at the van. Mahdi strained to hear what the man was saying.

“The border is harder to cross now. Turkey is no longer allowing even the Syrian Free Army in. You must leave the van with me. I will take you to the smuggler who will take you across. There is a group going tonight. We need to leave right away.”

“The van? But what will we do when we get to Kilis? How will we reach Gaziantep? Do you expect us to walk?” Farron seemed upset as they neared the van.

“We have people in Kilis that will give you a ride to Gaziantep. From there you are on your own.” The man seemed impatient and turned to look at the van. “The price of freedom is high.”

“If you betray us, I will kill you,” Farron said quietly. Mahdi shuddered; he knew it was the truth.

“I don’t have time for this, get in. It is time to go if you want, they will be leaving soon.”

Farron opened the passenger door and told Karim to get in the back seat. He sat down and the stranger sat in the driver’s seat. He turned the key and they drove off.

That night may well have been the most harrowing night of Mahdi’s life.


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