MDI Story of a Syrian Refugee in Morocco

Published: 8 May 2014

Country: Morocco, Casablanca

Syrian_Refugees_in_MoroccoIt was a surprise quotation. “I ran away from death but have ended up in misery and humiliation; and this is worse.” The words were spoken by Naji, a proud Syrian refugee who arrived in Casablanca, Morocco five months ago.

Naji’s story was found and told by Abderrahim Tourani, one of 13 journalists who attended a five-day diversity reporting workshop in Casablanca, organised by the Media Diversity Institute between 24 and 28 March 2014.

Other interesting stories produced included landlords’ discrimination against Sub-Saharan Africans, Casablanca’s transport crisis, the plight of atheists, male victims of domestic violence, drugs in schools, and the battle over polygamy.

But Naji’s story about how he fled Syria has made an impact on the trainees, as well as MDI trainers, the most.

Naji, 47, is without his wife who was raped and killed, he says, by “thugs” when she returned to the family home in the city of Homs to collect some belongings. He still cannot bring himself to tell his three children 13, six and one what happened to their mother and instead tells them she will be joining them one day.

Naji initially fled to Lebanon in 2011 with his three younger brothers and the widow of a fourth brother who died in Syria, and her two young children. But as Lebanon became overwhelmed with refugees, the authorities offered the family tickets to Algeria. But he was unable to settle there either. With the Algiers government sympathetic to Bashar al-Assad’s regime they moved on to Morocco where the family is packed into a cramped two-room ground floor flat, the most they could afford. Many people in Casablanca sympathised with their plight but others harassed and intimidated them. One fruit vendor beat Naji because he touched the produce, he said.

Naji prays for peace so he will be able to go back to Syria. With little prospect of that happening soon, he wants the Moroccan authorities to treat his family as refugees from war and help them find work so they can  pay their rent and bills, buy food and allow their children to go to school.

Naji’s story was written during the MDI training in Casablanca as part of the project „Promoting Freedom of Expression, Diversity and Inclusion in Morocco“ funded by the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC).