Originally published on Medium on November 2, 2016.
7 am — Damascus. Beginning of my trip to Europe. First goal: Salqin, a little village on the Syrian-Turkish border that’s occupied by the Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra. The trip was expected to take 12 hours, but we ended up sitting on the overcrowded bus for 16 hours, passing the lines of the Syrian Army and the Islamic State.
No need to take a look through the curtains to know what’s going on out there, it’s risky for our necks.
Whenever we passed armed groups’ lines, we gave the smugglers some money, bakshish, to make the transition to the next line easier. But at one checkpoint, my friend’s father was recognized by Jabhat al-Nusra’s fighters, who stopped us and went to talk to their commander, who wanted to know the truth. My pretend father told him about the fake identity, but not about me, I was their secret.
When the commander asked to see his real identification papers, he came to get them from us, still in the bus. By then al-Nusra fighters demanded that all of us step outside. But the bus driver suddenly drove away, leaving my friends’ father behind…