Doaa Al Zamel: A young Syrian woman’s search for peace
New Delhi, May 23: The poignant tale of Doaa Al Zamel, an ordinary girl from a village in Syria who in 2015 survived a gory fishing boat sail and the journey she risked to escape the conflagration in her homeland is the subject of a new book.
Doaa was one of 500 people crammed on to the fishing boat setting sail for Europe. The boat was deliberately capsized, and of those 500 people, 11 survived; they were rescued four days after the sinking.
Doaa was one of them and her fiance Bassem, with whom she had fled, drowned in front of her.
Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, heard about Doaa and the death of 489 of her fellow refugees and decided to fly to Crete to meet the girl, who had rescued a toddler when she was nearly dead herself.
Melissa saw in Doaa the story of the war in Syria embodied by a young woman. She decided to tell Doaa’s story – the dangers she fled, and the journey she risked to escape the conflagration in her homeland. “A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea: The Journey of Doaa Al Zameel”, published by Hachette, is the result of that.
Doaa is the face of the millions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons who risk everything as they try to escape war, violence and death.
The Al Zamel family lived in Daraa, the largest city in the southwest of Syria, located just a few kilometres from the Jordanian border and about a two-hour drive south of Damascus.
Doaa says in the book, she has shared her sufferings.
“It is only a small glimpse of the hardship and pain that refugees around the world endure. I represent just one voice among the millions who risk their lives every day in order to live a life of dignity,” she says.
According to Doaa, the perilous journey refugees take in order to reach safety in Europe often leads to despair and death.
“But we put our lives in the hands of cruel and merciless smugglers because we have no other choice. We have been confronted with the horrors of war and the indignity of losing our homes. Our only wish is to live in peace. We are not terrorists. We are human beings just like you. We have hearts that feel, yearn, love, and hurt,” she says.
“The people responsible for the war in Syria don’t care about shedding the blood of a child, tearing apart families, or destroying homes. And the world doesn’t seem to mourn for all the people that have drowned in the sea during their search for sanctuary,” she regrets.
On her fiance’s death, she says, “The love of my life slipped out of my arms and drowned right in front of my eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it. Now, my life without him feels like a painting without any colour. More than anything, I just wish he were still with me.”
On what she was thinking when she was afloat in the sea, she says, “I did my best to keep Masa and Malak alive. Over those four horrific days, they became a part of me. When I learned that precious Malak took her last breath after we were rescued, I felt like someone tore my heart out of my chest. But I do find comfort in knowing that she has made her way to heaven.”
After the tragic episode, the UNHCR arranged for the resettlement of Doaa and others and the government of Sweden gave them a safe and promising new home.
“I especially want to recognise our Egyptian friends who made my family feel welcome, the captain and crew of the CPO Japan who came to my rescue, the pilots who pulled us into their helicopter, the doctors on Crete who saved our lives, and my host family on Crete, who took me in and gave me the space to heal,” she says.