Wars, climate change, economic and injustice have made millions of people refugees. Thousands of them die, stranded on the borders of Europe or the United States. Eco villages are, as it has now been said on the GEN summit in Dakar again, especially for young people an alternative to migration. But Eco villages of the North can help directly, can provide a new opportunity to refugees. This is the story of Fayez Karimeh from Syria – similar experiences are currently refugees in various Eco villages in Europe. It is also a story about the strength of our network. Leila Dregger reported. (published already in January 2015
A civil engineer, focusing mostly on water supply and sewage, Fayez Karimeh of Yabroud in Syria, married and father of four children, had been travelling before the war. In Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, UAE, KSA, Jordan, and Japan, he found and advised projects a communities in organic treated wastewater farm and management.
Syria consists to a large extent of desert. In a research project he had examined mixed cultures, drip irrigation and wastewater treatment with the following reuse of treated wastewater for the afforestation of his home region.
Even before the war, life was not easy. During the war time in his town Yabroud in Syria, he found the instructions for a first biogas digester system from Tamera on the GEN website, to meet the energy needs for the local people in his town Yabroud during the war time to stop and replace fire wood cutting the trees around his town. He built the digester following the instructions and came in contact with the Tamera technical team. Because of the hard war situation in his country he left the Syria in February 2014.
“We decided to start a new life,” he says. He turned to the Eco illage, with whom he was already in exchange, to Barbara Kovats in Tamera. The community of Tamera decided to give him a job in the ecology area until he somewhere in Europe could apply for asylum and bring his family – in a richer country than Portugal. An odyssey through beaurocracy began. Countless applications, calls, risky journeys through a country where half the population has lost their home, followed. Finally, he was able to travel to Turkey from Lebanon, where he could apply for his visa for Portugal.
Responding to a round-mail into the GEN network friends in Ankara responded and housed him for over a month. “I am overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth with which I was received by my new Turkish friends,” said Fayez. Not obvious, as already thousands of Syrian refugees in part, live in the streets in Turkey. The embassy promised to issue him a visa to Portugal after a month, but he received the passport back without it. Now what? Ali Gokmen, his host and new friend from Turkey called at the embassy and explained the situation, and suddenly everything went very quickly. The next morning Fayez finally had the visa. On to Tamera.
“Again, I found a warm welcome. Tamera is inspiring community creating a new model far away from violence and fear. As refugee from Syria escaped from death I found the warm humanity in Tamera”, Fayez recalls. For some weeks he supported the ecology team in restructuring the compost system and also learned about the water retention landscape of Tamera, earning some money that he could send home to support his family. During these weeks, more people from GEN became active to look for a permanent place for Fayez to stay, work and possibly fetch his family.
“We need to get away from war and violence, but not forever away from Syria. In the end we want to return to our home. We are Syrians and we want to reconstruct our home country.”
GEN member Ethan Hirsch-Tauber wrote an appeal to European Ecovillages, and projects from Germany and Sweden responded. As a consequence, Fayez went to Sweden, his country of first choice, to explore ways to work and stay over there. He is presently staying in the house of network members, supported by Ecovillages and researchers.
Fayez: “Inspired by Tamera, where a fine model of alternative life is being created, coming from Syria with its ancient civilization that first developed agriculture, the idea came to me to start organic farming communities on the Swedish countryside to create jobs and occupation for the many Syrian and other refugees that come to this country. I believe we can do it here in Sweden as a country that respect human rights, that has open doors for asylum seekers and many abused people around the world. I know that nothing is impossible in life.”
Fayez will explore these ideas with members of the University of Uppsala in the coming weeks. After that he is invited to visit the Gastwerke Community in Germany which possibly can offer him a job in his work field. Good luck, Fayez! We would love to continue reporting about your trip – until you live in Syria again and we share knowledge to rebuild this country.