Don’t film … I don’t want the world to think I’m weak

A sickly Syrian refugee in Kuala Lumpur is tearful but gets his message and his story across.

The UN says there about 4 million registered refugees in Syria [AP]
The UN says there about 4 million registered refugees in Syria [AP]

I have seen Pakistanis escaping the local Taliban and hill folk fleeing from the encroaching water of the 2010 floods.

I’ve seen the plight of the stateless Rohingya who live on the border Myanmar with Bangladesh.

Yet, in these isolated cases the impression I got from the “victims”, if I can call them that, was that there was always hope for a better future.

A future that would see them rehabilitated and able to return to land and homes they were familiar with.

For me and the Al Jazeera team here in Kuala Lumpur, the experience has been so different from anything we’ve experienced before.

I enter a small three-bedroom apartment in the outer suburbs of the Malaysian capital. The block of flats is rundown and the creaky lift slowly climbs its way up the higher floors.

Abdul Ghani, a very thin and ill-looking Syrian refugee in his mid-fifties, meets us coughing.

He politely introduces himself and ushers us through a door through to his apartment, which is revealed after a weighty iron safety grill has been wheeled out of the way.

“It’s not so safe here at night”, Abdul Ghani tells me and smiles, but compared to Damascus where he comes from, this is a much safer place to stay for the moment.

He’s been suffering from a recurring chest infection and treating the illness will costs more than he can afford. His savings are running low and it’s left to him to seek out charitable organisations that can help.

Three small bedrooms

Abdul Ghani shares an apartment with two Bangladeshi workers who had taken pity on him and invited him to live with them.

It’s a tiny place with three small bedrooms, a cooking area and a small lounge with one sofa neatly positioned by the bay window.

It’s not perfect nor is it luxurious but it’s a safe haven for a man who still finds it difficult to sleep.

Waking up after nightmares of the bloody scenes he witnessed in Syria is a source of great anxiety, knowing as he does that his relatives in Syria don’t have the luxury of waking up in a safe bed.

We set up and conduct our interview, throughout which he’s visibly emotional and cries periodically.

We stop filming when he asks.

“Please don’t show this … . I don’t want the world to think I am weak!”

We have to respect the requests of any contributor to our news story.

Some don’t want to show “weakness”; others say they don’t want to show their face for religious or security factors. We take each scenario on a case-by-case basis.

Level of trust

Why, I bet you are asking.

I may in the future need to speak again with Abdul Ghani and I need to develop a level of trust.

He has never met anyone from Al Jazeera and needs to know we keep our word.

We talk. He’s tearful but he gets his message and story across to us.

The report you will see on AJE fills in the rest of the gaps for you.

Syrian refugees are scattered across the globe, lost, without a place to call home and in lands where they are not cared for and often looked at with suspicion.

You don’t need to be a Syrian refugee to expect help from a host country.

Across the world we have refugees in our respective nations for a number of reasons.

If you are outside Syria, be thankful for what you have, and if you have the time and the capacity, consider helping those most in need.

No matter how little, no matter who or where the “victim” comes from!

Source : Al Jazeera

More from Features
Most Read