Yurub, 31 years old, from Qoryooley, Somalia
Yurub was living a simple life in southern Somalia, selling vegetables. She enjoyed her work, but she dreamed of pursuing more education, and specifically of the opportunity to study medicine. “I am an only child and my father passed away in my early childhood. That’s why my mother needed me to work with her in the markets. I began at the age of 10.” She ended up never going to school.
“Years later, I was tending to the farm fields, as I did every day, when a group of men suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started harassing me.” These men were part of Al-Shabaab, a jihadist terrorist group based in East Africa. “They threatened my life, and demanded that I be a kamikaze for their organisation.” Even under extreme pressure Yurub adamantly refused, but she knew the risks. She explained “Do you know who they are? If you refuse, they will kill you anyway.” Luckily, after she refused, they left, but she knew it would not be long until they came back. She could not live a peaceful life in her motherland anymore. Her only chance for survival was leaving Somalia as soon as possible, or else she would face the threat of death. Just one week before this incident, her husband also had to flee for the same reason. And so, Yurub made the decision to leave Somalia, and travel to Turkey to be reunited with her husband.
“Late at night that same evening, my family paid for me to travel to the capital city, Mogadishu, where I intended on getting a visa to Turkey. But right before entering the city, I got out of the car, to avoid being followed all the way to my final destination. A friend of mine in Mogadishu helped me collect all the necessary documents to apply for a Visa.” Finally after a few weeks in Mogadishu, Yurub was able to board the plane to Turkey, to join her husband.
The couple stayed in Turkey for one month together before crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece on a rubber boat. They arrived in Mytilene, on Lesvos Island. “We were scared of the sea but Greek people saved us.”
In January 2016, as Yurub and her husband arrived in Athens, they made a decision that would ultimately separate them. “We only had a little money left and my husband was ill, suffering from a heart condition. The money we had was not enough to continue the journey to Germany together.” Yurub preferred that her husband be the first one to reach Germany where, she believed, he would have access to better health care. And so, Yurub’s husband took a boat to Italy, in order to continue on to reach Germany. She has not heard from her husband in months. She is not certain how his health is, and if he ever ended up reaching Germany.
Now that her husband is gone, life is harder for Yurub. She is now a lone refugee woman. During the months she has spent in Greece, she hasn’t been able to reach her husband - she doesn't know about his health or his whereabouts. She says in a gentle and low voice, “I miss him, I miss his smile everyday. I want to find my husband and be with him again.”
Yurub says she would have preferred to stay in Somalia, to help her mother back home. But she had little choice when her life was threatened. “I miss my mother, and I miss working in the fields with her.” Yurub thinks of her often and is saddened because her only sister also escaped from Somalia and her mother is now all alone, just like her.
Yurub wants to say to the people reading her story, “I am thankful to Greece and to the people who have helped me while I’ve been going through so many difficulties. I am not in my country, but I am happy to be in peace.”
Photos: Shayanne Gal / Story: Romane Boyer