Three Brothers, One Rucksack

At a boarding gate of an airport in central Turkey, three brothers turn back – almost simultaneously – to wave goodbye.  Almost everything about the three brothers is very similar – the piercing blue eyes, the reluctant smiles, the sense of humour, the leather jackets… and even their ages. Separated by only 5 years, the oldest is just 22 and the youngest, 17. 

On a cold day in February, the three outwardly appear calm and relaxed even though this will be the first time all three of them will set foot on an airplane. Today, the three brothers are about to embark on a journey that will see them set up new lives in Canada.

As part of 25,000 Syrians, Canada committed to resettle from the region, the three brothers are taking everything they own in the world to Canada.  For them, though, that means one shared rucksack.  “What’s in it?,” they are asked.  “Well, everything for us. It’s enough,” says one of the brothers. 

Only a few years ago, their story was very different. From the Kurdish al-Hasakah region of Syria, the three brothers often felt like foreigners in their own country. “As a Kurd in Syria, we lived under different rules than a typical Syria. We were told where to go, how to go. Our lives did not always feel like our own” says Ahmet, the oldest brother. 

“It didn’t seem odd to us, it was just the way things were until the war began. Then everything changed.  Where we are from, there was a lot of fighting.  All three of us were studying at the time – I was studying French at university. But the war started, and we had to find work.  In those days, work was difficult to come by.  I mainly did heavy manual labour until I severely hurt my back carrying a heavy carpet.  I wasn’t able to work for months.”

Hassan, the middle brother, completes the story.  “We all worked in Syria when we could find work, but after years of fighting, it became impossible.  Our parents then told us to leave Syria. Find work in Turkey, they said.  So, I was the first to leave.  I crossed into Turkey, found a place for us to live.  When Ahmet felt better, he and Alan (the youngest brother), joined me in Turkey.”

For one year, the three brothers survived day-to-day in Turkey. They worked when they were able to find something to pay a daily wage and hoped that the employer would pay at the end of the day. That was a hard time for them, one of the brothers says.

“Our parents are still in al-Hasakah. I miss Syria. I miss the way things used to be. But, can it ever go back to that now?  I think it’s better to move forward now, to look to the future,” says Ahmet. 

The three brothers get very enthusiastic when they start talking about their dreams – mostly involving finishing school.  “The most important thing about starting over in Canada will be finally having a routine again.  I know it will be hard at first, but it will be work, school and football.  That will be my routine. Day after day - work, school, football,” declares Ahmet. 

Sports are important to all three brothers – each has his own interests. Ahmet loves football, Hassan is a body builder and proudly shows off his photos to anyone willing to look and Alan, the youngest, loves skiing and talks of his adventures skiing in Syria before the war.  However, the one sport that intrigues them the most is ice hockey. “We have nothing like it in Syria. I’ve read about it on the internet but I need to learn more.  If Canada is going to be my home, I must learn more about ice hockey!,” laughs Ahmet.

Now on the verge of a new beginning, the brothers want to make sure the world hears their message of gratitude. “I want everyone to know how grateful we are to the Canadian government, the Turkish government and to IOM for giving us this opportunity,” says Ahmet. “We were able to escape the war and now can begin a new life – a productive life, one with a routine,” he says with a broad smile.  


Abby Dwommoh is the Public Information & Communications Expert with IOM Turkey

IOM Turkey supported the Canadian government relocate thousands of Syrians from Turkey by providing transport, basic registration, biometrics, interpretation and logistics support.