News Client stories Facing war, poverty, racism and cruelty: Fatima's Story I am Fatima, an Arab from Syria. I have been a refugee in the United Kingdom for two years. I am 26 years old. What you will read will seem to you, at first glance, sad and depressing and perhaps a little boring. For me, however, it brings pride and achievement. What you will read you will probably consider simple, but for me it was not that easy. It burned my whole life, and made parts of my heart fade away. Each of us has a story and an experience and perhaps, like me, many experiences and stories, but I won't mention them all here. There are many things in me that I would like to write about, but I have been silent for several years. In the year 2012, I was running away from my home, where there was killing and blood, to a city in Syria. That was my first experience of refuge and grief. I had a harsh experience of displacement. My family and I all lived in one room, and I had my first job where I had to work from eight in the morning until ten in the evening, only going home to sleep. One dark night, I first experienced the pain of parting when my father called and told me that my brother had been killed. I don't know how to describe that feeling. All I know is that I called my father and started crying. He cried too, and it hurt my heart to hear him cry. I stayed strong, kept fighting and after a while, when things had calmed down, we returned to the city. It was here that I lost my life partner. It was the second time I had lost someone I loved. The situation got worse so, with my family, I fled to Lebanon. I did not know what awaited me there – if I had, I would have chosen to stay in Syria and face the war instead. Two weeks after my arrival in Lebanon, I got a call telling me my father was dead. Can you imagine the size of my shock at that moment? I don't think anyone can imagine the amount of pain of this series of losses: I lost my home, my brother, my partner and my father. I felt I was broken down the middle and faded. Then my family and I were evicted from my house in which we were living. We would have been on the streets had it not been for 'him'. I will not mention his name, I will call him the Saviour Angel of God. He gave us some money and rented a house for us. Now began the real war, which lasted for six years Despite the losses in my life, I encouraged myself to stay strong. Pain makes us stronger, and every experience that passes through my life is a lesson for me; a new experience and strength. I went to work again, and felt I was crawling back into life again. It was a strange job opportunity. I worked with an old lady and slept in her house for fifteen days. I decided I could not bear being so far from my family, so I travelled back to my mother and sisters. On the journey, my car was hit by a large truck, causing my skull to be broken and temporarily removing my memory. A large scar remains on my forehead until this day, because I cannot afford to remove it. No amount of money, however, could remove what I experienced in my heart and mind. After this incident, war broke out in Lebanon, and I was forced to live through its events. We could not return home to Syria. Living in Lebanon at that time was one of the most terrible experiences I have ever lived through. It was a life full of racism from the Lebanese and the Syrians, full of sexual harassment and the disgusted looks of our landlords - gazes full of hate, lips full of insult. To live without a man means, in Arab countries, that you have no morals and are available to everyone. As a result, I was exposed to regular harassment and more than one threat of eviction. We could not tell the police, because they would have taken us back to Syria, to our deaths. When I went out shopping, I would pray the Lebanese army would not see me. It was so scary. Meanwhile, my younger sisters were placed in an orphanage to be looked after. We could not afford to look after them in the way we wanted and it was forbidden to send them to school, so we chose to put them in the orphanage. It was a harsh experience for them, and for us. I was fighting on more than one front: I was fighting war, asylum, poverty, fear, racism, harassment and cruelty. Despite all this, I decided to stay strong. I am a woman, and a woman does not need a man in order to be strong. I joined a hairdressing course, studied at a religious institute for two years and also worked in ceramics. This job did not pay me any money, but I slept at work, so this was my hidden and secret revenge! I lost my hair and became bald due to severe depression. It was a very painful thing for me. Then a real miracle happened... We were asked if we wanted to travel to the UK. We could not believe it! The joy was immense. I felt like I was in a ship, sinking into the ocean, and had just been rescued. After months, it was finally time to travel. We prepared for it well. We threw all the fear of immigration and language behind us, grabbed each other's hands and went with confidence to the airport. We were very happy. Everyone at the airport was saying goodbye to each other, but no one said goodbye to us - we were alone. When I entered the airport bathroom, I found a baby who had been abandoned. I rescued him, and could not keep from crying because, though I was happy to save him from death, I was so sad about what had happened to him. Upon my arrival in the UK, I felt the sadness leave my body and, as I saw happiness in the eyes of my family, a new feeling entered. The United Kingdom is God's Heaven on Earth, and the staff of Migrant Help and KRAN are God's angels, who helped us go out and fly free like sparrows! Since I have been here, I suffered a lot of health issues and am still suffering and in pain, but my heart’s wounds have begun to heal, and that is enough for me. It is enough for me to feel safe that I am in a safe house that no one will expel me from. It is enough for me to feel safe that no one can harass me and no one can hurt me. We have been subjected to racism in this country, but not from British people, from other Syrians. They hurt us a lot with words, but I turn my back on them and continue my life. I studied English and now work as a trainee for KRAN. My dream is to be a chef, so I am also learning to cook. I also took part in a writing competition and won praise for it. Everyone here cares about me; all my teachers and friends accept me with my pain and my burning, my mistakes and the things I get right. The United Kingdom collected what was left of my scattered parts and the burned parts of my heart, collected them and put them back together to create a successful, independent woman who became strong. I can't imagine what would have happened if I had not come to the UK. I am a woman of steel who lived without the strength of a man in my life. When I fell, I would stand up again. God gave me this life to challenge me, not to give up. Life broke me and tore me down many times, but I collected the debris and built myself up. It pushed me until I fell into a deep hole but every time I fell, I would climb the wall of time and come out of the hole stronger than before. They buried me in the dirt, but they did not know that I was a seed of the tree of hope. It blossomed and became a tree that the wind could not shake. My story this is not for everyone, but I have shared it especially for women. We women are subjected to a lot of criticism, especially if we remain without marriage, love or relationship. They will tell us that you are deficient without a man, but this is not true. All we need is work, hope and ambition. Every woman must begin to realise herself. We must love ourselves as women, because we are beautiful the way we are. We are women of steel. Do not allow anyone to destroy you.