CHAPTER FIVE
ROAD TO DARKNESS

A borderless Europe, a generous welfare state and an open-door migration policy have created an opportunity for hundreds of thousand refugees and asylum seekers to enter Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden each year. As a means of escape, almost all refugees and asylum seekers traveling by land have to pass through the European freeway (E45) and the double-track railway, which lead to the Scandinavian countries. The main highway that connects Germany to Denmark and the Swedish city of Malmö starches further up with two separate roads leading to Stockholm, capital of Sweden, and Oslo in Norway. With a length of 4,920 kilometers, the E45 is the longest north-south highway in Europe, starting from the Italian city of Gela and ending at the northern part of Sweden, Karesuando. The railway track also follows exactly the same direction connecting Germany to the major cities in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

The freeway and railroad track sink and rise repeatedly, leading into a green, cold, wet and silent landscape. These roads provide massive public buses and trains, carrying both regular passengers and immigrants to their final destination. The rise in migrants and asylum seekers has forced the freeway and railroad to respond positively by providing service and protection to those driven by the ethnic and religious conflict. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are the most refugee producing countries today. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are among the top three countries for refugee application in Scandinavian countries in recent decade.

Since 2011, the freeway and the railway have made it accessible for thousands of young Syrian families, as their lives turned into a full-blown of civil war. By March 2018, the UNHCR announced that the number of refugees who have fled Syria for neighboring countries has topped five million people since the civil war began six years ago. An estimated three million Syrians made a shortcut from Syria to Turkey and Greece, and they now live in the refugee camps there. Many took their journeys further to Bulgaria and Hungary with their final destination to Germany or Scandinavian countries. The residents of towns and cities in Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia had relatively easy access to Turkey and Greece often without smugglers. For those who lived in Damascus and the southern part of Syria, the journey was much more dangerous and almost unmanageable without the help of smugglers because they had to cross dozens of active battle lines and navigate hundreds of armed checkpoints and roadblocks before they reached the Turkish border.

The stories and experiences of Syrian refugees have fired our imagination and fueled debates over the interpretation of religious faith and savagery of human nature. As the Syrian civil war progressed in 2011, life simply turned into a barrage of blasts, attacks, shootings and sirens day and night. The civil war progressed and the wave of refugees began to rise. Aleppo and Idlib struggle more than any Syrian city for five years to survive. These two cities have since turned in the grips of full-blown urban guerrilla warfare. Trucks and jeeps carried the rebel fighters as they headed to battle. Café, falafel stand, ice-cream shop, bookshop, travel agent, hairdresser and bakery closed, bombed or abundant. The property market crashed and people began to sell their houses in cash. The smell of bare streets, brick houses, and clay walls faded away. The Mediterranean pines, Palestinian oaks, back grapes, pomegranates and figs along with the spirit of the community and neighborliness gave pleasure in pain. Children did not ride their bicycles and the elderly did not sit outside on benches. In mid-2011, Syrians began to leave their homes and the road either took them to refugee camps in neighboring countries or relocated them elsewhere including Germany and Scandinavian countries as part of the EU redistribution plan on the countries at the frontlines of the refugee crisis.

In June 2014, another refugee crisis broke out when ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The loss of Mosul was the beginning of the second Iraqi mass migration to the Nordic countries. The Mosul crisis lasted over two years until the Iraqi troops took the city back in October 2016. It was not only the Mosul crisis that pushed the mass migration. Many desperate families from bombed-out cities and villages in Iraq and Syria had struggled to survive. Young people packed up and travelled more than a thousand kilometers to Turkey and Greece in search of a better future for themselves and their families. What made them leave their homes was, in fact, the full-blown sectarian violence in Iraq and Syria where the hard ethnic and sectarian boundaries were set by the extremist opposition. Extremists emerged in most ethnic and religious groups. Sunni terror organizations killed Shia Muslims and Shias did the same, prompting Sunni kidnappings and killing...

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