First Published: 2017-09-13

Syrian family shares kisses through fence after year apart
Syrian refugees from war-ravaged Idlib province reunited in north-western Cyprus.
Middle East Online

Syrian refugee Ammar Hammasho greets his children from which he was separated due to the war.

NICOSIA - After more than a year of separation Syrian refugee Ammar Hammasho was finally, albeit briefly, reunited with his wife and four children through a chain link fence topped with barbed wire in Cyprus.

Hammasho, who is from the war-ravaged Idlib region, fell to his knees and kissed each of his three eldest children through the three metre-high barrier encircling a migrant reception centre at Kokkinotrimithia, west of the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

His youngest toddler, Jumah - named after their second-born who was killed in an air raid in 2015 - was held up by his wife Shamuos. He kissed the protracted palm of Sham, his tiny daughter, who was dressed in a black frock neatly tucked in at the waist with a belt, small white jacket and pink sandals.

"The policeman told me to wait half an hour to finish the count. I couldn't wait, I saw the kids through the fence and I did this," he said, waving his hands over his head.

"The kids ran over. I just wanted to see them, for my heart to go back into its place," the 34-year-old construction worker told Reuters on Wednesday.

The reunion came on Sunday, just hours after Hammasho's wife and their children aged 7, 5, 4 and 18 months came ashore with 300 other Syrians in north-western Cyprus after a 24-hour trip on a small boat from Mersin in Turkey, in what was one of the largest mass landings on the island since the Syrian war began.

Hammasho knew his family were trying to leave Syria, but didn't know precisely when.

"When I read on the Internet that about 250 were heading to Cyprus I knew it was them," he said with a broad smile.

- "I will go home" -

Hammasho had taken a similar route one year ago, landing in Cyprus on Sept. 6, 2016. Working as a construction worker, he managed to amass the $6,000 to pay a trafficker to get his family to Cyprus.

He now has 'subsidiary' protection status, which is one step short of being recognized as a refugee.

"Im told they will be back with me on Friday, or maybe Sunday," Hammasho said from a tiny bedsit in Limassol, a sprawling coastal city 100 km (60 miles) away from the reception camp.

Speaking in the distinct Cypriot Greek dialect, he has the benefit of language, and friends, having already worked four years in Cyprus from 2004 to 2008.

"I thought the minute I left (in 2008), that would be that. I built a house (in Syria). I got married. I bought a field. Sixteen skales," he said, using a Cypriot measurement term to describe his 1.6 hectares.

"I worked day and night, do you understand? Now I (still) have a field. But my house is dust." Hammasho's second-eldest child, Jumah, was almost five when he was killed. Remaining in Syria was simply not an option, he said.

"Look, in Syria right now you cannot live a life. I don't have a home. I lost a baby... I don't want to dirty my hands with blood, do you understand? "If you want to eat bread... you have to have blood on your hands. You have to be either a jihadist, or be with (President Bashar al) Assad, or anyone else, and steal or kill. And if you start that, you are finished. That is what life is like there now. I can't do it. There are those who can." The table is strewn with his identification papers and the classified sections of newspapers, pinned down by an untouched pot of Arabic coffee.

His bedsit is small. Hammasho is looking for a house so he and his family can start anew. But he says it will only be temporary until the family can return to Syria one day.

"As soon as it stops I'm leaving. I will go back to my field. I have a machine to extract water. I have fields to water. It's my country and I will go home."

 

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat