Abdallah Al-Khateeb is a 30-year old Palestinian Syrian. He was a social and political activist in Syria and remains so in Germany, where he moved to 6 months ago. He lives with his family outside Berlin. He is from the Yarmouk refugee camp, where he was hunted by the regime for his activities in the camp, working in committees with children, social services, and other grass-roots movements he helped create. He worked for UNWRA before the war. He would have faced assassination or imprisonment and torture had he not obtained political asylum in Germany.
He works in film and theater at a site called “Sard” where he records Syrian memories and speaks tirelessly in public in Europe about Syria and Syrian refugees. He is currently working on a long film about the Yarmouk camp.
He spends about 4 hours a day on German language courses but so far his German is not fluent (he is studying in level 3 and fast-tracking himself). He finds German difficult as he cannot grasp the logic of the grammar (and says Germans themselves cannot). He admits that with his activities (and work mostly at home) he has less contact with Germans than he should. He mostly has Syrian and international friends and “does not differentiate” between them.
Any difficulty he has integrating into German life, customs and a social circle, which are entirely new and different to him, is “nothing compared to the difficulties faced in Syria.” He believes that mutual respect is the most important basis for relationships and selects from German society whatever he finds positive. He attempts to negotiate European perspectives on Syria whenever he participates in speaking events. He gives an example of a woman in Switzerland who questioned him about Syria during an event, saying her conception was that there was the regime and ISIS. He introduced her to the Syrian anti-regime, the democratic revolutionaries that he spoke about during the event.
Fear pursues him in his life in Germany. Despite his courageous social and political involvement, he lived in intense fear of being arrested and tortured while still in Syria, and he still feels ill at ease with the police in Europe. He tells of a bike ride in Germany with a friend, who told him that the police would stop them because they had no bike lights. He laughed and she was surprised until he explained the irony of such a comparatively tiny risk.
He is not sure what he wants to study or do professionally in Germany, and misses everything about Syria. He does not speak about or consider the Palestinian cause as comparable to the Syrian tragedy, and feels more sympathy towards the people of Syria than those of Palestine.