This is the story of Mahmud and his effort to bring his family from Syria to Italy through the help of the Community of Sant'Egidio and humanitarian corridors.
Mahmud Nasser is a 25-year-old from Tartus, a Syrian city on the border with Lebanon. His family was broken apart by the war, and as a son, he took up an effort to save his loved ones from violence and death.
"I have a large family, with three brothers, a sister, my mother, my father and my wife," he told ANSA. In Syria, his family had two restaurants and two homes as well as vehicles. "Before the war we were doing well financially," he said, showing photos of his restaurant. "It was my grandfather's and had been open for 80 years," he said. Although the restaurant was managed by Mahmud's father Mustafa, the whole family worked there.
Mahmud's life was a calm one made up of family and work, until 2013 when the war broke out in and he was required to serve in the military. "I was in Genoa that time, traveling on a ship. I decided not to go back to Syria and I requested political asylum in Italy," he said. "My brother Hassan was in Sudan for work and he stayed there," Mahmud said. His younger brother, Mohammed, was too young for military service.
As a result, the family was broken up over different countries, at the mercy of events taking place back home. Mahmud kept in contact with his family from Italy, and between 2013 and 2015, he did everything he could to try to help his brothers avoid military service, to no avail. The only solution for the family was to leave Syria. To do so, Mahmud asked for help from the Community of Sant'Egidio, where he was a volunteer. "One day I heard that there was an airstrike in Tartus. I was scared. I cried and I thought that I should have done something for them," he said.
Mahmud and Sant'Egidio helped his family to leave Syria in September 2016, and managed to get a visa for Hassan to leave Sudan. Thus, the family was reunited in Lebanon. "The trip didn't take long because Tartus is 30 kilometers from the border," he said. With Sant'Egidio and its programme of humanitarian corridors, the Nasser family received visas for Italy and arrived in Rome on October 24, 2016. They now all live in Ostia thanks to the generosity of a woman who made her apartment there available to the family.
Mustafa, the father, would like to go back to being a chef. On July 7, he participated as a cook in the event Gustamondo in Rome, where multiethnic dinners are prepared by foreigners and refugees, for integration. Mahmud works as a clerk in a shop in the Trastevere neighborhood. His brothers also work, and his sister and wife, who is expecting a child, would both like to go to university. "Every day we read news on Facebook about Syria and we thank God that we're in Italy," he said. "My dream is to be a captain on a ship," he said. "We thank Italy and Sant'Egidio. I would like there to be peace in Syria, but we're doing well here, I want to stay here," he said.