At European Forum Alpbach, Romanian journalist Delia Marinescu interviewed Doaa for VICE magazine. Read an excerpt with English translations…
VICE: What do you hope people learn from your experience?
Doaa: I would like people to understand that the war in Syria does not differentiate between small and big, children and elders. It has affected us equally. And it’s not just my story; there are many other girls who were in my situation and nobody has heard of them.
I read that when the boat sank, people with stronger psyches encouraged those who wanted to give up. What did people say to each other?
At that time, people encouraged each other by telling them to wait a little longer, because someone would come to rescue us. In the Qur’an, there are some phrases you say when you feel that you are dying, phrases giving hope. People encouraged each other to say those phrases.
But at the same time, there was only water around us, so some people began to get desperate. They tried to wait and have patience, but no one came in a timely manner, and eventually, for most of them, everything vanished.
We fall into depression when we go through a difficult moment or when we lose someone dear. You saw hundreds of people dying in front of you, including your partner. How did you manage to get through this trauma?
God gives me power. I think he wanted me to go through this experience, because he knew I could survive. This conviction made me trust that I could resist when I was in the water.
What feedback from someone who has heard your story has impressed you the most?
All of the feedback I have received has impressed me in one way or another. But the one which has meant the most came from an elderly man who was in the audience when I received a prize in Vienna. After I delivered the speech, he approached and told me that he had read the Qur’an many times, but had never seen anyone who represented a phrase in the Qur’an so well. I do not remember the phrase, but that touched me very deeply.
I read that there are people who are already returning to Syria. Do you think about going back there in the future?
I have not seen some of my siblings for almost eight years. We live in different parts of the world and have not had the chance to meet since then. I would love to see them one day in Syria. But the situation is still very serious, especially in Daraa, the city I am from, so I do not see myself there in the near future.
Where do you think Europe is failing when it comes to Syrian refugees?
Although there are many European countries that are very helpful to Syrian refugees, it seems to me that we are still not treated like the citizens of those countries, especially when it comes to the recognition of our diplomas or qualifications. I think some Europeans forget that, in the end, we did not want to come here, but we had to do it.
How would you describe Syria before the war?
Heaven on earth.