The Stateless Refugees

 Illustration by Arsenii Markov

Illustration by Arsenii Markov

I meet up with the two youngest representatives of the Hudery family, Mohammed and Marwan. This is my third time meeting the brothers, and their positive nature once again takes me by surprise. They greet me with open, sincere smiles as we catch up on where we left off. It has always puzzled me how the two have managed to keep up such positive attitudes in their highly unpredictable and often stressing situation. Contradictory to their positive appearance, the news they share with me is not good; Marwans application has been rejected by ‘UDI’ (the government agency responsible for immigration) and his return date has been set. Once again he will be forced to move, unknowing of what is to come.

For the Hudery family this is nothing new. In fact, the family has been living as stateless refugees for three generations; more than 68 years have passed since the Hudery family packed their bags to escape the Palestine War in 1948. During this period, over half a million Palestinian were displaced from their homes and accepted as refugees in Syria, creating the second biggest Palestinian diaspora in the world outside of Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians escaping the war first saw the move as temporary, but with time passing by it was soon clear that Syria would become their new permanent home. Through three generations the family established themselves, found work, sent the children to school - and - although still not quite like home, life was once again calm.

  Aleppo before the war. Photo: Craig Jenkins on Flickr.

Aleppo before the war. Photo: Craig Jenkins on Flickr.

Marwan and Mohammed were both born in Syria, same as their parents, but even after all these years they still dream of a return to their homeland in Palestine. “Syria is our second homeland, but our blood is Palestinian, and we will never forget this. Our dream is to one day return to the homeland” Marwan tells me. This dream, he says, is shared by the majority of Palestinians worldwide: An estimated 5 million people.

…our blood is Palestinian, and we will never forget this.

Both brothers tell stories about a peaceful and stable Syria. Five years since the conflict started, these stories are now unlike anything people in the west are used to hearing about the region. They tell me about how their family established themselves in the Syrian society: Their mother working as a teacher for 32 years, their father an engineer for 30. “Three of my uncles were engineers, one businessman. The aunts are all teachers” Marwan says. Asked about how this influenced them he answers “It was a good general atmosphere, it was very good for us”. During these years both brothers would work on getting their higher education, but due to the upcoming mayhem, only one of them would have the time to see it through…

Street battles in Aleppo. Photo: Freedom House on Flickr.

War would inevitably catch up to the family again, this time in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city. Once the economic capital of the country and holder of prestigious awards such as the “Islamic Capital of Culture”, Aleppo was once considered as one of the leading cities in the Middle East. Today there is little to show for past accolades as it stands as one of the main battlefields in the Syrian civil war. “It was anarchy” Marwan says, “You have some money, you buy some weapons, you make a group. That’s all. Now you can control any area you want”. At the point of their departure the city was already cut off and didn’t have steady access to electricity, bread or water. “It was awful…”, Mohammed tells me, “…especially in our city Aleppo. They were already bombing.”

Palestinian refugees escaping the 1948 palestine war. Photo: Eldan David.

Leaving their apartments and cars in Aleppo, the family made their way to Norway, a country they have seen as an ally to the Palestinian people since the ‘Oslo accord’ was signed in 1993. The challenges of leaving met the family early on, and not being full Syrian citizens would prove to be a major burden: “It was difficult to leave, especially for Palestinians because they are not allowed to go out of Syria like the Syrian people, we need visas and many other things, and Turkey don’t give you any visa or permission to pass. You have to do it illegally.”.

And so their journey started. A journey they were forced to take, like so many other before them, and so many after. Passing seas, land, borders and legal problems the Hudery’s were lucky to make it to Norway, but this is not the case for many families trying to flee conflict in search of a better life…

Refugee children in Atmeh, Syria. Photo: Freedom House on Flickr.


Arsenii Markov is a research Assistant with a Bachelor Degree in Comparative Politics from the University of Bergen. Head of the Membership Committee, a board member and online content manager at Fremmed.no.