We had to leave when the fighting between rebel forces and Assad’s army broke out outside our home. One daughter, who was five at the time, found a shell from a bullet embedded in our front window frame. We lived in an apartment on the ground floor, so as the fighting got more intense we were caught right in the middle of it.
Things got so bad that for three days we couldn’t even leave the house. The electricity and water got cut off and we were running out of food. I began to think we would all die of hunger. On the fourth day, there was a lull in the fighting so we decided to make a run for it. We took nothing but my handbag with our identification cards, money and a gold necklace, which my mother had given me. We had to forget everything else, but to me that didn’t matter. The only important thing was to save our daughters’ lives.
Our children were one, three, five and seven at the time. I tried to hide my fear from them and told them nothing was wrong, but they knew something was going on. They were terrified, crying and screaming. It was difficult to calm them down.
We took a bus to Qamishli near the border with Iraq along with hundreds of other Syrians fleeing for their lives. We paid a man £2,000 to take us across the border into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. We were in a group with two other families and six men. They took it in turns to help me carry my children. It was difficult. My youngest, Zillan, was just 17 months old at the time. We walked for four hours – half way across, my shoes got stuck in the thick mud. So I arrived in Iraq barefoot and exhausted.