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Culture

My piece of hope: Ahmed's bracelet marks his secret love

He broke his ties with his family and his tribe. Ahmed does not miss Yemen, but a woman he left there: His girlfriend gave him a silver bracelet before he fled the country.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Germany, the country is facing the challenge - and opportunity - of the century. In this DW series, "My piece of hope," refugees share their personal stories of persecution, escape and waiting. Each individual shows one significant object they've brought with them on their journey - their "piece of hope."

When Ahmed wakes up in the morning, he often has a mark on his left wrist. He never takes his bracelet off, not even to shower or sleep. The silver chain ties him to home: "It's a gift from the woman I love," he says. "It's the most precious thing I have."

Ahmed does not want to see the name of his sweetheart appear in this article. And his own surname should not be revealed either: "Her family would kill her if they found out about our relationship."

Ahmed and his girlfriend both belong to the tribe of Hashid, but they come from feuding families: They're like the Yemenite version of Romeo and Juliet.

And then their age is a problem as well. He is 26 years old, and she's already 28. According to Ahmed, the fact that she's older would be a reason to forbid a wedding in Yemen. But he doesn't care. "I love her. My greatest dream is to marry her. But I know that it'll probably never come true."

They met at the University of Sana'a. "We were in the same classes," says Ahmed. They both studied English and dreamed of leaving the country with a scholarship.

Ahmed also studied IT to improve his chances abroad. "The last time that I saw her was during our final exam." She offered him the silver bracelet, and he gave her a very similar one, too - almost like an engagement gift. That was two years ago.

Then Ahmed was forced to flee, because he did not want to fight - or "murder," as he says. In Yemen, a war is raging between the government and the Houthi tribe, a conflict often described as part of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Ahmed was affected not only by this war, but was also required to get involved in an inter-tribal conflict which has been ongoing in Yemen for many years now. "Two of my uncles were murdered. My family wanted me to avenge them," he says. "But I did not want to. I do not want this war to go on forever."

The only member of his family he let in on his plans to flee was his older brother, who had already left the country for Saudi Arabia years earlier. And he revealed everything to his girlfriend as well.

"I told her I was going to Germany and that if she didn't hear anything from me within three months, that would probably mean I'm dead." Ahmed's journey lasted a year and a half. He would write to his girlfriend through WhatsApp as often as possible.

He contacts her several times a day now that he's in Germany. Ahmed laughs when he's asked what they write about: "'How are you?' 'What are you doing?' 'I'm eating now.' 'I going to bed.' She knows that we're doing this interview now, too."

Ahmed now lives in a shelter for refugees in a military training area in Schleswig Holstein. "The soldiers are very nice," he says. "Not like in Yemen. Here laws and regulations rule, not corruption and revenge."

Ahmed had already started reading a lot about Germany while he was in Yemen. He now understands the complicated asylum process, too. He has plans for the future: He speaks English and wants to work as an IT professional. But he doesn't know whether he'll ever get to see his sweetheart again.

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