Widgets Magazine


A boy and his cat



A picture.

A boy hugging his cat, a broken smile on his face.

The longer I look, the more it seems as though he’s about to break down and cry.

He is one of many — 100,000 strong — who escaped from Aleppo.

He is miles away from home, surrounded by barbed wires, torn apart from his family, calling a pair of sheets home.

The more I look, the more I imagine. I imagine the boy and the cat cuddling one another at night for warmth, trying to fall asleep nearly starved, being awoken with each and every sound. Was that a bomb? Gunshots? Soldiers? I imagine a boy desperately searching for hope but only finding his cat to hug.

As this innocent pair lay on cold dirt, a swarm of well-dressed gentlemen, one side covered in blue flags, the other in red, are bargaining in Brussels.

“We want to send all the refugees who fled to Europe back to Turkey.” I hope your government can work with us.

“Turkey is ready to work with the EU.” It just requires a little ‘motivation.’

How much motivation, to be exact?

Does $3.2 billion work?

You’ve got yourself a deal.

Is this the cost of a human being? Is this the price tag we’ve placed on the lives of millions? I can understand that countries want to protect themselves from potential terror attacks and that an influx of immigrants raises threat levels. Just this past year, my very own family and friends came face to face with suicide bombings in Istanbul and Ankara. I get it, and I can see that a government’s primary job is to protect its own citizens. But this is not the way to go.

As more and more information is revealed about the attacks that shook Europe, it grows increasingly clear that the attacking terrorists were not refugees. They were radicalized citizens. Entirely closing our borders to those in need, hating those that are different from us, will only increase this radicalization.

As I write these very words, a Syrian man named Mohammed Faris is living in a two-bedroom house with six other people in a poor district of Istanbul. He felt unsafe and walked across the border in 2012, when armed conflicts intensified. He’s hopping from one job to another, trying to make a living, while also speaking at conferences. Anywhere he speaks, he stresses the same thing: “Syrians are not beggars and thieves. Everyone is a part of this migration: both the professors and the uneducated. We are workers, not beggars.”

This man, who is forced to live in a strange land in desperation, was a hero in Syria. He had “airports and streets named after him, money, a house, security guards.” He was the first and only Syrian astronaut who went to space and ended up spending 7 days, 23 hours and 8 minutes in orbit. He learned to look at the world like “a mother looking at her baby, no discrimination, no borders, no conflict.” He misses his home every day but cannot go back. Ever since he rose in protest against the Assad regime, he’s been declared an enemy by the state and all of the terrorist groups plaguing Syria.

These people are not terrorists. They are honorable individuals who were driven out of their homes, torn from their lives, separated from their friends and families. They don’t want to come to our countries to experience a life of leisure; they want to escape imminent and terrible danger.

Look back at the picture of that brave boy holding his cat. The entire world turned its back on him. We watched him starve, freeze, get blown apart, bought, sold, raped, lapidated, hung, shot, executed, forced to live under the most heinous conditions. And we did nothing. We abandoned him.

But he did not abandon his cat.

He lost his past, his present, his future, his everything. But he still gave his cat more love than what the entire planet could spare for him.

Every time I look at this picture, my eyes tear up. I try to comfort myself by saying the same thing over and over. At least they are still alive.

That picture was taken in early February. Then they were still alive. Now? I don’t know. I can only hope.  


Contact Ali Sarilgan at sarali19 ‘at’ stanford.edu

  • Kathleen

    Holy cow did I cry when I read this

  • Concerned


  • Teddy Edwards

    My story isn’t as cute, but it probably more real:

    In Germany, we are seeing rampant sexual assaults by Syrian Muslim refugees without repercussion. They probably left their wives and boys (with their cats) at home in their resettlement home that houses six.

    In Vienna, the police chief announced that is unsafe for women to go out unaccompanied, day or night. What Austria will look like in 5 years’ time no one can say.

    In Germany, the organs of the State at every level including the equivalent of our NPR, PBS, the state broadcasters, the local police and the political class lied to their people – much like is happening here in America right now. In fact, the police stood around as women were sexually assaulted. They had 140 police present as a thousand young Muslim men were sexually assaulting these women. When Germans turned out to protest these sexual assaults, they managed to find 1500 policemen to show up for them. Sweden, Finland, the same thing. Switzerland, the same story.. Mass organized sexual assault covered up by the authorities.

    So the question is for Obama and the campus liberals here is: Do you want to live in reality or whether you want to live in the Angela Merkel fantasyland, which isn’t working out too great for the young German women who are on the receiving end of it.

    And yet in America when people raise legitimate concerns about refugees and vetting them properly, looking into their backgrounds and with CIA and FBI directors pointing out – quite factually – before Congress that such vetting is impossible for the Syrian Muslims., they are mocked.

    I think liberals understand it at some core level. Canada, after all, with it’s recently installed liberal government, has announced it will not be taking refugees who are “single young men”.

    Nobody knows who these people are. You can’t call up the “DMV” in Aleppo, Syria and get information. But you can buy a Syrian passport for about $600 on the black market and pass your ISIS self off as a Syrian refugee.

    And, by the way, these are fit young men who should and could be fighting for their country.. Yes, it’s as if 230 years ago, George Washington and all the fit guys he was commanding suddenly all scrambled over to Canada and left behind the elderly and children to fight the Revolutionary War.

    I know Stanford University is a center for all of the leading Quranic scholars, and Ali Saringil probably graduated from the finest Madrassa in Yemen to tell us that refugees are cute and safe. And that the Syrian refugee recently caught and who confessed to waging jihad on Americans and who said he did it for Allah, was unrelated at all to Islam.

    I’m sure all of the terrorists who confess to raping and killing for Islam actually never heard of Islam. Ah, to be a liberal blissfully living in that aforementioned Angela Merkel fantasyland.