A Human Story Behind The Austrian Lorry Tragedy

Hussain Khalil Mustafa was just about to finish his Master Degree in Archaeology in Qamishlo, Syria. Yet, a few months before his graduation his university professors left Syria for Europe. Hence, Hussain had no choice but to take his brother Raman and head towards Iraqi Kurdistan. There, they hoped, they could not only continue their studies, but also work in order to support their family back home.

“My sons were sending us $400 every month, as my income could not at the same time sustain a decent life for us and cover my daughters’ university expenses”. Hussain’s and Raman’s father, Mr. Khalil Mustafa, told ZIV.

Both sons were working in Erbil for almost 2 years and they managed to save the money they needed to migrate to Germany. They believed Germany will be the best place for them to continue their studies.

Khalil Mustafa
Khalil Mustafa

Hussain and Raman had to wait more than a month to get their passports from Syria. However, because the application process took too long, they decided to join their friends in Turkey and take the irregular route to Europe.

Mr. Khalil Mustafa, after taking a long pause, continued: “It was Tuesday night on the 25th of August this year when my sons told me that they had arranged the trip with an Iraqi Kurd from Sulaimaniyah to take them to Germany on a cost of $1600 per head. The smuggler would drive them to somewhere in Hungary to meet another smuggler who would be waiting for them. The second smuggler would then walk them for 2 hours across some Hungarian villages until they met another smuggler who was supposed to drive them to Austria.

the two brothers, Hussein and Raman
the two brothers, Hussain and Raman

Mustafa got another call from one of Raman’s friends at the same night telling him that both sons are sitting in a taxi going towards Hungary. This was the last time he heard from his sons.

Mustafa’s family tried to contact the Austrian authorities on the 31st of August. The police asked Mustafa to send pictures and information about Hussain and Raman alongside DNA sample as there are some family relatives in Austria. The police then informed the family that they had no sign from the missing brothers.

Mr. Mustafa said: “I heard from one of my relatives in Austria that my two sons were found in a lorry alongside 70 other people who had suffocated to death”

Austrian motorway maintenance workers first saw truck and noticed fluids dripping from the vehicle (Reuters)
Austrian motorway maintenance workers first saw truck and noticed fluids dripping from the vehicle (Reuters)

The Austrian authorities said they could send bodies to their families on a cost of $6000. A week later, we heard that the Kurdish government in Iraq took the responsibility to deliver the bodies”.

Mr. Khalil Mustafa uses his Facebook page to spread the knowledge regarding this tragic incidence and the lorry driver’s brutality which resulted into the barbaric asphyxiation of 71 human beings.

“No matter how busy I am with the funeral ceremony here in Qamishlo, I am ready to attend any court and speak up against this ugly crime against humanity which was committed on Europe’s soil.

“What is really painful is that we all know that European governments are aware of the route that migrants take to get to Europe via smugglers, but they don’t do anything about it. My sons wanted to study in Germany but they couldn’t get a visa”.

“People who take such risk have strong reasons. And the west knows about this fact but prefers to look the other way. Playing with people’s lives is a game of interests and money”.

Hussain, one of Khalil Mustafa's sons who was founded suffocated alongside 70 other people in a lorry in Austria
Hussain, one of Khalil Mustafa’s sons who was founded suffocated alongside 70 other people in a lorry in Austria

“All I want at this stage is to get my son’s bodies back. I want to pay tribute to their graves. And if I have to, in order to bring my sons’ bodies back, I am even ready to follow in their very footsteps and take the same dangerous and irregular path to Austria”.