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Vale Danial Haron – WWII veteran turned refugee

17 July 20200 comments

A Syrian refugee fought alongside Australian soldiers in WWII and who came to Australia as part of the nation’s extra intake of 12,000 victims of the Islamic State conflict has died peacefully.

Danial Haron died at 97 surrounded by his family.

His life was one of hard, unremitting work.

In an interview with iMPACT Magazine in 2016 the then 93-year-old told of the trouble and hardship in his long life; and how he fought with the British army in WWII.

He also told how the great work of his life was carving a productive farm out of a barren piece of land.

Danial said his experiences of WWII were nothing compared with the bloodiness of the conflict in Syria, nor the barbarous brutality of Islamic State.

After decades of work, Danial had a beautiful home, an abundant garden and a fertile wheat and sheep farm in the Christian village of Telbaoua, in north eastern Syria – just outside the city of Hasakah and 10 hours’ drive from Damascus.

In May, 2015, year ISIS came and destroyed his village.

“At 4am they came and burned the church and the fighting started. Some of us fled but others stayed and were captured,” Danial said this week, speaking through an interpreter.

“ISIS took them away and we don’t know what happened to them,” he said.

Danial’s village had been left alone by ISIS until then.

“We were living in peace and minding our own business but that all changed when ISIS came that night,” he said.

Danial and his son Beniamen, 54, fled their farm on their tractor with only the clothes they were wearing.

“We left everything behind; a nice house, a fertile and productive farm and a good life,” Danial said.

“We lost everything – the work of 80 years.

“We also lost some of our friends. Some we have never seen or heard from again. It was a very hard time.”

Danial fought with the British army in Libya, Iran, Iraq and Palestine during the six years of WWII, enlisting at age 20 and sometimes fighting alongside Australians.

“There were soldiers from many countries with us; Polish, African, Indian and Australians – but we all wore the same uniform,” Danial said.

He said the current conflict was much worse than the war.

“Even the Germans treated civilians with respect,” Danial said.

“ISIS was much worse – they have no respect for anyone – they are thieves and murderers. ISIS is not human.”

Danial and Beniamin fled to Lebanon where they rented a small flat. They lived in limbo there for 14 months struggling financially and registering with the UNHCR as refugees.

With family already in Australia, they were selected for resettlement here and arrived in Melbourne in July, 2016.

“I want to thank Australia. God bless this country,” Danial said at the time.

He said he was looking forward to a peaceful life in Australia close to his family.

“We feel very welcome here. Everyone has been friendly,” Danial said.

“Everything is well organised here. There is a good health system. Everything works. When things are supposed to happen they happen – people don’t let you down not like in my country.”

He and Beniamin said they could not envisage going back to Syria.

“Even if peace returns to my country, I have nothing to go back to. Everything I had and knew was destroyed,” Danial said.

“I could never trust that Syria will be peaceful again,” he said.

Danial’s daughter-in-law Jackie Haroun said he died after a short illness.

“He died peacefully and he got to see all his kids. The family is taking it hard but denial died in a beautiful country at peace and not amid the chaos and violence in his homeland,” she said.

“He live an amazing life and it was a life well lived,” she said.