Sara Mardini: Where is Yusra’s Sister Now? Is She in Jail?

Image Credit: TEDx Talks/YouTube

Netflix’s biographical film ‘The Swimmers’ revolves around the lives of Sara and Yusra Mardini, two Syrian swimmers who aspire to make it to the Olympics in the future. When the Syrian civil war threatens the lives of Sara and Yusra’s family members’ lives, they realize the need for leaving for Germany. They join a cousin named Nizar Mardini and the trio arrives in Turkey to cross the Aegean Sea to enter Europe. Sara, along with Yusra and several other refugees, manages to end up in Greece, from where the sisters start their journey to Germany. Since the film ends with Sara settling in Germany, we have found out more about her current life. If you are interested in the same, you are at the right place!

Who is Sara Mardini?

Sara Mardini was born in 1995 in Damascus, the capital city of Syria, to Ezzat Mardini and Mervat Mardini. She was a professional swimmer like her sister Yusra and she attended a law college while the Syrian civil war threatened the lives of her family members. At the age of 20, she joined Yusra to leave for Germany. Sara and Yusra traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, from where they got into a dinghy to travel to Greece. Since the small boat was overcrowded, it started sinking. Since Sara was a certified lifeguard, she had to seemingly prioritize the lives of others, which made her step out of the boat to the sea to make the same stable.

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Sara was joined by Yusra and the two sisters swam to Lesbos, a Greek island, and they began their journey to Germany. Sara eventually settled in Berlin with Yusra. While her sister followed her ambition to be an Olympian by continuing her swimming training sessions, Sara had to put an end to her professional swimming career reportedly due to a shoulder injury. When Yusra participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sara accompanied her to support her sister.

Where is Sara Mardini Now? Is She in Jail?

After the 2016 Rio Olympics, Sara returned to refugee camps in Lesbos to empower the children living at the place. She left for the camps for two weeks but ended up staying there for years. She became a part of an NGO named Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), a search-and-rescue group that offered translation and other services to refugees arriving on the island. In August 2018, Greek authorities arrested her while she was waiting at Mytilini airport to return to Germany, along with ERCI’s field director Nassos Karakitsos and a German volunteer named Seán Binder.

Image Credit: Academy in Exile/YouTube

As per reports, Sara was charged with several charges including smuggling, forgery, espionage, unlawful use of radio frequencies, and fraud. Sara has been unflinchingly maintaining that she is innocent ever since her arrest. After 107 days of imprisonment, she was bailed out by her lawyers, who posted €5,000 (£4,450) as bail money. “I was arrested because basically, I was, every night on the [Lesbos] shoreline, handing over water and blankets and translating for the refugees arriving,” she said about her arrest in a TED interview. Due to her arrest, she wasn’t able to join Bard College, Berlin, at the time, where she had enrolled with a scholarship.

Several international human rights organizations, like Amnesty International which called the accusations against her “unfair and baseless,” came forward to support Sara. In November 2021, the trial against 24 defendants, including Sara, began in Greece. Since she wasn’t allowed to enter the country, Sara had to watch the same from Berlin. The trial was adjourned soon after its start, leaving Sara and the other defendants in wait. In the same TED interview, Sara revealed that she was diagnosed with PTSD and depression after the arrest. Since the case hasn’t been resolved yet, Sara had to pause her life for now. “It’s scary for her [Sara] to start with anything because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Yusra told Guardian about her sister’s life.

Sara is not in jail for the time being. But if found guilty of the charges against her, she may get imprisoned for up to 20 years. In November 2022, Sara returned to court in Greece since she was allowed to enter the country, along with Seán Binder. “Today, they [Sara and Seán] stand in front of the inquisitor and the prosecution, to confirm that they have nothing to add to the investigation. Both have commented that they do not,” Free Humanitarians, a cause associated with Sara, shared about her return to the court.

Although the case against her has severely affected Sara’s mental health, she is still fighting. “The amount of people that came together and spoke up for me when my freedom was taken away,” Sara told Vogue about what helps her in these difficult times. “That’s exactly what I’m standing up for. I want people to uplift each other. We have to work for a better future, all of us together,” she added. Sara is also trying to enhance her German for her to join a fashion school in the German capital. In addition, she has been focusing on taking care of her mental health. “[…] she [Sara] chose not to speak to media right now because she’s taking care of her mental health. She’s just… taking some time off,” Yusra added to Guardian about her sister.

Read More: Did Yusra Mardini Win a Medal at the Rio Olympics?