Syrians in Warwickshire share their stories to mark civil war anniversary - The Rugby Observer

Syrians in Warwickshire share their stories to mark civil war anniversary

Rugby Editorial 21st Mar, 2021 Updated: 23rd Mar, 2021   0

TO MARK a decade since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, stories are being shared of Syrians who have made a new life in Warwickshire.

In 2016, a private flight arrived at Birmingham International Airport carrying a number of Syrian families who have since been successfully resettled around the region, including six in Warwickshire. The county has since welcomed a total of 128 Syrian refugees housed across the region.

Since then, most of the families have achieved a fluency in English, children are enrolled in schools, and many of the adults employed, while all have access to medical and social care support and services unavailable to them in a post-conflict Syria.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War and the contribution Syrian residents are making to the county, Warwickshire County Council has asked some individuals – who wish to only be known by their first names – to share their stories.




Nahed

Ten years is a short period of time but for me it has contained enough challenges to shape who I have become now.


My name is Nahed and I have two beautiful children with my husband.

I studied civil engineering and was dreaming of a bright future in Syria. Things started peacefully but suddenly they turned into war. Medicine and water became one of the luxuries of life, so I left Syria with my family and went to Jordan.

I want to mention that the Jordanian citizens were mostly nice, but life was very difficult and the opportunity to earn an adequate living was limited. The idea of getting an education for my children was an impossible task. When I found out that my family was selected for relocation, I began to develop my skills in teaching Arabic to non-Arabs and, shortly after, we travelled to Britain. It was not easy; a different lifestyle and everything was new.

I did not allow unhappiness to consume me because of the cultural shock. My children are safe and they have begun to pursue their education. My journey began with learning the English language and I continue to develop my skills with it. I am also working on developing my skills with interpreting, I have gained a Montessori diploma, I have had my engineering degree accredited, and I volunteer in several places, most recently with EMTAS, to help children whose academic achievement has been affected due to COVID-19. This has helped me get paid work in a school as a Languages Learning supervisor.

This was wonderful. I am now settled with my family. My children are all fluent in English and Arabic and are safe and healthy.

I feel I belong in Britain and it has provided me with a homeland. I hope to be a source of pride for it and, as a citizen, I hope to contribute towards building its future.

Hasan

Ten years ago, the tragedy of the Syrian people began. I was a student at the University of Aleppo. The events began with peaceful demonstrations before the riots, but soon the regime forces confronted the people with repression and the use of weapons to disperse the demonstrators, day after day and the situation worsened and we were unable to leave our homes in the evening, because it was not safe to go out.

In the summer of 2012, the opposition forces took control of the eastern part of Aleppo where I was staying. The regime responded to this with artillery shelling and air strikes, and we became trapped in our house due to the raids for three consecutive days. We could not go out and without food, it was a frightening situation For us, we did not know if we would survive the bombing or not, and after three days of continuous bombing, we were finally able to leave the house and flee by car.

We only took our clothes with us and left everything else behind. We headed to my hometown in north-eastern Syria, the area was under the control of the Kurdish security forces, and there we settled. I started working as an teacher for a period of time, but soon ISIS arose and surrounded Kurdish cities and villages, attacked them, kidnapped people and tortured and killed them. We realized that we must leave the country.

I and my family went to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and settled there. We were registered at the United Nations as asylum seekers. We faced many difficulties in the Kurdistan Region, but we overcame them as a family. We began to work and spend on ourselves and, a year after we arrived, we were able to leave Kurdistan. The UNHCR contacted us and interviewed us for resettlement.

We were selected for resettlement in the United Kingdom, and after two years of long waiting, our travel date was set. At that time, we were very happy because our suffering would end soon. When I arrived in the United Kingdom it was the most beautiful day in my life and the support worker helped us to settle and how we depend on ourselves, the Welcome here organization has helped us with many needs, we appreciate that very much to them.

I can say that after two years of being in Warwickshire, that I have made a lot of progress. I have got a job at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and working as volunteer with Stratford scouts and became helping Syrian families residing in Stratford with translation. The people in Warwickshire are very nice and generous and I want to thank them all for their good treatment and kindness.

Finally, although we are lucky and got a chance for a better life in Warwickshire, there are still thousands of families in the camps who suffer daily. They are never far from my thoughts,

Noura

Hi, to start, I would like to introduce myself to you. I am Noura, and I came to Britain about a year and four months ago. I’m here today to tell my story about seeking refuge, ten years after the war in my country, Syria. Unfortunately, my country is still unstable, and seeking refuge continues today.

This is the journey of my suffering with three children. My eldest child was eight-years-old when my husband was killed at the beginning of the war and my house was destroyed. I was forced to leave my country, Syria, and seek refuge in Jordan. And here the real suffering began with three children. When we arrived in Jordan, I did not have enough money to rent a separate house, but I got to know one person, and I was taken to shared housing, consisting of one room for me and my children with a shared kitchen and a shared bathroom with another family.

We were not allowed to go out, to work, not even to finish our education. There was also this inappropriate view that if you were a refugee, I had no right to even demand a good life for me and my children. So, at the time, I was fighting to go to any European country to provide my children with the beautiful life they deserve. Finally, after six years, I was chosen to travel to Britain and at that time I was very pleased and my children were also happy.

Since we arrived here, Britain has helped us so much that we do not feel, for even one day, that we are refugees. I am now more confident and optimistic. Thank you Warwickshire. Thank you to everyone who has helped me and has stood by me and my family.

All of the families given sanctuary in Warwickshire have been amongst those who have suffered the most following the humanitarian disaster in Syria since civil war erupted in 2011. Many have been displaced from their homes or had their homes and livelihoods destroyed in the subsequent conflicts that have ravaged the country they once called home.

Speaking on behalf of the Welcome Here Leamington Group, which has helped the families to settle in, Penny Halpin said: “When, in 2017, a small number of Syrian refugee families arrived to settle in Leamington, local people rallied round to offer support in whatever way they could.

“We were all so familiar with the terrible scenes of the war and of families fleeing across Europe, that we were glad of the opportunity to help those who arrived here, and as a result the ‘Welcome Here’ volunteer group was formed.

“Since then, we have done whatever we can to make the families’ arrival in Leamington and their transition to a new life as easy as possible. It has been a privilege to watch the families become familiar with a very different way of life, as they have learnt English, become volunteers, got jobs, dug allotments, made friends with their neighbours and at the school gates, attended courses and passed various qualifications including driving tests.

“The Syrian children all love going to school and have benefited from regular attendance, and two young people whose education had been interrupted for six years are now on access courses with a view to attending university. All the family members, without exception, say that they really like Leamington and feel fortunate to have come to live in such a friendly welcoming town, where they can bring up their children in safety and peace.

“As we reach the end of the five-year resettlement period, I very much hope that considering the success of the existing scheme, it will be extended and a warm, Warwickshire welcome offered to more families to come to live with us in Leamington Spa.”

As the conflict in Syria continues and innocent people are being displaced and facing indescribable hardships on a daily basis. Further discussions are taking place to determine what ongoing support for the scheme Warwickshire may be able to provide.

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