Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Nottingham via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme
This is the Boxer
I worked in the city and we lived a luxurious life. We didn’t need to worry about anything. Now my main motivation is to make sure my kids have a good education so that they are independent and can look after themselves.
Since a peaceful protest for democratic reform turned into Civil War, Syria has been decimated. According to Shelterbox.org, one in four schools have been damaged, half of the hospitals no longer function, and millions of hectares of farmland have been destroyed, forcing half of the population to flee their homes. Some have arrived in Nottingham via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme (VPRS). Others through sheer will and determination.
We spoke to some of these people to put a face to the statistics, to remember ordinary people doing ordinary jobs and living an ordinary life were forced to leave their home. This is one of their stories. This is the boxer.
My home was in Homs, an industrial city in Western Syria. It’s the third largest city with a population of around 650,000 – before the war. We left in 2013 - me and my wife and our four children. It was difficult for my son because he was playing youth football for the Syrian national team and doing well. I hope he’s able to play for an English team soon. He’s very good. Our family is very sporty. My love was boxing but I only ever did it as a hobby.
Comic art panel from What is Coming
My business was selling furniture. Anything you needed for a house I could find. I was like Argos. I worked in the city and we lived a luxurious life. We didn’t need to worry about anything. Now my main motivation is to make sure my kids have a good education so that they are independent and can look after themselves. My eldest, Rashid, is doing really well. He met Prince Harry when he visited Nottingham and got to shake his hand.
Not having the language is a big problem for me. It means I cannot pursue my passions and job opportunities are rare. I learnt some English at the schools created by Maamon but I couldn’t attend all of the lessons due to family issues and an operation. Now my children teach me when they come home from school!
Homs was a beautiful life. I had a good balance between work and family. We would go to the Qattinah Lake or visit Tartus on the Mediterranean coast. Lots of Syrians go on holiday here in the summer because of the sandy beaches. To the east of the city are the Alawite Mountains which were about an hour from our home. We spent a lot of time outside in parks or eating together in restaurants or listening to music. I would sing along to songs sung in English but never understood the meaning of the words. Perhaps now I live in the UK this will change one day.
Lots of things have changed in my life since the war. My mother was killed by a snipper. My father passed away three years later, but not because of the war. I started life as a boxer but now I fight for my family. There is nothing else.
The boxer spoke to James Walker on 29 April 2018 in Beeston, Nottingham. Maamon acted as translator.
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