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Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Nottingham via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme

This is the letting agent

We used to live a good life. I had my own letting agency, providing short term holiday apartments to tourists.

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 letting agent

I am Musbar from Harasta al-Basal, a city in the northeastern suburb of Damascus. It was one of the earliest rebel-held cities in Syria and in 2014 was subjected to chemical attacks. It’s changed hands repeatedly during the war and is now nearly completely destroyed. We used to live a good life. I had my own letting agency, providing short term holiday apartments to tourists.

Comic art panel from What is Coming

I had my own car and loved driving my family out to Al-Zabadani, which is a town in the middle of a green valley and mountains in Ghouta. There’s a spring there that feeds Damascus city. I remember once getting lost and having to stop and rest. We pulled up at a small farm full of fruit trees. I prevented my children from eating any of the apples because it wasn’t our place. But the farmer came out and said you can eat whatever you like. He even filled up two boxes for us to take on our journey and refused money. This is what I miss most about home, the kindness of my people.

People were very friendly to us when we arrived in the UK. This helped a lot. I have seven children but only three came over with us. The other four are grown up and made different journeys. We had to split up to escape. Now two live in Germany, one in Australia, and one in America. They can’t visit here, and we can’t visit them. Even though they are adults they really miss their mum. Their passion is to see her and each other again. It keeps us strong. We stay together through What’s App and she tells them to be good and careful and healthy. We use video calls so that we can pretend we are all here together. But because they all live across different time zones, they call us in the middle of the night. My wife and I always fear something bad has happened, an emergency, but then we hear their voices and realise they just miss us and want to say hello.

We had sleepless nights when they were babies and we have sleepless nights now they are adults. It is the way of families.

Musbar spoke to James Walker on 29 April 2018 in Beeston, Nottingham. Maamon acted as translator.

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