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

This is the home maker

Back home, my typical day would be cooking and cleaning while my husband worked. He would leave early in the morning and return late in the evening. I love cooking so much.

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 home maker.

I am Aiman. When the trouble started in Syria we fled to Jordan and stayed there for three years. The United Nations arranged for us to cometo the UK and gave us the choice of Birmingham or Nottingham. It did not matter to me as I knew nothing about the UK. All I knew was I was going to a non-Arabic country, a foreigner country. One month before I moved here, some people came to interview us. This was my first ever interaction with a non-Arabic person.

Comic art panel from What is Coming

We flew here, my husband and I, and our four children – two boys and two girls. I have a brother who is still in Jordan and another in Saudi Arabia. My brother is living in terrible conditions in Jordan. I have asked the MP of Beeston to help unite us – I haven’t seen my brother for many years – but she said sorry, I can’t help.

Back home, my typical day would be cooking and cleaning while my husband worked. He would leave early in the morning and return late in the evening. I love cooking so much. It is the same today, except my husband does not have a job now and I go to college two days a week and ESO class two days a week. But I cook the rest of the time.

My speciality dish is Syrian Kappa. During Ramadan I cook all day readyfor the evening meal. In a strange way, cooking helps me forget about not being able to eat during the Holy month. I taught myself all the recipes and want to teach my daughter, but she is only interested in make-up.

I love going to the Mosque, although we call it the Masjid. Mosque is the English name. Every first Sunday of the month we share food. Everyone brings in one dish, but I make lots of dishes. We read the Quran first, then we eat. In the mosque there are Muslims from all different countries– Syria, Iraq, Pakistan – everywhere. We may all cook the same dish, like Falafel, but it will be totally different in flavour because somebody has used a different type of vine leaf or combination of spices. For the last event I made a Mansaf, which is rice with beans. Everybody asks me for the recipe, but it is my secret.

My experience in Nottingham has been very good, only once hassomething bad happened. When I first arrived here, I was walking withmy daughter and someone ran past and knocked us over. It happenedso quickly I didn’t notice if it was a boy or man or woman. I do not know ifit was an accident or deliberate. May Allah forgive, if he deliberatelypushes me, and may Allah forgive him, if he did it unintentionally.

Language is my biggest barrier to happiness. I have joined an ESO classto learn and my children teach me when they come home from school. I have downloaded a translator app to my phone to help me communicate. The doctor knows that if we talk via What’s App I can copy and paste his questions into Arabic and answer them quickly. This is important if there is an emergency.

I am an ambassador at an organisation which translates as Stand by Me. The purpose is to inform people about the safest way to report incidents, especially hate crime. I joined to increase my vocabulary. The language is very difficult, but these sessions help me become more confident.

What I feel happiest about in Nottingham, is even if I don’t know how to speak the English language correctly, everyone smiles at me. In Tesco the security man always says hello when we enter the shop and smiles. Sometimes when I am very angry about what has happened in Syria, I see my neighbour smiling at me, and it helps me forget what I’m angry about.

Aiman spoke to James Walker on 17 May 2019 in Beeston, Nottingham. The translator was Marwa.

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