‘I teach at King’s College and the Foreign Office, training officials and ambassadors going to work in the Middle East. I teach them the language, the culture, how to address the media and how to best serve the country. I help them learn the other side of the story, and see through the Assad propaganda.
‘I was abroad studying when the revolution happened, and now sadly I can’t go back. Even in the light of all the terrible things that have happened since, I do maintain that the revolution is a noble, great thing. People taking to the streets, demanding their dignity and their rights. We were all very proud. We did not expect the Assad regime to start murdering its own people, in cold blood, just to stay in power. Who did?
‘The people who pay the price ultimately are the poor, the weak and those who can’t afford to leave the country. Or those forced to leave by sea. Would you take your family, your children, into the sea – unless it was your only hope?
‘Of course we need to offer the refugees shelter and food, and that’s a great thing, but in addition the international community needs to address the war itself. I think many well-meaning people have sound reasons for reluctance in supporting interventions, uch as fear of involvement in armed conflict and being reminded of the horrifying consequences of the Iraq invasion. But we can’t keep watching a lunatic regime killing its people with chemical weapons and barrel bombs.
‘I like London. There are lots of wonderful things to do, and I am proud to call it a second home. The Syrian community here is very active; we have groups like the Syrian Family Club, which runs events such as Mother’s Day parties. We give advice to newcomers on how to get a job, how to navigate the education system. It’s very important that people who make it here can manage their emotional and mental health. And membership of a strong community is a big part of that. I also help run a poetry group called Qawafi Al-Dhabab. In Arabic “qawafi” means the rhyme at the end of a line of verse and “dhabab” means fog. In Arab countries, London is known as the “Fog City”.So the name of the group is literally “rhyming in the fog”.
‘I long to go back and help rebuild Syria. I intend to become education minister; it’s my area of expertise, and I know we can rebuild the country properly only by establishing strong, well-attended schools. First, though, we need help to fix the security situation, to make it safe for us so we can get our lives back. It’s hard sometimes, but we cannot lose hope.’