A unique event where you will have the opportunity to hear from two Syrian women – Lamis Muqdad and Yasmin Sofi – will give accounts of their experiences of both fleeing the country and making a new life here in Chester.
They now want to share their personal stories in a special conversation with Rasha Youssef (Forfutures) who is currently working as a refugee support worker across Chester and Ellesmere Port.
Yasmin Sofi, a 35-year-old Radiographer from the city of Qamishli in north-eastern Syria, will tell the story of how her brother – a 23-year-old medical student – was forced to flee Syria after being arrested by Kurdish activists in 2011. He escaped to Iraq, then Turkey before making a perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Greece, before finally settling in Germany. After 5 years he is now at the University of Greifswald in north eastern Germany studying medicine again.
Yasmin’s parents are alone in Iraq, she said ‘we are trying to get them to the UK to be with me and my sisters, life is very hard for them, we want to be reunited as a family.’ Yasmin is currently studying for the International English Language Test, designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work using English. She is very keen to start working as a Radiographer again, her only barrier is her language skills ‘I want to work for the NHS, all that is stopping me is my English.’ Yasmin studies at the English School in Chester every week.
Lamis Muqdad, 35, worked in Aviation in Damascus she will tell her story of hope, and how she is determined to start a new life in Chester and build a community for resettled Syrian people. ‘If I tell the story of my experience of leaving Syria it will upset people; I want to tell my story of hope and resilience.’
Lamis has founded a group of Syrian women who meet regularly at Storyhouse to practise needlework, they were some of the community groups that met HRH The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex when they visited Storyhouse in June. ‘Learning the language is the hardest part of settling into a new community, it creates many obstacles. Sometimes my Syrian friends will call me on the phone when they are in a supermarket and ask to translate to the staff, simple things like shopping can be very hard. I am encouraging people to take English lessons, driving lessons so that they can have more independence and to be part of their children’s school community. Nearly all the Syrian people that live here want jobs, want to be part of the community.’
This event is sure to be one of the highlights of the festival.