Syrian Refugee Stories

Syrian Refugees Stories

The ‘Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria’ research project is based at University of Stirling in central Scotland. Stirlingshire and North Lanarkshire Councils have participated in the UK government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. A number of people who have moved from Syria to central Scotland as refugees have spoken to the project about their own experiences of forced migration. Most arrived in 2016 and 2017, although some arrived earlier outside of the government’s scheme.

In sharing these stories, the project hopes to bring together the voices of those who have survived forced migration first-hand in recent times. While, the historical conditions of the former French settlers and Syrians moving to the UK are different, both the ‘pieds-noirs’ and resettled Syrians (interviewed here) are part of a government-administered schemes and have certain circumscribed rights to benefits etc. The specificities of each case study, (on the one hand, the historical context of Algerian decolonization and, on the other, Syrian forced migration) has revealed how they do not always conform to popular perceptions.

The participants spoke to the project about moving to Scotland, home-making, and keeping their connection to their homeland. All have agreed to share their stories on the project’s website but some have been anonymised to protect their privacy.

Dalal and Malak


Dalal and Malak have both settled in the Stirling area from Syria as part of the UK government’s resettlement scheme. They participated in an art workshop at the University of Stirling in Autumn 2018. This interview took place after the final piece, ‘Unpacked’, was installed in the Pathfoot Gallery.

Transcript


Translator: Ayman
Interviewer: Beatrice

[Ayman translates.]
Malak: My name is Malak. I come from Syria, I have long visit in Stirling, since three years.
Beatrice: Three years?
Malak: Three years, yes. I have my – I have family with me, my husband and my daughter lives in my house.
[Asks Ayman in Arabic.]
Ayman: Do you need the address?
Beatrice: No, thank you. Thank you very much. And then would you like to -
Dalal: Dalal ---, I’m from Syria. I came here 8 months ago.
Beatrice: So feel free to respond in English or in Arabic.
[Ayman translates.]
Ayman: We will introduce ourselves in Arabic – in English, but we will speak in Arabic.
Beatrice: Lovely, so the first question is just what your impressions of Scotland were, before you visited Scotland. You can answer one by one.
[Ayman translates.]
Malak: I seen and study in school – rain and the weather.
[Malak asks Ayman in Arabic.]
Ayman: Changeable weather.
Malak: And I think all people in Scotland, Scottish are fear my family or no. I, um, idea, are dark. You understand? But after, connect in Stirling, and I asked all my neighbours, all my neighbours in the street – uh – smile, ‘Good morning!], help me. Um, I think about people – good. Not many speak, not good. But I saw and listened all good.
[Malak asks Ayman in Arabic.]
Ayman: Humanity.
Malak: All Scottish I saw – uh –
Ayman: Humanity.
Malak: All in humanity. Having humanity.
Ayman: I have one suggestion. If - Asks Dalal in Arabic - if Dalal is in a rush, we could do the interview first. [Speaks in Arabic.]
Dalal: Okay.
Malak: No problem.
Beatrice: Is that okay? So same question.
[Ayman and Dalal speak in Arabic.]
Ayman: She has an appointment so we should do Dalal first.
Beatrice: Okay, very, very quick. Right, yes, we’ll do you first. So, it’s the same question, what you thought of Scotland –
Dalal: Before I came here?
Beatrice: Yes, exactly.
[Dalal speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “They told us about the weather.”
[Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “There were people who came before me who told me that council would help and they would give you what you need and not to worry.”
Beatrice: Can I have a follow up question to that, did you see Scotland represented in films, books, or TV?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “Historic films.”
Dalal: And William Wallace. [Continues in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I used to like this story. And some cartoons!”
[Dalal laughs.]
Beatrice: So when did you arrive in Scotland, first of all, and where do you go? Did you come straight to Stirling?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I arrived on the 27th March, we arrived in the afternoon in London. And we arrived in the evening”.
Beatrice: So straight from London to Stirling, this year?
Ayman: 2018
Beatrice: That’s recent.
Dalal: Yes.
Beatrice: And were you able to bring a lot with you or did you have to leave things behind? Material objects.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic .]
Ayman: “I had to leave many things behind like my books and my CDs”.
Beatrice: And were you able to recuperate your belongings?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “No”.
[Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “There are things that have sentimental value, presents, stuff like that”
Beatrice: What can you tell me about your initial feelings about when you arrived in Scotland? The first month.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “I was still dizzy”. [Dalal laughs and continues in Arabic.] I didn’t know many things, I had to rely on Jonathan, who is the council official. Which was a bit difficult for me because normally I am a very independent person.
Beatrice: In what ways are you normally very independent?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I rely on myself. But I found myself having to rely on Jonathan.”
Beatrice: So how did you find yourself spending your days, what did you do every day?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “The first month almost nothing, because the first month, the first 20 days even the language school was on holiday.
[Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I would go with Jonathan to do either the bank account or the residence card”.
[Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “The friends in Stirling, they would come and visit.”
Beatrice: And if I can – you don’t have to answer this question if you don’t want to – how do you feel when you think about your homeland, when you think about Syria?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I feel sad”.
Beatrice: Are there ways that you have stayed connected to your home culture?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic. Malak joins in.]
Ayman: You don’t refer to communicating?
Beatrice: No, just – how do you bring your home country with you.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “For teenagers, it may be easier to go and forge a different culture. But for us, our culture is already imprinted in us.”
Beatrice: So it’s in you, not necessarily things that you do?
[Ayman translates.]
Beatrice: Is your culture imprinted in you or do you keep it alive through the things that you do?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I’m doing the same things I would do at home. I haven’t had do to anything extra. That’s the same as where I was.”
Beatrice: Cool, that’s really interesting. And, what has helped you the most since you’ve been in Scotland? First of all. And secondly, what has been the most difficult challenge?
[Ayman translates and Dalal asks a question in Arabic.]
Ayman: “In what aspect?”
Beatrice: Anything that springs to mind really. What has helped to you feel ‘at home’, I suppose?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Feeling completely settled, it probably hasn’t happened yet.”
Beatrice: And what has been the biggest challenge then?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Language, language has been the biggest challenge.”
Beatrice: Are the language classes helpful, or -?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Yes, of course.”
Beatrice: Are they enough?
[Ayman translates and Dalal laughs.]
Ayman: “To be honest, it isn’t enough, even the programme has some mistakes in it – “
Beatrice: And I suppose – how much time do you have?
Dalak: No, no, no. Okay.
Beatrice: I just wanted to learn what we could do better from you.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Take your time.”
Beatrice: Yeah, uh, so the next question I suppose I would have responding to that, would be what would you tell Scottish people to do to help you? If you could tell them.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Scottish people are very very good and nothing negative. On the contrary –“
Beatrice: And the council, is there anything more that the council could do or are you very happy?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “It’s just my opinion, but there are 5 families. And two more arriving. We sometimes feel sorry for Jonathan. Sometimes I hesitate whether to ask him for something because I know he has so much – if they had any helpers to divide the work load.”
Beatrice: So it’s all one person.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Sometimes I feel embarrassed asking because he’s not – he doesn’t have any time.”
Beatrice: Thank you for your honesty and thank you for sharing that. So my last question – as I’m sure you’ve been asked a lot, you get this question a lot – what are your hopes for the future? What do you want to do while you live in Scotland?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I want to reach a very good level of English. And I would like to study at University.”
Beatrice: What would you like to study?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “If I can continue in my own field, it would be a Master’s. If not, I could study again.” [Asks Dalal what subject in Arabic] “Sociology”.
Beatrice: So you have a degree in sociology already.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Yes I do”
Beatrice:That’s really impressive. And have you found being in a university helpful to achieve your dreams or imagine your dreams?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic. She laughs]
Ayman: “It’s something I’m embarrassed to say – our monthly benefits, so financially it can be an obstacle.”
Beatrice: And travelling to the University can sometimes be a problem as well.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “What I want to say is that studying will require –“ Maybe your idea about being at University wasn’t clear. [Speaks to Dalal in Arabic. Dalal responds.] “When I heard about the projects, I was very encouraged that I will be in the university itself. It was good that people who are related to the University, may be people will ask us, someone who was doing a PhD came today, and someone else asked us a while ago about our goals and whether we want to study at university”.
Beatrice: The person who asked you about your goals was and coming to university was going to come today but she couldn’t.
[Ayman translates]
Dalal: I’m sorry for that.
Beatrice: So I think there will be further liaison between Jonathan, you and the university to point you in the right direction.
[Ayman translates]
Beatrice: And that includes financial advice. Scholarships for example. Hopefully that can be a continued support for – I think that’s everything so I can let you go to your appointment Laughs. But is there anything else you would like to tell me, is there anything else you would like recorded?
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “No, but we were very happy with this project.”
Beatrice: It was a good project, wasn’t it? I’m sad that it’s finished! Laughs.
Dalal: I am too.
Beatrice: But because this has been successful, I hope that it shows that these things are a good thing to do and we can carry on doing them.
[Ayman translates and Dalal speaks in Arabic.]
Dalal: Insha’Allah.
Beatrice: Yes, indeed. Thank you very much for your time, I’ll let you go to your appointment. Do you want me to walk you to the door?
Dalal: No, no. No, thank you. [Beatrice and Dalal say goodbye outside]
Beatrice: Oh I have a chair! Hello! Laughter So, I’m going to ask you the same questions. But if there’s anything you want to tell me that I don’t ask, please just answer anyway. So again, I would like to know – you’ve already told me what you thought of Scotland before – but did you also see Scotland in films or did you read about it in books?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “In the equivalent of Year 10, two years before leaving School, we studied geography and history. And part of geography we studied Scotland, we realised about the changing weather, the geography and the climate. Only from our geography studies.”
Beatrice: So not culturally.
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “No, nothing.”
Beatrice: And you arrived in Scotland three years ago, I think, could you just say when precisely you arrived, where you arrived and where you went?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I arrived the 23rd of February. 2016. In the evening. Again, there was the same carers [cross talking] and they supervised us, accompanied us, before we settled in the house.”
Beatrice: And who were they employed by?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “By the council, Stirling.”
Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “And the UN told us that we are like UK citizens here, but the one thing that we don’t have to do is voting.”
Beatrice: One day would you like to vote.
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Malak: Yeah, because - continues in Arabic
Ayman: “So there was a lot of interaction with my neighbours and people in the area, because I gave a lot of lessons and courses. So, there was a lot of interactions. But now it feels like it has stopped, I’m not sure why.”
Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So Jonathan with the council promised me 6 months ago that he would help me to open a restaurant, but there has been no more discussion of this.”
Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So they suggested to me to make some food and sell it in Tescos or Marks and Spencer. Like Falafel, for example. But what I like for myself, is the same thing I like for others.”
Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Because frying the falafel and then taking it to be sold afterwards is not healthy – it can cause illness, it’s better to eat fresh – so if I make any food, I would like it to be presented fresh. That would have been a very big step for me but now I feel a bit frustrated.”
Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Beatrice: Thank you, that was really detailed. Can we go back to when you first arrived in Scotland. Like what I asked Dalal, what did you bring with you?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “We didn’t bring everything we wanted to, we brought some private stuff only.”
Beatrice: Were you able to find what you needed in Scotland, in Stirling?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Of course not everything. There are things that I could find but there are things that I couldn’t find.”
Beatrice: And can you tell me a little bit about how you felt when you first arrived in the first weeks, or the first month?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I felt that I was in a strange country. There was some fear. My husband was ill and went straight to hospital. I spent two months in and out of hospital. Then we met the neighbours. I realised that I shouldn’t just stay at home. So I tried many ways to communicate with them. Through food or through the council. Or the charity. I met some people.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “And through my teaching Arabic. Through this I can feel that I have an interaction with them.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So with any charity or organisation, I didn’t feel that I should be receiving money without working.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So, I should work and earn from my own efforts. I don’t want to just be given handouts because I wouldn’t enjoy the money if I just get it without work.”
Beatrice: I see. You’ve discussed a little bit about how you spend the day to day in the first few months, but –
[Ayman translates.]
Beatrice: But maybe you could tell me about your routine now?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I go to languages school and I give Arabic lessons and I give cooking lessons. And I visit my friends.”
Beatrice: That’s lovely thank you. Again, can I stress that you don’t have to answer this question if you don’t want to. But when you think about home and you think about Syria, can you tell me about what you feel?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I do long for Syria but what I long for most is my children. I found that people whether they are in Syria or in Scotland, people are the same.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So I felt that Scottish people are human, just like people in Syria. They have the same humanity. And when there’s a stranger that comes and they help, they’re hospitable just like we are in Syria.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “If both my children were here, it wouldn’t matter. But now, the fact that they are in different countries, I wonder how this has happened, that after 55 years that we are all spread out… separated from each other.”
Beatrice: Talking about separation … how do you stay connected to your family? And how do you stay connected to your Syrian identity now that you are away from Syria?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So I brought the cultures through the cooking and the Arabic learning, and the respect that we have for others, and how we treat others. That’s our culture that I brought with me.”
Beatrice: That’s lovely thank you. And also with your family? Can I ask that questions again, how does she stay connected with her family? Her children that live in different countries?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Through WhatsApp.”
Beatrice: Through WhatsApp. So, again, same questions. First of all, what have you found the most helpful, either from the Council or from the University or from your neighbours, now that you are in Scotland?
[Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “The council did their duty to us in a very good – that’s the best thing. My neighbours are very good. They helped me a lot and encouraged me a lot. After a while, I did some catering, some food for the church. And even I was impressed with how good it was!”
[ Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “And it was meant to go, talked about in the newspaper but it didn’t appear in the newspaper and people talked, were talking about it and uh there maybe was something that I don’t know.”
[ Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So I started with a lot of motivation and encouragement. And I wanted to feel like I was part of this society and everyone is encouraging. But now, I don’t know what happened it’s, uh, stopped.”
[ Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “When I make a request it doesn’t get fulfilled.”
Beatrice: Do you have an idea why that might be?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I don’t know, I have no idea.”
Beatrice: I suppose it’s the same question, you’ve already answered my question, but what have you found to be unhelpful or the biggest challenge?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “There was a challenge, I reached the tip that I felt where I am a member of society who was contributing.” [Malak continues] “But all of a sudden I fell down.” [Malak continues] “Even from teaching, I was doing that with enthusiasm and I had this hope that I’ll get help but now I feel that I am more withdrawn and sticking to my home. My husband, my daughter. And even at the school, I feel that others are getting more help than me”.
[Malak speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “Because my daughter, she wears a niqab, and as long as she’s within the law this shouldn’t be a problem. And I want people to help in that matter.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “She went to the Job Centre, she’s not happy psychologically. The people there were not very friendly with her. She says that she’s not comfortable but I don’t have the language skills to be able to go and speak to people at the Job Centre. But she is a good person inside, she’s not doing anything wrong.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “They see her with a niqab and they understand her the wrong way. So the Job Centre asked her are you hear to make an appointment or to take money? She thought that she was asking for money for Christmas. [Malak continues, some cross talking.] “She feels rejected or that she’s challenged but I don’t want to make it worse by speaking, by talking to – ”
[Malak speaks in Arabic]
Ayman: “I would like to go to the Job Centre and explain to them that she is a good person, that she is not going to lie or commit fraud or – this is like a challenge for her. I want someone to help us, that’s why we feel frustrated.”
Beatrice: I suppose following on from that, how do you see your future and what are your hopes for getting over those challenges?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Maybe patience and trying to work along with my daughter. And to be present in society and to work and to be a part of a community and in touch with society.”
Beatrice: Following on that and the difficulties that your daughter has experienced, do you think the experience of moving to Scotland is different for different generations?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “What do you mean?”
Beatrice: I mean, do you think that it’s harder or easier for young people to –
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Beatrice: Or do you think it depends on your personality as an individual?
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I didn’t understand the question.”
Beatrice: So you’ve mentioned that your daughter is finding it very difficult, do you think this is a general trend –
Ayman: [Speaks in Arabic] Because she’s younger you mean?
Beatrice: Yeah, so different generations experience it differently.
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “My daughter had a special – because she’s – before she came here she was in her first year of university studying English literature. So she writes quickly and reads quickly. So she’s in the same language class as people who don’t even know how to read. So she hasn’t experienced any progress, she’s just sitting there without any improvement and then it’s the only class that she’s offered. So she’s frustrated because she feels that why I am in the same level as these people.”
Beatrice: So people’s strengths and weaknesses aren’t taken into account.
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “No, recent arrivals will be in the same class as us.”
Beatrice: So everybody is treated the same.
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So there are people who are very fluent in speech but they cannot read or write. But my daughter writes very well with good spelling.”
Beatrice: I’m conscious of time but if I could invite you to – if there’s anything else you would like to say or if there’s anything you would like to say to, sort us, the people of Scotland, what would you say?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “I’d like to thank the Scottish people. I feel like we love them and they love us. And I keep sending pictures through the mobile so that people can see what it’s like and wish they could come and see for themselves. Even the nature in Scotland is always nice and beautiful.”
[Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “So it’s the same human being here or whether it’s in Syria. It’s just like when your friend talked about arriving here, I felt touched by that story.”
Malak: In South Africa.
Beatrice: Yes, Tineke, Tineke. Okay, final, final question. That’s lovely that you feel that you can express so much gratitude, is there anything that you feel that community and the council can do more to help you?
[ Ayman translates and Malak speaks in Arabic.]
Ayman: “Yeah they should do but haven’t done. Regarding my daughter, they haven’t. She’s being kept behind for a lot.”
Beatrice: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing because I know it’s difficult to think about this all the time. And so I am really grateful for your time and your hard work during the art workshop!

Sanaa Al Froukh


Sanaa is a clinical psychologist from Syria who has worked in Jordan. She is chairwoman for Syrian Bright Futures, a mental health organisation for Syrians in displacement. Here in Scotland, she has built Jasmine and Thestil which supports refugees, and is a co-founder of the Syrian Network.

She was also a performer in the play 'The Trojans' at the Platform Theatre in Glasgow in early 2019.

Transcript


Interviewer: Beatrice

Beatrice: Could we just start with you introducing yourself?
Sanaa: My name is Sanaa Al Froukh, I come from Syria, I’m here 1 year and 7 months.
Beatrice: Ok, brilliant. And can you tell what you’ve been doing in Scotland, what activities you’ve been involved in?
Sanaa: I work with Liverpool University and the Redefine Project. It’s a psychological project to help Syrian refugees to manage their stress. I am a volunteer with them as well as, like, a psychological assessor. On the other hand, I am studying English to improve my English skills. I have 5 children, you know, daily life. Helping children with their studying, supporting my eldest daughter, son. I am a volunteer with Syria Bright Future. I am the chairwoman with this mental health organisation. I train some Syrian psychologists and counsellors … yeah, something like that!
Beatrice: That’s quite a lot!
Sanaa: Yeah, that’s quite a lot. But, you know, I try to improve myself as much as I can because I don’t like to be without work and psychological information every day. I love psychology. I have good motivation to work day by day.
Beatrice: Can you tell me why mental health is so important for refugees, in your opinion?
Sanaa: Yeah because good mental health will help them to settle, to integrate with the new community, to understand the new people, to understand their self, their children. Especially for mothers. Mental health is really important because you don’t need to hurt or neglect your children with all these problems after the war.
Beatrice: And you are a clinical psychologist, and you have had a long career before coming to Scotland. Can you tell me about the work you were doing in Jordan?
Sanaa: Yes. I started as a volunteer, then as a psychologist, then clinical psychologist, then project co-ordinator, then supervisor and project co-ordinator. I was treating people who had traumatised symptoms. And I was as a supervisor to work staff. Making sure that treatment plans [were] good and [that] they develop their skills. I did research about ‘narrative exposure therapy’ which is a good technique to treat trauma.
Because we had lots of Syrian people who had trauma symptoms and that was really difficult. Otherwise, I developed some psychological programmes, which we did with groups. Men and women, children. So yeah, that’s it.
Beatrice: And we got in touch because I saw you perform in this play, The Trojans at the Platform theatre in Glasgow. Can you tell me a little bit about how you became involved in this production? And I’m interested to know if your background as a clinical psychologist - how was that usual, was it not useful? Was it relevant, not relevant to your fantastic performance?
Sanaa: Actually there is a fun side in Trojan Women. I heard about them when I was in Jordan, but I was really busy and they did their play in Amman. I was living in Irbid. So that was quite hard to travel, every day. When I came here, at first it was really difficult. I saw the advertisement for the play. The workshop, how to develop your writing, make stories … or something like that. And it was for Syrian people. So, yeah, I was really happy to see Syrian people and I will make friends or something like that. Then I came to Glasgow. It was - Laughs the first time I was in the city. Strange, difficult, I feel like a stranger woman. Although I am Syrian, but I wasn’t – yeah – comfortable. And then, after a while, Charlotte and William [producers of the play] called me and they told me it would be really good if you could join us and continue these workshops. I didn’t mind at all because I believe that psychodrama is really a very, very useful technique to help people, uh, speak about their feelings, thoughts. I know that, like oriental people, we’re all the time shy about our experience, feel shy about our own journey, think people will judge us, something like that. And I like to meet new people, who can speak about their experience or their feeling after a long time. So I joined these workshops. The first time was difficult. Then we just developed many things.
Beatrice: And did you enjoy the process, did you enjoy acting? Being on a stage, how did you feel about that?
Sanaa: Er, you can’t say I enjoyed [it]. I would say, I’d like to do that. Because sometimes you need to deliver a message or your story. Because it’s not just your story. It’s like the country’s story, people’s story, Syrian story. And I was really shy and worried about speaking about myself and my own experience, you know, as a Syrian. It’s not easy to speak about yourself. Because all the time there is something that will make you feel worries or scared about many things. And I told Charlotte that I will not be on the stage, I’d just enjoy the workshops. I’d like to bring my ideas, maybe I would share my story but I would not be on the stage. I was all the time scared to be on the stage. You know, as anyone. Then I just found myself on the stage, because when we made the healers, I saw Mohammad and other people, how they speak and how that was really fantastic. And I told myself, I should be beside this man, I will not leave them along at all. Because he said what I believe. I was really worried because when we were in the workshops sometimes we were in two groups. Each group has a different opinion. And I was not comfortable about support for the Al Asag regime, not because I am on the opposite side but he’s like a criminal for me. And he killed many people and I saw that. And I didn’t want to be a part of this side at all. When I saw the final version, final script. I feel yes, yes, that’s a Syrian thing. I’d like to be a part of this thing. I’m proud really of these stories. Then I told Willy and Charlotte, yeah. I will be on the stage with my worry and everything.
Beatrice: It’s an incredibly brave thing to do, isn’t it. And so were you involved in crafting the story then? As you say, you saw the script and then you were able to feel that you could be involved in it, so were you able to interject your own voice through the performance? Your own story?
Sanaa: Yes, I wrote my own story. It like summarises my long story, but it delivered a clear idea about what I saw and what happened to me. And I share, how can I say that, really big things about my dad, my country, my children, my husband, my 7 years. Yes.
Beatrice: Can you tell me about the reactions you’ve had to the play? Has anyone talked to you about – because a lot of the time, you invest a lot of time in a project and then it ends, and then it just ends, there’s no follow up. So I was wondering, have you had much reaction to the project, is it going to lead on to anything else? Where is it going for you?
Sanaa: I think each time, I feel different. We did the play twice on the stage and we practised many times. Each time, I feel a different way. I don’t know why. But it just happened with me. And the best thing, when I speak on the stage and I saw people who really tried to hear me by their heart. That was really – how can I say that – really specific points. When I felt I speak with a human, face to face, and they crying all the time, then I ask myself ‘Yes, they believe us’. They are human like us and they don’t support this criminal. And they try to understand us. So it was a particular moment in my life, this play.
Beatrice: Thank you very much for sharing that because I know it’s a very emotional process isn’t it, going on the stage and coming off it -
Sanaa: - yeah, you can’t avoid that!
Beatrice: Can I ask you a few more just general questions about moving to Scotland. And so I’ve got some of the questions here in front of us. Just sort of your initial reactions to coming to the UK and perhaps Scotland in particular, did you have a clear impression of what life was like in Scotland before, have you ever visited or seen it in films or met Scottish people, or anything like that? Did you have an awareness of what Scotland was like before you came?
Sanaa: Yeah, actually I didn’t expect that I would come to here at all. I saw Scotland in the films. It’s like a green land, like heaven, but it’s really cold. I had no, any idea about Scotland, no friends, no people, they speak English, but I didn’t speak English at all. Yeah. Uh. I was worried about many things. Like, see, I am Muslim. I wear hijab. Maybe people will not accept oriental people, maybe they will see us like stupid people. When sometimes you feel bad. Um, but, part of my heart was really happy. Because I’d like to feel safe, feel peace. I’d like to protect my children. So I didn’t hesitate at all. When this man told me, you will go to Edinburgh – the first thing I heard about Scotland – then I said to him ‘Edinburgh, where is it?’. And he told me it’s the capital city in Scotland and it’s really beautiful. And I said ‘Oh, really, it’s Scotland, it’s really far away’. Bad weather. I have no idea about Scotland. Just I imagine the skirt! And he told me, no, no, it’s really good. And some people will help you to have good information about Scotland so don’t worry at all. When you come to introductory session, you will have a good idea and you will comfortable and relaxed. And then I said, okay, I’ll see.
But, really, I agree! I totally agree, I will come. I came with my fear and my thoughts. But not with my judge[ments]. I leave, last thing, until I arrive. I until I see people, until I discuss with them. Until they – just feel reassured about their thoughts. Because that was the most important thing in my heart. I don’t need people to judge me and to racism me at all. And I prepared myself, to face these problems. But Alhamdullilah, when I came to here, I completely changed my mind.
Beatrice: And, just going back to the logistics of arriving. So, did you arrive in Edinburgh or did it change and you arrived in Glasgow?
Sanaa: This man didn’t know exactly where I would live because the UNCHR or immigration organisation didn’t provide them with all the information. They leave part until the last time. Because they would like to be sure, people would not change their mind at the last time. Yeah. It’s like a risk, you know. They pay a lot of money, okay, I understand that. Then when I came to here, I arrived to Edinburgh airport, then we came to Glasgow by bus, we met East Dunbartonshire council people at the airport, then they pick us up to our homes. First impression was not good. [She laughs] Because the house which they gave me was really, uh, dirty and rubbish everywhere. So you know, you came to the UK and you have … I was really optimistic about the life with 5 children. After a really … uh, difficult, difficult, 5 years in Jordan. I was alone, with 5 children. Working, studying. Fight about survive my children, because life in Jordan was really like nightmare. Not allowed to work, not allowed to study, not allowed send your children to government schools. How can you live? How can you pay your rent? Gas, electricity? Then I came here. When we arrived, the first sentence I told my children ‘Don’t worry, guys’. All the time God gives us something like that, bad, sometimes we can’t accept it. But by the time, you will change your mind, change your reaction’. Then I saw the house, room by room, I tried to just smile, to give my children hopes, to just be optimistic. Don’t judge anything from the cover!
Then, by the time, after 8 months … actually to be fair, during this difficult period I found Scottish friends. Which surprised me. I didn’t think at all, I would find sisters, mothers, grandmothers – no, no, no, it’s alright – but I’m really happy to having them in my life. And I’m really happy because they have me, how they accept me. Something – sorry.
Beatrice: No, that’s perfect.
Sanaa: During 8 months, they didn’t leave me at all, every day, every day they supported me until I changed this home because it was really difficult. The village, when we arrived, didn’t accept new people. My children had lots of difficulties in the school, we couldn’t sleep for days. Then, just I – eh – tried to manage these problems.
Beatrice: This was in a village? I’m sorry.
Sanaa: No, don’t worry. No, don’t want to be sorry. Then we changed this house to another one. The new one was really fantastic, er, quiet, safe, and that’s the most important thing I need. And I told the council, I don’t need magical things, don’t need a fancy house, I need just room which I can feel safe with 5 kids. I can manage 8 problems, 10 problems everyday, but don’t ask me to manage 100 problems. I’m not superman! Then they told me okay, we tried to help but you – the council systems, houses, there are problems, we can’t find something like that. Then I asked them just to return me to Jordan [she laughs]. Yeah, I was serious about that! I love Scotland too much but I couldn’t stay in the dangerous situation again. Especially, you know when you move with the children. We from Syria, from our house to another, then from many houses to Jordan. Then from many houses during Jordan to the UK, to Scotland. Then we came with big hopes. Not perfect hopes, but basic needs. Yeah. Then, yeah, I told my children all the time, you will find challenges everywhere. We discovered that, in Scotland like anywhere. You’ll have problems, you’ll have to manage it. We learn by this experience. But yeah, that’s finished now.
Beatrice: Do you feel more settled now?
Sanaa: Yes, I feel that. I am more comfortable in my situation. With myself and my situation. With my house, with my council, with everything. Yeah, I feel much better.
Beatrice: Do you – are there ways your reconnect with your Syrian identity?
Sanaa: Yes. Social media, all the time. My heart. My brain. My thoughts. Syria is inside myself. I don’t need to connect with my country at all because I feel that I carry Syria everywhere. But social media helps me to connect with, contact my friends. With people like me, believe the revolution, their rights, believe that people who are in the prison should be, have freedom again. People who have the same mentality, love psychology, love Syria, like Bright Future. Yeah, social media really survived us and made us much better.
Beatrice: So when you say people who love psychology, do you mean that you stay in touch with colleagues and people like that?
Sanaa: Yeah, every day I speak with people from Syria Bright Future, because we have lots of dreams. Which we hope one day can make it to Syria. We changed many things. We work on many things. It makes me satisfied.
Beatrice: So that’s Syria Brith Futures. And that’s an international project? Or is it based in -
Sanaa: It’s a mental health organisation, local organisation which we started with this idea in Jordan in psychiatry. And we – we’re a mental health organisation because we’re not allowed to do that in Syria. And that’s people’s rights. And then we start that with our vision, with our mission, and we develop it every single day with lots of challenge. Jordan closed it because the government said that Syrians are not allowed to work here, to do anything. It’s like, you know, I don’t know I can explain that in English but it’s just like you are a guest but you should leave anyway. And you should leave at any moment. So just feel like, ‘I will go after a while. I will go after a minute’. It’s not my country, I can’t smile because I’m Syrian. I can’t speak because I’m Syrian. I can’t work because I’m Syrian. I can’t eat because I’m Syrian. You know? You have to be like a poor man, just be grateful for everything, for racism, for everything. I that is unreasonable, to be grateful for this racism. In a human situation, okay I know that you are Arab and it’s like an Arabic country, but you need to be, just human. I don’t speak about political things, but that happened with us. I will not cover [up] something like that just because I’m from the Middle East. Yeah.
So it was really difficult just to explain every single day to my children … we have to be fair, some people are like that, yeah we have to be open minded. Because some people are like that because they have no knowledge about how they can be just a human. The my children said [she laughs] “When will you stop this excuse?”
Beatrice: In terms of culture, as well, you’ve said that you’re extremely busy, you’re involved in a lot of projects including The Trojan play, performance … are there other cultural activities that connect you with home, even just cooking? Music? Things like that. I know you said that the internet can be quite helpful.
Sanaa: You mean here in Scotland?
Beatrice: Yeah, in Scotland.
Sanaa: Yeah, there is a lot. There a lot. Syrian things in Glasgow? There is a big Syrian community in Glasgow. There is a Syrian Network group, who help Syrians people to have good information, to develop themselves. That’s really good. I’m part of that group, by the way.
Beatrice: What is that called again?
Sanaa: Syrian Network.
Beatrice: Network, oh I beg your pardon.
Sanaa: Now, we’ve built the ‘Jasmine and Thistle' community group, Syrian and Scotch people to integrate, to help Syrian women, who make lots of activity. For children. And, uh, mosques. I can go anytime. Syrian restaurants. What else … many things! I feel like it’s my homeland. Really here in Scotland, I don’t feel [like a] stranger. Yeah, I don’t say that just because I’m in Scotland. No. I’m free, I can say I don’t like Scotland, sorry. You know?
Beatrice: This is it, you’re allowed to say you don’t like something.
Sanaa: Yes, yes, should, that’s my right. But when you just walk alone, in Glasgow’s streets, you really feel like you are part of this city. You don’t feel [like a] stranger. In my play, I say it, that I speak with Scotland. And she never refused me. I really feel that. And I love all this green land because I grew up in the mountains. I didn’t expect that I would live in mountains again. And people all the time tell me that weather in Scotland is really hard. Oh it’s not good, oh it’s rainy. But no, I really love winter! And they’re surprised when I say ‘no, no’! I love snow, I love rain! I love this weather. Really this weather makes me happy! [She laughs] ‘Really? You came from Syria and you like Scotch weather?’, ‘Yeah, I like Scotch weather!
Beatrice: You’re in the right place!
Sanaa: Yeah that’s what I feel! [She laughs]
Beatrice: That’s wonderful. So my final question, and then I’ll leave you time to talk about whatever you want to – well, it’s half past 12 and I know you have to leave.
Sanaa: Don’t worry.
Beatrice: But, my final question is quite simply, what are your hopes for the future? Because very often, when you experience displacement you are very often asked to tell your story and you have to go through the past over and over again. And thank you so much for telling me your story, but what would you like to do in the future?
Sanaa: Actually, I’d like to study a PhD in psychology because I love this thing. You can’t imagine, yeah. But I’d like to work again as a clinical psychologist or as a tutor in Strathclyde University, that’s my … eh, I’d like to see my children with their own life, with their own selves, with their skills, with their country. Like, I all the time speak about Syria, I don’t need these children to just forget their country because they now have a good life here. Or they have friends. You can’t, eh, take off your skin. And I keep Arabic,
Beatrice: Good Laughs
Sanaa: Yeah! I hope I will have a new Syrian people because that’s what I miss. I miss my friends in Jordan, who really you know, it’s like a gift from Allah. We have the same reason why we did this revolution, we have the same dreams. Not just about the same things, about how you can analyse the situation. How you can believe your country, how you can understand your people, how you can, eh, fight for their rights. How you can be strong, how you can cry. Just with them. Feel like they will not judge you at all. They will understand you, you can discuss your thoughts for many years. That part which I miss in my life and I hope in the future I will find people who can discuss with you, who can believe these thoughts about Syria. I don’t know. Maybe I have no time to find them but in the future, yeah, that’s my plan!
Beatrice: Yeah! It sounds like a fantastic plan.
Sanaa: And something else, I hope to be a good person. To fit in the Scotch community, to give them the good part of Syrian culture, of Syrian food, of Syrian habits, Syrian stuff. Yeah.
Beatrice: It sounds like you’re already doing that quite a lot!
Sanaa: Yeah, I like that, you know? It’s my mission to be a good human on the earth. Not just like a guest, you will die. All the people will die after a few years, but what you leave behind you. That’s what is important for me.
Beatrice: Thank you very much.
Sanaa: You’re welcome.

Iyad and Alia


Iyad and Alia are a married couple who were resettled in North Lanarkshire.

Transcript


Interviewer: Beatrice
Translator: Ayman

Beatrice: Could we just start with your introducing yourselves?
[Ayman translates]
Iyad: My name [is] Iyad --
Alia: My name [is] Alia –
Beatrice: Thank you. So what were your impressions of Scotland before you arrived? So before you left, what -
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “I don’t know much about Scotland but I had some idea about the United Kingdom.” [Iyad continues] “So it’s good, civilised people and they’re humane.” [Iyad continues] “So I asked about Scotland. I was told that Scottish people are even, have more goodness than other parts of the UK”.
Beatrice: And then what did you think?
[Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “I was happy that I would be in a place that was safe, settled, and that I would be coming to live here”.
Beatrice: But did you have any idea of what Scotland was like before you knew you were coming to Scotland?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “Not much, because I had never read about it”.
Beatrice: So when did you arrive in Scotland and where did you go?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: We arrived the 29th March 2017.
Beatrice: And where did you go?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: We landed in Edinburgh and the council was waiting for us. They welcomes us and it was two or maybe three families. They took us each to our own home. Our area was in Lanarkshire. We entered and saw the house, it was completely ready. [Iyad continues, laughter] First thing I thought was that I wish I didn’t bring anything! Laughter
Beatrice: So did you bring anything with you when you arrived in Scotland?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: We brought things like clothing, perfume, and bed linen.
Beatrice: So very practical stuff. [Alia laughs] And what was it like when you arrived?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic, laughter]
Ayman, for Iyad: “First impressions were that it was very good. The women were very pretty.”
Beatrice: Oh! [Laughter]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Everything was very well prepared, nothing was missing.”
Beatrice to Alia: And what were your impressions when you arrived?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “First when we arrived, I was happy. And it was not – I did not feel the noise or everything, I felt settled.”
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “I had one fear. I was worried that the European population had some kind of idea and I was worried about discrimination, racial discrimination.” [Iyad continues] “I was worried that Europeans had the wrong impression of Islam.” [Iyad continues] “So I was worried about this because I heard that they may think that anyone who is Muslim is a terrorist. So that was something I was worried about in the beginning.” [Iyad continues] “But after we arrive and people got to see us and know us and meet us, it was good. And even with the neighbours we sit down and we chat.”
Beatrice to Alia: And do you have anything to add to that, do you agree?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “It’s good that we started to learn the language and we like the country and now we feel a sense of being settled.”
Beatrice: Going back to those early days, how did you spend your time?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “So at the beginning the social worker would take us and show us around the area, to meet the neighbours and we started English lessons.” [Iyad continues] “And we got our medical check-ups, everything was complete the first time we arrived. And we met the GP and at the beginning we had a visit every day from the social worker. And we started to get the children registered in school.”
Beatrice, to Alia: And for you, how did you spend those first days?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “They took us to the hospital and they assigned a doctor for me because I am unwell. We went shopping and they showed us everywhere.”
Beatrice: Okay, what did you think of the shopping? [Laughter]
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “They took us to some museums and other outings. Introduced us to other Syrian families who had arrived before us.”
Beatrice: Was that important for you to meet other families?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic, then Alia.]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Yeah, when you meet someone with the same language and you know can relate, you feel a sense of comfort.”
Beatrice to Alia: Is that would you said?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “So you don’t feel alone.”
Beatrice: Thank you. And so now, it’s been almost… over two years in Scotland, how do you feel when you think about your homeland? Do you stay in touch with what’s going on or -
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “We still have family over there and of course we do miss them and there is nostalgia. [Iyad continues] “Maybe the children don’t have this nostalgia”. [Iyad continues] “But we grew up there and every stone back home has a memory. But for the children, it’s not the same. Now if you ask them to return, they probably wouldn’t.”
Beatrice to Alia: Is it the same for you?
[Alia continues]
Ayman, for Alia: “The same thing, but I don’t think I will go back now I’m in Scotland.”
Beatrice: So you agree with the young people who don’t want to go back to –
[Alia continues]
Ayman, for Alia: “No, I am settled and I feel this is my home.”
Beatrice: So can I ask you what you are nostalgic for? What makes you nostalgic?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “So I miss my street, my home, and I used to teach back home. And now even though I have a disability, I am a productive person.” [Iyad continues] “So there, I felt that I had more value. Everyone knew who I am. What qualifications I had, my studies, degrees. So now.” [Iyad continues] “I used to be very productive and now I feel like a burden.”
Beatrice: If you feel nostalgic for home, what makes you [Alia] more settled here?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “Because there is war we cannot go back. But the most important thing here is that there is safety and security.”
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “We’re getting to know the culture of the people here and the beautiful nature.”
Beatrice: Thank you. Can I ask ways you stay connected to the homeland? Is it online? Or through food, through culture? How do you stay connected?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “So, some of the customs, for example, religious festivities we have special recipes that we keep cooking.”
Alia: Sweets.
Beatrice: Yeah!
[Iyad continues. Laughter.]
Ayman, for Iyad: Back home, you’re allowed to marry three or four wives. So whenever I see a beautiful woman I ask if I am allowed to marry.
Ayman: In Scotland, one wife!
Beatrice Sorry, one wife, no more!
Alia: Very good!
Beatrice to Alia: [Laughs] Do you prefer that?
Ayman, for Iyad: “I’m joking!”
Beatrice: Of course, of course. Now that it’s been two years, again, what do you think has helped you the most since you’ve been in Scotland?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “The friendliness that we were met with, the Scottish people.” [Iyad continues] “They care about you and the keep coming and asking if you’re missing anything.” [Iyad continues] “So I felt that there was some social, uh, solidarity here. So if someone is poor here, you don’t find really poor people. Back home, we find people who are really destitute.” [Iyad continues] “And another thing is that whatever our needs, they’re met. And there are many organisations that would help. And this causes a lot of comfort.” [Iyad continues] “And we were not used to that. Back home it was always a worry, you know, getting your children to school and getting things done but here it feels more comfortable. And that’s what makes us like this country.”
Beatrice to Alia: Can I ask you the same question?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “The same thing, yeah.”
Beatrice: The same thing. When you say it comes from social solidarity are you saying that it comes from your neighbours or is it from the council? Where is it coming from?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “From the council.”
[Alia and Iyad continue]
Ayman: “So the council helped us a lot. And even our children are getting good in English, when we have an issue they can search online. Our washing machine broke down and we worried about getting, affording another one. The children looked online, an organisation that was able to provide us with one.” [Iyad continues] “The council keeps sending us clothing and checking what we’re missing. The most important thing is the children’s school which is wonderful.” [Iyad continues] “And the school does provide the children with everything they need. If they have a query or a need they’ll ask the headteacher and they would be provided.” [Iyad continues] “So that’s very reassuring that school is helping, even if we have a question about something outside of school, they get the answer.”
Beatrice: And would you agree? Yeah, yeah. It’s really interesting to hear that your children are really helping you as well.
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Yeah, they really help. On top of their studies they really want to work. So they asked the job person there too and they said no you’re a student now, you should.
Beatrice: And my finally, my final question should be about the future, your hopes for the future.
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Now, I’m reassured that they are on a clear path. They’ll be able to do what they want to do, my children. They’re thinking of engineering.”
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “And they’re learning how to drive. They took the driving test and they passed, it’s good. They’re successful with that.” [Iyad continues] “About myself, I’m learning English but I don’t have that much interaction with Scottish people to practice the language.” [Iyad continues] “I hope that I would learn better English and start to use the skills I have, like” … [Asks Iyad a question] “So I have this skill, through someone’s face I can tell their personality.”
Beatrice: Okay! What is it in Arabic?
Ayman: Ferasah. I don’t know what it is in English. [ الفراسة = physiogonomy].
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “So to know the person’s character and personality through reading their face.” [Iyad continues] “I can even detect some illnesses.”
Beatrice: And this is something you did in Syria, a lot?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “In Egypt”.
Beatrice: [Iyad shows a Facebook page on his phone] Okay, now we’re looking at a Facebook page. [Iyad explains]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Some pictures, it’s on Google”.
Beatrice: And this is your website?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “If you google me, you’ll find my website and TV interviews”.
Beatrice: And we’re now looking at a YouTube video. [Video plays in Arabic]
Ayman: So it’s talking about how to judge people by just – [Iyad continues] – so he’s an expert in social development. “But what’s my obstacle now is my language.” [Iyad continues] “I could read your face!” [Laughter]
Beatrice: Go for it, we’ll see what happens! [To Alia] Can I ask you the same question?
[Alia continues]
Ayman, for Alia: I hope to learn English so I can better communicate with people and understand them.
Beatrice: So now that you are in Scotland – you’ve mentioned a little bit about the nature and the fact you haven’t had the chance to talk to many Scottish people, do you have any goals in terms of travelling or moving to a new city?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “Outside Scotland?”
Beatrice: Outside Scotland, inside Scotland.
[Ayman translates. Iyad and Alia speak in Arabic]
Ayman: “Maybe inside Scotland, to move to a city like Glasgow or Edinburgh depending on the work.”
Beatrice: Well the question would be would you like to set up a business around your skill?
[Ayman translates and Iyad speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Iyad: “So I spoke to the people responsible for work and they said, if you bring me 5 or 6 names we could start a course.”
Beatrice: Okay! In teaching these skills to other people?
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: [Laughter] “The social worker, now when she comes she hides her face!”
Beatrice: Nobody is safe!
[Iyad continues]
Ayman, for Iyad: “I can also do telepathy.”
Beatrice: That’s very popular in the UK. [To Alia] And work would you like to do?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “I’m a mother!”
Beatrice: Right yes, so you’ll continue to –
[Iyad and Alia continue]
Ayman: “She does cooking and sweets” [Iyad continues] “Some Scottish people who tasted her food are telling her to open a food business.”
Beatrice: Yeah! Thank you so much for your time.
Alia: Thank you.
Beatrice: Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?
[Ayman translates and Alia speaks in Arabic]
Ayman, for Alia: “We thank Scotland, we thank them for having us here.”
Beatrice: Okay, thank you!

ESOL Students


Syrians who have been resettled in North Lanarkshire are given English classes provided by the council. These ESOL learners kindly shared their experiences of moving to Scotland.
1. What were your impressions of Scotland before you arrived?

Abduljouja (M, 36): Beautiful country
Esraa (F, 25): Fear of the future and what awaits us in the future
Maha (F, 28): My destiny was unknown and I did not know what awaited us because I have never lived abroad. It was a very difficult feeling and I did not know what would happen to us
Amin (M, 35): Beautiful and peaceful country. The people are good and humane
Sabreen (F, 29): I was happy because I was going to Scotland and that my children’s life would be better in Scotland and my husband would get the treatment because he is ill
Douaa (F, 27): Beautiful and safe
Amal (F, 44): I was happy but afraid of the unknown
Nadia (F, 38): I was very happy because my brother was in Scotland and he gave me a very nice impression about the Scotland
Emad (M, 33): I heard it was beautiful. Most important for me was safety for me and my kids
Nada (F, 35): A civilised country
Amal (F, 32): A beautiful impression
Duha (F, 19): That it is a beautiful country and people are nice
Mustafa (M, 30): Good
Thalja (F, 50): It is ok
Alia (F, 41): Beautiful country and kind people
Iyad (M): Kind and caring people and a wonderful country
Mohammad (M, 41): A civilised country
Anon (M, 38): I wouldn’t have big impressions of Scotland before arriving in. I was just knowing that Scotland is part of The UK and it has charming green nature. I came to Scotland because I got an uncompetitive offer from an English school in Glasgow.
2. What did you bring with you when you arrived in Scotland?

Abduljouja (M, 36): Some personal items
Esraa (F, 25): Clothes for my baby and my husband
Maha (F, 28): My clothes, my children and my husband
Amin (M, 35): My kids and some clothes
Sabreen (F, 29): A suitcase
Douaa (F, 27): clothes
Amal (F, 44): clothes
Nadia (F, 38): Clothes
Emad (M, 33): Clothes for me, my wife and kids
Nada (F, 35): A few things, clothes
Amal (F, 32): A few things
Duha (F, 19): Just a little bit of clothes because here there is everything we need
Mustafa (M, 30): Just some clothes and required documents
Thalja (F, 50): Only clothes
Alia (F, 41): Some personal items
Iyad (M): I brought many things that I thought were not available [here]
Mohammad (M, 41): Some clothes and things
Anon (M, 38): Just my own clothes.
3. What was it like when you arrived?

Abduljouja (M, 36): A mix of happiness and sadness. A wonderful reception
Esraa (F, 25): It was a good reception from the guided [helpers, supporters]
Maha (F, 28): I was really afraid of the unknown but when we arrived but when we arrived and were received by the social guides and [saw] their compassion and reception, I felt safe. They were really happy to receive us and I thank them very much
Amin (M, 35): I was feeling happy but my health was not good. I felt that my health would get better in a short time
Sabreen (F, 29): It was a very good reception. I remember that the person responsible had a big card with ‘Marhaba’ [hello in Arabic] written on it and I felt reassured
Douaa (F, 27): Happy
Amal (F, 44): It was a beautiful reception
Nadia (F, 38): It was a very nice reception
Emad (M, 33): I was afraid of the unknown but when we arrived, their reception was very good and their compassion made us feel safe
Nada (F, 35): I felt happy because I did not see the war
Amal (F, 32): Everything was lovely, a beautiful reception
Duha (F, 19): All was very good and people received us with love
Mustafa (M, 30): Excellent. There was help from the team and the reception was very good
Thalja (F, 50): It was difficult but they gave us the best reception and we felt safe
Alia (F, 41): It was excellent
Iyad (M): It was wonderful, reception at the airport and I found the house equipped with everything
Mohammad (M, 41): They were mixed feelings between happiness and sadness
Anon (M, 38): It was something strange, new experience. I was so impressed by the green parks and the old buildings.
4. How do you spend your days?

Abduljouja (M, 36): I learn English and about the culture of the country
Esraa (F, 25): We go to school and spend some time learning English we also go to the parks and the markets and sometimes we spend time at home
Maha (F, 28): I help my husband because he was ill [illegible], and reliance is more on the mother in these circumstances because my husband was really tired and could not even walk. I go to the English course to spend my time
Amin (M, 35): At the hospital where I go for my dialysis and get very tired afterwards. I go to [language?] school
Sabreen (F, 29): With my husband and kids/ the market/ visiting friends/ some doctor’s appointments
Douaa (F, 27): I spend beautiful days
Amal (F, 44): At School, learning English, going to the shops or parks
Nadia (F, 38): School and studying English and going to the park
Emad (M, 33): I go to Glasgow and I go to study at school
Nada (F, 35): Working at home and raising the children
Amal (F, 32): I learn English
Duha (F, 19): Learning English
Mustafa (M, 30): I spend my days studying and integrating with the foreigners [locals]
Thalja (F, 50): At home
Alia (F, 41): Studying English and [exploring] the nature of the country
Iyad (M): I spend my days studying the language
Mohammad (M, 41): Between school appointments, the doctor and serving the house
Anon (M, 38): In the beginning, walking about and wandering to explore the city. Going to the school to study English, attending activities in local communities. Then, I joined the college and finished ESOL levels. I have done master course in media last year and I am working freelance interpreter now.
5. How do you feel when you think about your homeland?

Abduljouja (M, 36): I feel great sadness about my family and friends
Esraa (F, 25): I feel sad because my family is there and because of the destruction
Maha (F, 28): I long for my home because it is my second mother but now Scotland is my second mother
Amin (M, 35): I feel great sadness
Sabreen (F, 29): Fear/ sadness
Douaa (F, 27): Sad
Amal (F, 44): I feel sad because of the damage and destruction and being away from family
Nadia (F, 38): I feel sad for the destruction in my homeland but I do not want to go into the past so I could forget my wounds
Emad (M, 33): I feel sad
Nada (F, 35): Sad. I feel like crying when I think about it
Amal (F, 32): Homesickness and sadness about our families
Duha (F, 19): I try not to think about my homeland because some days in my homeland were not good
Mustafa (M, 30): Sometimes I think on the level of separation and lack of communication with my family, and sometimes I think of establishing my future so I can help them in the future
Thalja (F, 50): I feel sad
Alia (F, 41): I miss my homeland and I feel sad
Iyad (M): I miss my motherland and the memories of childhood and I feel sorry for what happened in my homeland
Mohammad (M, 41): An indescribable feeling of sadness
Anon (M, 38): Honestly, I miss my family too much but I feel that Scotland became my new homeland regardless [of] the incitement propaganda in media against refugees in particularly Muslims.
6. How have you stayed connected to your home culture?

Abduljouja (M, 36): I kept [remained with] the culture of my country
Esraa (F, 25): We go to the mosque and we met some friends and some Arabs, we watch Arabic TV and cook Arabic food, and the head scarf
Maha (F, 28): I still wear my headscarf and pray on time. I teach my children the Koran and the [Arabic] alphabet. I go to the mosque. I still buy Syrian food from the supermarket. I cook Syrian food and I share meals with my Scottish friends.
Amin (M, 35): I still eat the food that I am used to in my country. We go to Glasgow with the family to shop and buy some stuff for the house and Syrian food.
Sabreen (F, 29): I keep in touch with the family over the phone
Douaa (F, 27): Food, going to the mosque, clothing
Amal (F, 44): Going to the mosque and making some friends, some Arabic food
Nadia (F, 38): We go to the mosque and meet some friends and cook some Arabic food
Emad (M, 33): I have kept my nature that I have learned in my country
Nada (F, 35): Customs and traditions, everything
Amal (F, 32): Just as I am, kept the culture of your [my] country
Duha (F, 19): I do not stay connected to my home culture because it has many mistakes [wrong things?] I only stay connected to my religion because my religion is the base [essential]
Mustafa (M, 30): There is only a small difference in the integration and getting to meet people
Thalja (F, 50): The difference is small in terms of customs and traditions
Alia (F, 41): In some customs
Mohammad (M, 41): By visiting the mosque and Arabic cafés
Anon (M, 38): By having relationships with Arab families in Glasgow, going to the mosque, buying food from Asian shops.
7. What has helped you most since you have been in Scotland?

Abduljouja (M, 36): The ones responsible for us and the people and the neighbours
Esraa (F, 25): Social work[ers] in home matters. Also Maria and Christine in learning English. The doctor and health visitor
Maha (F, 28): My children’s school and my English lessons with the help of Maria and Christine. The dentist, the doctor’s clinic, the social workers were always on our side
Amin (M, 35): Social work[ers]. Maria and Christine in learning English
Sabreen (F, 29): Learning English helped me communicate better with people
Douaa (F, 27): Social work[ers]
Amal (F, 44): Julie and Laura [Social workers]
Nadia (F, 38): Julie and Laura and Shaima [Social workers] and Miss Maria and Miss Christine in learning English
Emad (M, 33): Julie and Maria at the School and Christine and Lauren [Social workers]
Nada (F, 35): The social workers
Amal (F, 32): People responsible for us
Duha (F, 19): Beautiful nature and kind people
Mustafa (M, 30): What helped me was freedom of opinion, security, humanity, rights and democracy
Thalja (F, 50): Safety
Alia (F, 41): What helped was the social [worker]
Mohammad (M, 41): The presence of some families, the presence of relatives and the presence of a social [worker]
Anon (M, 38): Support workers from the council, housing, SRC, RC and experienced friends.
8. What are your hopes for the future?

Abduljouja (M, 36): A new life and a suitable job for me
Esraa (F, 25): To secure the future of my children and to master English
Maha (F, 28): I hope to educate my children [so they] reach the highest academic level, to learn English and to learn become a hairdresser
Amin (M, 35): To become healthy. To live like all other people and not suffer from any illness.
Sabreen (F, 29): To live in safety and peace with my family. That my kids would get enough education without fear of the future. To fulfil my dreams and my husband’s dreams
Douaa (F, 27): To learn English
Amal (F, 44): To secure my children’s future and to learn English
Nadia (F, 38): To secure my children’s future in terms of education and to master English because that would help me in the future
Emad (M, 33): To teach my children [get them educated] and to learn English
Nada (F, 35): That the war would end and to see my family and everyone being well, and the bloodshed would stop
Amal (F, 32): To live a new life full of safety
Duha (F, 19): That hatred and selfishness disappear from people’s hearts
Mustafa (M, 30): To study and integrate with people and establish my future, and to commit to the laws of the country and to work in the future in any field so I can serve this country and the people.
Thalja (F, 50): I do not know because I am always ill
Alia (F, 41): To learn English more
Iyad (M): To learn the language very well and to start work and to integrate into the society that gave us very much in order to adapt to the new reality
Mohammad (M, 41): To work here and to build a future for myself and my children
Anon (M, 38): Getting a good full time job.
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