When was about 15 years old, I worked at a pharmacy, I was receiving a salary and I wanted to be a pharmacist, so I saved some money and my family, they are in a good, not great, but they are in a good financial situation and I said to my mom, I’ve got money and she said “good, what do you want to do with it” and I said, literally I said, I don’t want anything and she said let’s go shopping. It was like the first thing I got with my money, with my own money and my mom said just enjoy it and it still has a special place in my heart and it is the first thing I did for myself with my money.
I’m from Syria. I’ve been living here in Hastings since October 2019, so it’s been three and a half years. It’s been an amazing three years because I arrived just before the pandemic and after five months the lockdown started and life changed. I was actually lucky because it was my time just to improve my English, improve my life and it wasn’t that bad for me. I’ve been living in the same flat since I came, I didn’t change, I didn’t move around, I stayed where I am so since the beginning I arrived in that flat and I’m staying there now.
I had to leave Syria because of the war, it was impossible to stay there, so I decided to go to Turkey. I stayed there about three years and I was living in Istanbul. I applied for resettlement here and I came through the United Nations. Everything moved fastly at the beginning but then I was waiting about two years to get my visa. I came by air, from Istanbul to the UK. Hastings was the first destination. You can’t choose, because you give them your information, they say okay, you’ve gotten accepted by the UK. But when you get accepted from the UK your information moves around in the UK, so the councils, the local authorities see your file and they say okay, we need this one to be here, we need this one to be there, and I’ve gotten accepted by the Hastings Council and when they called me they said you’ve been chosen by the Hastings Council, do you agree to go there, I said yeah, why not, at least I can stay at one place.
In Turkey it was a bit difficult for me, because there is racism and there is no life for us, people in my situation, I mean my sexuality, because I’m gay. It was part of why I left Syria, it was part of the reason except for the war and this is why I couldn’t continue to stay in Turkey, because it’s very difficult for us to stay there, it’s unsafe. If we compare between Syria and Istanbul, Istanbul is of course more progressive. But still, they are very conservative, if you wear shorts they will come to you and say this is haram, unacceptable. For example I was travelling, at the beginning, because I didn’t want to let my beard grow, they would come to me and say you have to let your beard grow, you are a man. Ok this is my choice, it’s not any other person’s choice. There is no freedom, they are very conservative and they are very narrow-minded. If we compare, Turkey is amazing, I love the country, the country is beautiful and so beautiful atmosphere, beautiful landscape, historical places everywhere, but the people.