Stories from Kurdistan

This Kurdish Woman Who Fled Oppression in Syria has Graduated from a Welsh University

The following article was originally published in Wales Online in July 2016. 

A Syrian student brought to the UK with fake documents by people smugglers nine years ago has graduated in journalism.

Ronahi Hasan, who arrived in the UK without a word of English, went through Heathrow airport in the early hours of the morning after fleeing her homeland.

Kurdish mother-of-three Mrs Hasan fled Syria with her children in 2009 after being persecuted in the country.

As well as graduating with a 2:2 from the University of South Wales she was awarded the institution’s Journalism Prize for her efforts to build a new life.

Routine discrimination

Reports suggest Syria’s 1.7m Kurds, the biggest non-Arab ethnic minority in the country, face routine discrimination and harassment.

Human Rights Watch has previously called for an end to the persecution of Kurds.

Mrs Hasan said the discrimination became worse after a 2004 uprising by Syrian Kurds in the city of Qamishli.

The protests saw Kurds topple a statue of Hafez al-Assad – the father of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

At least 100 Kurds were killed as the security services re-took the city.

Mrs Hasan said: “The amount of violence increased every year incredibly.”

She said even Kurds who were active socially, without being political, were targeted.

Targeted for active social life

“Even if you were active in social life, or any sort of normal activity, you were still under risk at the time,” she added.

Following their arrival the family spent two years living in Swansea before settling in Cardiff in 2011.

Mrs Hasan, whose two sons Hozan, 22, and Rowan, 21, are at university, while daughter Iman 18, is in sixth form, said she experienced some racism when she arrived here but has since found complete acceptance.

She said: “I’m the kind of person I don’t look at the glass half-empty – I look at it half-full instead.

“This is my wisdom in life. When I come across lovely people they really encourage me and I think that I have to do something.

Happy with new life in Wales

“I have to, first of all, learn the language, which is the key point to understand the society and what’s going on around you in this country.

“Coming from a different region, a different language, atmosphere, culture – everything – it’s not that easy.”

Her husband Ali Alamin, 49, a teacher, arrived after her.

Mrs Hasan added: “I like my new life here in Cardiff even if there are some obstacles.”

She described her graduation this month as an “amazing” day.

“Seriously, I can’t express in words the feeling I had that day.

Achieved dream

“I accomplished what I wanted – to carry on my education and get that degree – my dream come true.”

She has had a couple of work placements at the BBC, in London and Cardiff, and is determined to find a job in English-language journalism.

With her husband Mr Alamin she recently opened a new restaurant in Cardiff.

If a job in journalism comes along she will leave the restaurant business to her husband and business partners who joined them in the venture.

She chose journalism because she previously wrote for a website about the plight of the Kurds.

Mrs Hasan added: “After the Syrian revolution that was the first inspiration for me to choose this course.

“Because that discrimination – not only on the Kurds but even on the Arabs – really inspired me to do something for the Syrian people.

“And for that reason I chose the journalism course.”

Access the above article in Wales Online.

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