London

Young London Syrians travel to country to support protest

  • 24 March 2012
  • From the section London

As the violence and unrest in Syria continues a number of young Syrians raised in London are travelling to the country - and risking their lives - to support the protest movement aiming to topple the regime of President Assad.

'Mohammad' is in his early twenties and lives in west London. He is closely involved with activists both here in the capital and in the Middle East. But he is frustrated at being unable to do more.

"For me living in London, not knowing Syria and never having been there I never thought of going back to my country, but just seeing all the bloodshed whilst sitting here in London not doing anything, I feel like I'm useless," he said.

"I have to sacrifice whatever I can to help this revolution succeed."

Mohammad, who does not want to be named, plans to travel to Syria in the coming weeks.

Raising awareness

More than 8,000 people have been killed there in the past year according to the United Nations. Mohammad knows that going to support activists there could mean he will not return to the UK.

"If you see all the blood that is shed in Syria you don't even think about your own life," he said.

Ahmad El Khalaf, 22, from north London is already in Syria.
Ahmad El Khalaf, 22, from north London was an aspiring rapper

"Being a proud Syrian who has done something for his country that's what's important - death doesn't matter to me."

"I tell my mother there are thousands of mothers who have lost their sons. If I die she will just be the same as any other mother in Syria."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised political reform, but observers and his opponents have dismissed his plans as window-dressing.

Ahmad El Khalaf, 22, from north London is already in Syria.

Growing up he was an aspiring rapper, but as the protests unfolded in Syria he became increasingly politically conscious.

He started writing songs about the violence, and became a leading anti-Assad activist in London.

Last week, the former tube engineer smuggled himself into Syria.

His sister Balkis told BBC London he hopes to raise awareness in the UK of what is happening in the country, by uploading video footage to the internet.

His latest video purportedly shows the funeral of a member of the opposition Free Syrian Army.

Ahmad El Khalaf's sister
Ahmad El Khalaf's sister said she felt very proud when I see the clips he has filmed

More than 80 of Ahmad's relatives have been killed in the past year, so his sister knows all too well the dangers he is facing.

However, his family has long opposed the Assad regime.

"He cares about people and humanity and has such a strong sense of justice," she said.

"He wanted to go as soon as the revolution started.

"It was not a difficult decision for him at all.

"I do worry sometimes, especially when I look at the videos of his and I hear the bombings in the background.

"But it's more pride I feel, I feel very proud when I see the clips he has filmed."

The Foreign Office advises against all travel to any part of Syria and warns it cannot provide consular assistance to British nationals in the country.

But Mohammad says there are plenty of other young Syrian-Londoners just like him - all wanting to help bring democracy to the homeland of their parents.

Mohammad's name has been changed at his request to protest his identity.