My story begins in Lebanon, a once-beautiful Mediterranean country that wasn’t always at war. With beautiful landscapes infused with Levantine culture, the country was attractive to many. My grandfather started a family there because he wasn’t allowed to do so in Syria, his birthplace. As a successful businessman, he was unwelcomed in a communist country. My father grew up there with big dreams. But wars cost livelihoods. My father dropped out of university because he couldn’t afford the fees and went to America seeking a brighter future.
Unable to find a good job in the U.S., my father returned to Lebanon. With no job prospects, he resumed school and completed his bachelor’s. While visiting family in Syria, he met my mom and decided to marry her. Penniless, they honeymooned in a shabby flat with newspapers as window coverings.
Dad worked several jobs to save up for a Gulf trip. In 1991, they flew to Kuwait because it was close and promising. My sister was then born in 1995, and my family began to form.
In 1997, my parents moved to Dubai, where my dad got a job at an international bank. He worked day and night, so his family could live decently.
In 2000, the bank fired my dad. Later, he learned that his Syrian nationality was the reason. Soon after, they closed his bank account for the same reason. Many countries then decided that Syrians were not welcome across the world.
Incomeless, with two kids to raise, this was a difficult time for my parents. My dad persisted and got a job with a consulting firm.
In 2006, I was born in Dubai. I had no ties to Syria other than my father’s Syrian passport. Thanks to my U.K.-born mother, my siblings and I got British citizenship. We could easily travel to the UK and elsewhere. Unlike us, my father struggled to travel with his Syrian passport, because his job mandated frequent travel, my dad spent his life savings to acquire a European passport. This made life much better for us.
In 2017, my grandfather had a stroke. In critical condition, he couldn’t speak or move. Unable to chew or swallow, he was fed through his nose. We were stunned and eager to care for him. In the Spring of 2017, we travelled to Lebanon to be near him.
As we landed in Beirut, we had problems with passport control as they started to interrogate us with questions regarding our family history. When they realised that my father was from Syria, they had questioned why my older brother was not sent to the military at the age of 18, even though we all entered with British citizenship. Due to this, we were all in panic as we expected to be denied entry into the country and face future issues regarding our Syrian history.
However, after a lot of work, the production of various documents and several difficult discussions with officials, they let us go. All of this saga happened because my dad was born in Syria.
Stories like mine are, sadly, all too common. Millions are profiled because of their birthplace. Refugees are innocent victims who continue to suffer purely because of where they are born. This is unjust and unfair.
At the Scottish Youth Parliament, our policies and values oppose discrimination in any form. I hope that my story emboldens our commitment to tackling discrimination and empowers my fellow MSYPs to continue to work together to create a better tomorrow.