Ayman Hirh was a successful marble and granite trader in the Jobar district of Syria’s capital, Damascus, before the escalating political situation in his country drove him and his family into exile. Because of his involvement as an activist in the 2011 uprising and President Al-Assad’s subsequent crackdown on any and all dissent, Ayman was forced into hiding before he was able to borrow $2,000 to bribe government officials to renew his passport and make his escape. He arrived at Heathrow airport in January 2012 and was swiftly relocated to Glasgow before reuniting with his family to build a new life in the UK. Ayman currently lives with his wife, Iman, and two children, Bishir and Bassil, in Edinburgh.
I met Ayman and his family just as this new mural, featuring his portrait and story, was finished on Camden Mews this afternoon. With his wife by his side and his children playing happily nearby, Ayman was visibly elated with how the piece, by street artist PANG turned out. I shook his hand and he was kind enough to let me take a picture of him with the piece. The mural reads:
“I am Ayman and I am a refugee from Syria. I was granted asylum in the UK in 2012. I was a successful businessman selling marble and granite across Syria, and living with my wife and two sons in the Jobar district of Syria’s capital Damasus, Every night before we go to sleep, we remember our home. I love my flat in Damascus more than Buckingham Palace. When I look at my children and see that they are happy and living a normal life, I think immediately of all the children still in Syria. #TheLongRoadEP.”
The mural was created to spotlight the plight of millions of refugees who have fled Syria since 2011, as well as to publicize The Long Road, a concept album due for release by The Red Cross on March 4th. The record is inspired by the real-life stories of refugees and asylum seekers and brings together major international artists including Robert Plant, Scroobius Pip, Kindness, Tinariwen and the Sierra Leone Refugees Allstars.
Ayman’s story had a happy ending, however, it is estimated that around 4.6 million Syrians are currently living as refugees, while an expected 6.6 million have been displaced within Syria; half of these are children.