Tell us more about the multi-disciplinary work you do.
I am the founding director of Lingua Media Connect LTD, providing professional Arabic and English translation, teaching and media services. I am a multilingual journalist, voice-over artist, researcher, teacher, and a translator. I have translated an Oscar-winner documentary. I like writing positive stories about culture, language, art and food.
I am Syrian. I am very lucky to have a loving and caring family the encouraged me to pursue my dreams and ambitions. I travelled to the USA on my own to study for my Bachelor degree in Political Science. Then I was teaching English at a university in Syria before I came to the UK in 2009 to study for my Masters in teaching and applied linguistics. I also spent a year in Istanbul learning Turkish and teaching Arabic and English. I have now made the UK my second home.
I am also the founder of Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Arabic for welcome), a grassroots initiative welcoming refugees to London and organizing community events. It really touches my heart when I witness all the good will in our community. I love bringing people together, and I am always inspired by the resilient determined group members who are trying to establish new lives here and with the great volunteers helping them. I have also been volunteering with various organizations and initiatives and it has been life-changing to surround myself with great people trying to make the world a better place. In the face of a tragic war and the biggest humanitarian crisis of our modern time, I personally maintain my strength by volunteering with amazing compassionate people.
In addition, drama and reading philosophy help me cope with the grief of war and loss. I am currently recording voice over for children cartoon and I hope the next generation will have a better opportunity to live in a safer place and not to experience the agony we went through!
You are currently working with refugee women on a play. What led you to get involved?
Since January, I have been coordinating the project ‘Realising Hope and Dreams’ and leading drama workshops for migrant and refugee women to help them learn English and further develop their leadership skills. Realising Hope and Dreams is a project by Scheherazade Initiatives in partnership with our grassroots initiative Ahlah Wa Sahlan Welcome, and it is funded by the National Lottery Fund. The programme is designed to empower participants and enable them to take control of rebuilding their lives in London.
In our project “Realising Hope and Dreams”, we use creative theatre activities and character work to help the participants practice their English and discuss difficulties and challenges in their life in the UK through the characters they create. Together they have created and performed the play “Lina” about a Syrian new comer to London. The performance is a forum theatre where the audience is invited to reflect, discuss and participate in the play. The audience can experience playing the role of the migrant and feel first-hand what it is like.
I feel very happy to be able to train and support the women to find their voices and to tell the stories themselves, and I feel a genuine desire to help and share my expertise in cross-cultural communications and my life in the UK. I am a refugee myself.
What led you to the career path you are on today? What were your inspirations and motivations?
I believe in the importance of seeking knowledge, and as I mentioned above, my father and mother encouraged me to travel the world to study. My biggest inspiration is the Islamic teachings about seeking knowledge. Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him said “Whoever follows a path in the pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make a path to Paradise easy for him.”Also, from a young age, I loved the fictional character of Doctor Faustus. It is one of favourite books ever. He inspired me by his desire to go beyond the limits of human abilities to gain knowledge. I dreamed of exploring the world.
I know it might sound contradictory because Faustus ends up selling his soul to the devil, something not very religious! However, I guess my love for Faustus helped me adopt the ability to respect and love people regardless of their religion or background.
What have been the most memorable moments in your life?
I have been privileged to study and teach at various universities and educational institute in many countries. I believe that teaching is the profession that creates all other professions! I also travel the world on my own, which is not very common for a young Muslim woman from a relatively conservative background.
On a more personal level, I am very happy I met the love of my life here in the UK. However, being a refugee here meant that I planned my engagement and my marriage without my family. That was great happiness and bitterness at the same time! Luckily, few months later we managed to get visas and met with our families in another country. I learnt patience, resilient and creative. There is always a way to achieve our goals.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Like many young women, one of the biggest challenges is that some people are reluctant to seeing us in leadership position. For example, in my first position as a lead teacher at a university, some of the teachers in my team had taught me when I was a student. But within a few years, I worked hard on myself and was selected to be the team leader.
I also now run my own company and there are many challenges for women in business. However, I am determined to grow and succeed. I hope to be employ more people to work with me and to contribute back to the UK economy.
What would you do to address the dialogue on Muslim women?
It really irritates me when people tend to categorize us Muslim women as one group and assume we are all the same. However, we are ordinary human beings with diverse backgrounds, different life experiences, and even different ways of worship. We have our hopes, dreams, achievements, disappointments, frustrations and struggles.