After becoming a political activist while at university in the 1980s, Iranian-born Ahmad* was forced to abandon his studies and leave the country. Not wishing to endanger his family, he fled to Iraq without notice and left only a note explaining his departure.
For the next 23 years, Ahmad lived in Iraq until – following the second Gulf War – he was taken into custody by the Iraqi authorities. Unable to leave his accommodation, he was stranded and had no way to contact his family – until the Red Cross stepped in.
Ahmad said: “The only safe messenger I could find was the Red Cross’ international family tracing , which connected me to family members in the UK. I could always count on anything with the name or badge of the Red Cross. People on any side of the globe know that the white and red sign means trust.”
Having contacted family members in the UK, Ahmad was eventually able to join them there. And once again, the Red Cross stepped in when he most needed help. The refugee orientation project in Portsmouth provided Ahmad with food vouchers and clothes, and caseworkers to help him settle in his new home.
He recalled: “From the simplest things to the most complicated problems, they gave me the kind of help you cannot put a price on. The volunteers and staff are really experienced in their work and have a lot of patience. Without them I would not have been able to get past these first six months. I am sure of that.”
It has been a long journey, but 50-year-old Ahmad has now been reunited with his UK-based father and younger brother and they live together in Portsmouth. Life is looking up, and he’s even getting ready to apply for university to resume his studies, but he’ll never forget the Red Cross’ help.
As he put it: “I am a volunteer interpreter now for the Red Cross. Any time they need me I’ll be here.”
*Name has been changed.
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