1. In 2012, Mahmoud and his family fled their hometown of Aleppo, in Syria, as civil war raged in the country.
2. They settled in Egypt, renting a small flat in the suburbs of Cairo.
Not long afterwards though, with the huge unrest in the country and subsequent removal of President Mohamed Morsi, public opinion turned against Syrians seeking refuge in Egypt.
3. Mahmoud became the victim of bullies and was physically attacked. Afraid and unable to attend school, the young boy refused to leave his family’s apartment.
“I wanted to leave because there is no school here and I don’t have friends,” Mahmoud said in 2013.
“They hit me all the time.”
4. Mahmoud’s father Mohamed Farid also saw no future for his eldest child in Egypt and eventually took the harrowing decision to put his son on an illegal boat to Italy, alone.
5. He said at the time:
No one sends their son out into the world alone unless they live in real fear.
Our lives are too difficult here.
6. However, the boat Mahmoud took was fired upon before it even left Egyptian waters.
The young boy then spent the next five days in a detention centre without his family.
When he returned to Cairo the bullying resumed but he remained resolute.
7. “I have a dream that one day we will have a new house in a better place. I will go to school and make new friends,” the incredible young boy declared.
8. What happened next turned his and his family’s life around.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presented Mahmoud’s case to the Swedish government after it began accepting Syrain refugees and in December 2013, Mahmoud and his family were informed they were being relocated.
9. In January of this year, the family flew to Sweden and travelled to the small town of Torsby where they would start their new lives.
11. “When I first heard I was going to travel, I was so happy,” said Mahmoud.
12. “I have travelled twice before in my life, but the last two times we travelled we were escaping. And this time I am going to live a new life.”
13. Initially shy, Mahmoud soon settled in and can now introduce himself in simple Swedish.
“I was so happy when I saw the school. And I was happy I made some new friends,” the nine-year-old said.
“Now I just want to live a new life, far from violence, killing and war.”
14. “If a boy asks me about my life before, I will tell him that it was difficult, but it is better now.”
15. Watch these videos for more on Mahmoud’s remarkable story:
- In a landmark prison reform decision, California has agreed to a settlement that will effectively end indefinite solitary confinement in the state. ›