Speaking for Ourselves

Ratip's story: working tirelessly to build stronger communities

Ratip's story: working tirelessly to build stronger communities

Ozichi Emeziem

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Ratip's story: working tirelessly to build stronger communities

Ratip is a dedicated community organizer whose work has ranged from accounting to web design and spread across different communities as seen through his volunteer service and fluency in languages including Arabic, Turkish, Greek, as well as English. Most recently he has stood for election as an MP as he strives to advocate for people who either feel underrepresented or unheard in government. 

Born and raised in Deir ez-Zoor, his roots lay in Syria while his story expands beyond its borders. Unlike the present-day associations of Syrian migration with people fleeing war, Ratip moved abroad under different conditions, like the majority of this time who were not seeking asylum. In 1991, with encouragement from his family he attained a student visa to the UK where he attended Middlesex University and graduated with a degree in Informational Technology. He continued his education with a Masters in Leadership at Metropolitan University as he felt that these fields would not only help him develop his skills but allow him to reach his ultimate goal: helping people. 

Upon completion of his studies the political situation at home looked less and less ideal. Without stable democracy at home there was very little room to implement what he had spent the past years studying or to help others the way he wanted to. Instead he began to build a life abroad because “in this country [UK], there was freedom, you could speak your mind, which is an important thing. Back home I couldn’t speak my mind because if I said anything against the government I would be taken away and interviewed by the secret service”. 

Then came the Syrian Civil War. 

In the early months of 2011, pro-democracy uprisings spread across Syria beginning in the city of Deraa which over the next years unravelled into a muddled, multi-layered, and violent conflict. As Ratip witnessed the flood of displaced Syrians fleeing their country to places like the UK he realized that many of his countrymen needed support once they arrived.  

Helping those in need is not something new for Ratip. His previous volunteer positions with Ethiopian and Somalian charities “brought [him] to the voluntary sector and when [he] met people from different cultures and religions it opened [his] mind.” 

That would later become very useful.

With the sudden transformation in Syria, Ratip quickly recognized that “I could do something similar for the community where I come from” as many would need help to rebuild their lives abroad. 

Subsequently, he mobilized to bring aid to those who found themselves trying to heal and build a new life in a new country. Along with others he founded the British Syrian Education Centre, which assists its members in their cultural adjustment to the UK. “I saw a charity as a big way to help people. It could educate them, but it could also raise their voice in the government, the local authority, in Parliament. We could speak for these people through the charity”.

Another important feature was to establish community, which he believes is important to combat isolation as well as loneliness, and on a larger scale, assists integration. “As a Syrian here [UK] we are not actually a proper community. We have certain people here, certain people there, all over London. So, we thought we’d make a community and this community could be like a house or a place for everybody”. The charity has become an important cultural hub that does activities around art, music, and poetry that encourages its members to connect and build relationships that ground them in their new home. 

In a recent case where a Syrian man living in the UK was held in a detention center awaiting deportation to Bulgaria where he was initially fingerprinted. Ratip and several others of the education centre were able to contribute funds and hire a solicitor who managed to get the man released from detention. 

For Ratip, democracy is the answer to bring about sustainable change in Syria. However, for Syrians who are currently in the UK he hopes to help them successfully acclimate in Britain through building community- an important response in the face of anti-migrant hostility across Europe. 

Working with his charity is one way for Ratip to help build a better society, but he would like to further reach this goal through politics. With a 15-year involvement in the Labour Party, which has allowed him to study its policies and interact with officials such as Mayor Sadiq Khan as well as Jeremy Corbyn MP, Ratip envisions being in Parliament as a means to be “the voice for the voiceless”. 

In order to become an official MP, one must be established with a political party then nominated by 10 Parliamentary electors from that party after a lengthy application. Ratip has undergone the application process twice as he feels this platform will allow him to better serve his local community.  

He sees it as a way for him to promote the values of peace, justice, and equality, and hopes to secure better education so that people can become politically engaged, understand the system, and avoid a cyclical trap that comes along with being unaware of policies, laws, and rights. 

Ratip continues to be an ambassador for disadvantaged populations ranging from British citizens to refugee and foreign communities who might not be familiar with politics and cultural norms. This entails his charity work as well as his continuous engagement with politics and advocacy on behalf of these communities with media, parliamentarians as well as the Home Office. 

Ratip has made a home for himself in the UK with his wife and four children, but he carries Syria with him as his childhood memories of a tight knit community where the whole neighborhood was one huge family echoes in his passion. It is that sentiment of camaraderie, compassion, and human value that he hopes to instill amongst people, Syrian or not, refugee or not, in the UK.  He hopes that the UK can truly be an inviting new home for those who need a fresh start, sanctuary, or a better life, and that “if we all work close together, we will be rich and powerful in our shared culture”.