Ahmad Mousa Matar

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Stories of Belonging,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Larnaca, Cyprus
Production Team:
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My name is Ahmad Mousa Matar, a Palestinian from Jerusalem. I was born on 28/3/1975 in Baghdad, where I used to work as a lawyer. I have resided in Cyprus since 2006. I arrived here in Larnaca right at the end of 2006, on 31st December.

When I arrived in Larnaca, I did not have any relationship with anyone here. I didn't know anyone and the situation was very difficult with a different language, religion, customs and traditions. The first three months were very hard, and I thought repeatedly of going back to Baghdad. I would have returned there if things had been a little better. But the situation in Iraq worsened, forcing me with no choice but to flee. I was forced to stay here in Larnaca, and at that time the Cypriot government offered many resources to ease the process for us. When I came and applied for asylum, I completed all the necessary identification papers and the Allen Bok in one day. While at the same time, 21 Arab countries refused to grant me a Visa at the time.

We arrived in Cyprus illegally but the government provided all the facilities. I have a family - I am married and we had two children at the time.

I stayed in the Makenzie area. I didn’t know anything about the city, not even where the supermarket was. I walked every day for about four hours around the city and its surroundings, until I discovered the country. At the first opportunity, I looked for a job. The first place I went was the court, the place I love, the place of my specialism and my work. I was surprised because I was a well-known lawyer in Baghdad. I was amazed by the cleanliness, order and arrangement of the courts. From then on, I wanted to learn the language and start the process of having my certificates recognised. However, according to the laws in Cyprus, only those who have a residence are allowed to work. At that time, I was an Asylum Seeker who had the right to work in farms and abattoirs etc. As per the law, I worked on a farm with an abattoir about an hour and a half from Larnaca. I was able to work there, thank God, and they told me that the law restricted me to a particular kind of work and I must abide by this. I worked there for a year and a half. Working in a job that was not mine by trade was difficult for me, but there was no way to escape this. Later, I worked as a taxi driver in Larnaca for a year. I was wronged and faced some problems - unfortunately - from the Arab community living there. But the Cypriot government has half me.

A year later, I started work at the Cypriot Ministry in the Asylum Service Department as an English-Arabic translator. I worked there for about a year and a half. Later, friends living abroad who had professional occupations and worked in trade helped me to find work in the auto parts trade. I established a small company, which is still operating.

In 2020, I opened a second company, Paddy Shop, for repairs and painting cars. Unfortunately, most of the Arab community in Cyprus is unemployed! Communicating with the Arab community is not right if you are working since it will undermine the unemployed. Due to the nature of my work, I have had relationships with Cypriots and these have been a success. Of course, these relationships, unlike Arab relationships, are very limited. For example, as Arabs, we share a wedding or marriage or sermons or a hangout or even a party. So, these relationships do not live up to the Arab level of hospitality, to be honest, but they are still  true relationships.

Can you imagine that I have had my company for about eight or nine years? In Cyprus, so far, I have no "check-in" sales. We have all "checks", which is an indication that there is confidence in the law and trust in Cypriot society.

Good, simple, Middle Eastern society, close to us.

One of the most important success factors for work is honesty. The Cypriot people, in general, are sincere and honest. Thank God, I have not personally had any social or commercial problem with Cypriot society.

I have many experiences due to the nature of my work. Practically, there is support from Cypriot society when they see you as ambitious, successful and hardworking. Thank God, I am very happy that I am in Cyprus, and I have no comment on the Arab community!

There are family-level relationships, personal relationships, but on both sides the relationships are good. Trust a friend who stands with you, or give you the right advice. As foreigners from a country of customs, traditions and a very different religion, we always need advice, you need to be advised. The Cypriot people are very positive with advice and not negative, and that is why I continue to have relationships with them, and I, God willing, am sincere to all.

This is a summary of my relationships with Cypriot society, family and individual friendly relationships based on trust, whether commercial or social.