Firas Al Younis

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Peaceful Coexistence in the Diaspora,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Berlin, Germany
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Firas Al Younis is an accomplished engineer who lives in Berlin. He is from a family of 10 children, and he and his brother are the only ones to have attended college (because of the war). He left Deir Ezzor in 2014, was active in Syria and escaped arrest and assassination. He had to terminate his engineering studies as a result of his peaceful civic activities, which included starting an association to educate children with no access to school, and leading graffiti, tree planting, and hygiene campaigns. He was hunted by the regime for these activities and fled to a liberated region in Syria before fleeing to Turkey. There, his parents lived for 6 years in tents. After 4 months, he crossed the water and then mostly walked to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Budapest and finally Germany, with two arrests and brief imprisonments. He went to Germany as he has family there.

He works 10 official hours a week, training in the Chamber of Public Works and Industry in Germany. He will soon finish his studies in engineering. He first worked in a supermarket for 10 weeks.

Upon arrival, he did not wait for his residency permit or formal language classes to learn German but worked very hard at teaching himself through YouTube. He was the first of the Syrian refugees to arrive in a small German town, and there was fear. They had a town meeting and he attended, discussed with people, and learned to socialize with them, making many German family friends.

Firas finished all six possible German language levels in a single year, and now acts in the theater in German. He texted his German friends and requested corrections until he no longer needed such help. He says he now speaks so fluently that no one knows his is not German. He says he is not unusual and that there are many Syrian refugees like him. He explains that the hardship and suffering he lived through in Syria made him very determined and hard-working, bent on serious educational pursuits. He wanted to fully enter and understand German society to be able to study and fulfill his career ambitions.

He is a translator in German government departments such as the department of immigration. Through this work he met a woman who set up a storytelling association and he participates in this. He is also working on a documentary film about Syrian refugees. He has many friends – as many German friends as Arabs and Syrians. It was helpful that he was first located in a small town I Germany because this helped him learn German and make friends. In Berlin he was able to make Syrian and other Arabic-speaking friends.

He has a scholarship, enough to live on, and has just received a job offer from Simmons. He attends engineering forums all over Germany and participates in a program established by a group of companies that have refugee integration programs. He now travels all over Germany speaking about diversity management and explaining how to integrate immigrants into the workforce. He attends conferences and gives talks at engineering forums as well as at public meetings concerning Syria.

Firas has spoken English very well since in college in Syria but feels he lost some fluency when learning German. Now he is working on bringing his English back up to a higher standard.

In Germany, he says, he learned time management, and feels he accomplishes a great deal each day.

He always maintains that he is Syrian but he also feels a sense of belonging in Germany. He has suffered from racist incidents there, which he spoke about on TV. He has participated in workshops that teach people how to deal with racist aggression. However, he is not angry with Germany for having some racist people and is still happy to be here. He feels that in Syria, if you want to work and succeed the road is blocked but in Germany it is open.