by PJ Cunningham
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BARBER’S PLEA – Please give my elderly parents in Syria visitors visas so they can see their grandchildren here before it is too late

PJ Cunningham

He is well known as ‘The Turkish Barber’ across Dublin but Mohammed Akram Badereddim is in fact a Syrian who was forced to flee the war-torn country over a decade ago.

And this week the man who turned 51 on St Patrick’s Day has made an impassioned plea to the Irish government to allow his parents, now in their mid-eighties, to see their grandchildren after such a long absence by issuing short-term visitors visa to them.

Already they have been turned down several times by the Irish Consulate in Damascus without ever giving a clear reason for their refusal.

Read more in this weeks Dublin Gazette out in stores now

“When the war started, we had to leave in a hurry because my barber’s shop in Damascus was blown to pieces by a rocket,” explained Akram, who runs his shop in Harold’s Cross and has another in Blanchardstown.

“Luckily my wife Tamara  is an Irish citizen and unlike many others in our situation, we were able to relocate to her native Dublin. When I got set up and settled here, my aim was to make sure my parents could keep in touch with our three children, two girls and a boy who I carried in my arms to Ireland.

“That took a bit of time as I had to save up money so they could travel. We were only able to contact them sporadically because more often than not the telephones and wifi would be bombed and it made it all the more important to us here to see if we could get them over.

Akram outside his Barber shop

However we were crestfallen when they were refused any sort of hearing by the Irish Consulate in Syria. I don’t know why that is the case because everything we were doing has always been above board.

“My father Omar is now 85 and both he and my mother, Intsar, fear they will never get to see their family again if they don’t come this summer.

“Syrians are very family oriented and I also have three sisters and a brother there but in different parts of the country.

“I would love to go back myself but because of the situation there, it would be very dangerous for me or my family to return. It has been made all the more hazardous with the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, the tremors of which were felt by my family 400 kilometres away in Damascus. The husband of one of my sisters wasn’t so lucky and died leaving four children behind him.

“I miss my family and they miss us. We don’t want to do anything illegal – just get the opportunity to see them for the first time since we arrived here in 2011. My daughter is now studying law in Trinity College.. We are very proud of her as she got 560 points in the Leaving. My other daughter Linda is in transition year and Omar junior is now 16 and they would love to get to know their extended family on my side.

“During the last election I asked a number of politicians if they could help but nothing happened and I am at my wit’s end because I don’t know how to follow up or whether it is the Department of Justice or Foreign Affairs that might help.”?

Akram is  very popular with his customers and has worked hard to make a life for himself and his family since arriving here 12 years ago.

Living in Lucan, he began working for Asad, the original Turkish Barber, who was from Turkey in Lucan before transferring to Harold’s Cross. After two years, he got a job with the Grafton Barbers in Jervis St and stayed there for one year.

By that time Asad had failed to find someone as good as Akram in Harold’s Cross shop and asked him to buy the business. He agreed and explained that there were two reasons behind leaving the name as it was.

“Asad rightly made the point that Irish people holiday in Turkey a lot and had become used to the services Turkish Barbers offered and I would be starting off from scratch as a Syrian barber. It was good advice but the truth is I didn’t have the money to change the sign.

“I’ve been here now almost for seven years and the business is going really well. I don’t want anything for nothing from this country which has been good to me. I pay my taxes and try to live like a good citizen.

“I love Ireland but like the Irish abroad I want to keep in touch with my family in my own country. The best way to do that is if I pay for them to come over and stay with me and my wife and family. I would love to know why the consulate feels my parents should be turned down for  a holiday visa – which is all we seek. If they don’t do it soon, it may be too late and that is just not fair for my own children.”

Akran understands that Irish people wouldn’t know much about Syrian culture and how family is central to that culture. “They have learned a little about us because of the war and more recently the earthquakes.

“Life was good there until the war began. After that centuries of muslims and christians living together side by side changed with different religions – sunny, shi’ites etc all becoming involved and not talking to each other. That has led to deep distrust in different segments of society and this is one reason I don’t want to comment on the politics involved in current day Syria.

Life is tough there now and with less international focus than before, it means there is less support for families. Wages are low, about 20 euro a month while sanctions against medicines and pharmaceuticals there hit the most vulnerable worst.

Click on link to read more in this weeks Digital Editon – Dublin Gazette – Digital Edition – March 23, 2023 – Dublin Gazette Newspapers – Dublin News, Sport and Lifestyle


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