“Our Main Goal As a Family Is Education”

What do you think of when you hear the label ‘refugee’? Diane Lemieux interviews Manar Aburshaid and busts a few stereotypes.

Whatever image the word refugee elicits, it is certainly not the charismatic, intelligent face of Manar Aburshaid. Had I met Manar six years ago, I would have used words like businessman and entrepreneur to describe him. Back then, Manar employed 200 people in his factory in Damascus, producing acrylic, polyester and cotton yarn.

In 2013, Syrians awoke to the realisation that [so-called] ISIS had taken over half the country. “At that point I decided that I had to find a solution. At 18, my sons would be dragged into the war and would lose their future.”

Never once in the story did Manar see himself as a victim of circumstance, as a pawn in someone else’s game. Even when faced with the Dutch government’s attempt to turn him into a faceless, powerless ‘refugee’, he was determined to keep agency in his own hands and work to achieve his goals. He even returned the loan given to him to help set up his apartment. “I don’t want it; I will manage my new life totally on my own.”