Welcome to London by Tina Festus

As I dragged my suitcase past the ‘nothing to declare’ sign post, my scepticism overwhelmed me. A black man? A Nigerian? Omo Yoruba, an immigration officer in London? But he was. His accent was thick and omoish.

‘Your passport ppleasee,’ he said. His voice was more corroded than those of touts at Ijora Motor Park. I’m sure he noticed my shock. My countenance fell short of disguise. He peered at almost every page of my passport with the familiarity of someone who had once owned such document.

‘How long are you staying?’ He asked, his crossed eyes creating a monstrous demeanour.

‘Two weeks. Just two weeks,’ I said. He glanced at me as if he knew the real truth, but stamped my passport anyway.

Almost everybody at the airport looked too serious and seemed to be in such haste. Their footfalls made rhythmic piam piam piam sounds, as if they were calculated. They pushed their heavy trolleys with such ease; their faces masked with a high level of Thatcherism. My trolley posed as my first obstacle. It refused to move in a straight line. Obstinate beast. I was tempted to carry my suitcase on my head but faltered. I didn’t want to disgrace Uncle J; his warning was still fresh in my mind. As I passed the last exit sign, I saw Uncle J from a distance. Unmistakable, his skin-cut oblong head illuminated with great sheen; the gap between his upper incisors was as wide as the north and south poles, and it widened when he smiled. He had added more flesh since the he came home for mum’s funeral. He had wept bitterly as mum was lowered six feet. They were very close. For someone in London, I expected him to be dressed differently. He was shabbier than even me, fresh from Africa. Maybe his faded oversized winter coat covered the better things. He had brought a similar coat for me that smelt like a direct pick from a bail of okirika. I was already freezing. Never in my life had I imagined this kind of cold. As I stepped out of the plane into the transit bus, I felt like a corpse from the mortuary, my teeth clattering, my blood congealing gradually. But they said that winter was yet to come.

I walked into Uncle J’s welcoming arms. It was a strong, emotional hug that lasted for minutes. A dream had finally come true, after poverty and mum’s death threatened to abort it.

‘Uncle, I can’t express my gratitude, I don’t even know where to start.’

‘That’s alright, it’s my very pleasure, a promise to my sister fulfilled, so how is everyone? Your dad, your step mum, and your younger ones?’

‘They’re all happy, Uncle. They send their gratitude. It is a big relief for the entire family.’

Swallowed by the jacket Uncle J gave me, I walked behind him, struggling to keep up with his gallant strides and hoping that we would get into his car soon. We joined several confusing and scary escalators.

‘Is the car park still far, Uncle?’ I asked curiously.

‘Just follow me,’ he said harshly. ‘In London people move more on public transport. It’s cheaper and safer,’ he added as if to dilute the content of his first answer.

The train was very long and clean, all the seats occupied. People sat quietly, heads bent and hands busy on mobiles phones and other electronic gadgets as if it were rule that must be obeyed. My heart in my hand, it was my first time in a train. The movement was noisy and bumpy. With two hands, I clutched the rail with all the strength I could muster. A repetitive chorus made the passengers seem deaf: ‘Please stand clear of the door.’ My suitcase tumbled onto a man’s feet and he kicked it off as if it were toxic.

At London Bridge, we joined bus 343 and within minutes, we were at Balogun market, sorry, Peckham. The large crowd movement reminded me of the Israelites journey across the desert. Busy as a beehive: sellers, a mixture of many races, chatting and joking. I heard Yoruba spoken with ease and fluency.

‘Alaroro, baoni,’ a voice said behind me. It sounded un-African. When I turned, I saw a white man the colour of un-properly ripped banana. He was teasing Uncle J’s haggling power. The stalls were filled with every food I knew: rice, beans, egusi, yam, plantain, pepper, snail, even corn and local pear. They lacked the foods I wanted to see in a London food market. My appetite for English food began to wane: chicken in the basket, roasted salad, dissected pumpkin, vegetarian accolado. Uncle J carried my suitcase, which was lighter than the sacks I carried behind him. As I scanned the market, I longed to ask more questions. I wanted enough time to drain the fat from the flesh.

A siren blared pee-poo-pee-poo-pee-poo. Cars made emergency parking and heads turned in the direction of the siren. Suddenly, Uncle J sped off. My heart jumped as I flung the bag of shopping and ran after him.

‘Chinekee! What is happening?’ I screamed.

‘My God! What have you done?’ Uncle J asked as he turned back. Our bags were scattered on the road. Some cars had run over them.

‘The commotion! What’s happening? I’m scared,’ I said, gasping.

‘Scared, of what? The siren was an ambulance and I just ran to stop our bus.’

‘Ohoo! I didn’t know sir, everything happened in a flash, so quickly. I thought it was a bomb blast. I get easily startled these days. The Boko Haram experience is still haunting me. Very sorry, Uncle.’

‘Sorry for yourself,’ he said picking up and restocking the few undamaged items. ‘Look, this is London eh, you have to shine your eyes properly. No space and chance for mumu here. Imagine the waste,’ he said with a long sigh as we waited for our bus.

It was bus 12, en route to Dulwich library. It was the same size and colour as the bus before it, but the entrance was at the back. Molue in London, I thought. A black woman stood at the entrance, her heap of rainbow-coloured dreadlocks as high as the mountains. Her huge and intimidating frame was a plus for her kind of job: she manned the gate. As she handed me my ticket, I wondered how she managed with her household chores, her claws so long and curvy, painted in colours of all member countries of the United Nations.

Finally, we climbed to the top floor of a five-story building without a lift. My limbs were wobbly and too close to the ground. I was weak and hungry. My breath came sparingly. Supporting my frame on the handrail, Uncle J’s scolds of laziness and lousiness fell on deaf ears. I squeezed past him as soon as he opened the door and waited on the hallway to be introduced to my room, as he arranged some misplaced items in the passage. He opened another door. The kitchen was on the left and a closed door on the right with a sticker that said, ‘God’s Favourite.’ In the middle was a staircase leading down. It was like going into a hellhole. Never had I seen a downward stepping flat.

Then came the real shock: the room was nothing but a small bed, a small fridge, a twenty-one inch LCD television, a wardrobe, a small centre table, one plastic chair and a table fan. The two of us would share it. My lips fell apart but words ceased to come. Loads of questions pressured my mind. My disappointment spoke louder in the silence. Uncle J was anything but stupid. He read my mind with a magnifying glass; his feigned smile failed to smooth my dismay.

‘So, Eze, welcome to London, the heartbeat of United Kingdom,’ he began. ‘You’re now part of the system, a member of the secret society. London is a leveller; everyone is equal, as you will soon find out. Alabekee is a secret society. You have to come in to know the secret codes. If I had told you that I live in one room here, you wouldn’t have believed me. If I had told you that all we do here is work, work and work, you would have called me a liar. It’s not all bad news though. The sunny side of it: London is a land of opportunities, with menu of choices. There are two main routes: the right route orbits at a snail pace, may eventually take you to your destination over time with patience. The fast track is another route that can catapult you from the base to the apex in minutes; you must be ready for the consequences though. My happiness today is more on the fact that I’ve fulfilled my promise to your mum. From now on your siblings should be your responsibility. The big ball is now on your court.’

We moved to the kitchen, watched the rice and warmed the stew. As I analysed Uncle J’s London, my disappointment heightened and hardened even the more. This was not the London I expected, where everyone owned big luxurious houses, rode expensive cars, ate English food, went to clubs and parties, observed siesta as a matter of protocol, had drivers, cooks, and messengers, where everyone was rich, and ‘suffering’ and ‘poverty’ were not in their vocabularies. Could this be the true London?

The rice tasted nice, and I’d never had so much chicken and assorted meat before. As we ate, he sat on the bed and I sat on the plastic chair.

‘You’re a very lucky person. One of my very good friends has offered you two hours weekend cleaning job at an African restaurant in Camberwell. He said you can start this weekend,’ Uncle J said, smiling, fulfilled. My spoonful of rice suspended en route to my mouth.

‘Uncle, I have my second class upper degree certificate in petroleum engineering with me,’ I said, in case he had forgotten.

‘Let that continue to rest wherever it is for now. As I told you, London is a leveller, you’ll soon understand,’ he said.

Later, I tidied up the kitchen: a woman’s job. I wondered why he had refused to remarry since his divorce with Nkechi.

‘A woman is a necessity in every responsible man’s life.’ My dad had begun drumming this into my ears when I was ten. At twenty-three, I’d experienced enough to believe him. Women were neither saints nor evil. One woman’s sin is not enough to stain the rest.

There was a clattering noise on the door. A man came in with a bag of foodstuff.

‘Good evening sir,’ I greeted.

‘Ehee, enyia kedu?’

‘Odinma,’ I replied. He left his shopping bag next to the ‘God’s Favourite’ sticker and descended the stairs. He looked about the same age as Uncle J, though taller and darker. His tribal marks revealed him to be from the Bendel part of Nigeria. When I went into the room, a bottle of Gordon’s dry gin was bearing the brunt of their exhilaration. Uncle J was leading the discussion and spoke like someone that had made a significant achievement, which I believed he had. The total cost of trolleying me to London was enough to make him proud.

‘Nwokem, welcome to the system, I hope you won’t be his next enemy,’ the man said, gulping the last liquid from his glass. ‘The story is always the same. Nobody has brought someone from home and ended on a good note with him. Jerome may be your worst enemy tomorrow.’ He rubbed his paint-stained hand over his mouth. ‘If you choose to be different, that will be great,’ he said, standing and heading for the door.

The cleaning job was a gateway. For a couple of weeks, I earned my first pound sterling salary. Then, came the opportunity to be a security guard, a full-time job supervising the door of a large chain supermarket. I was lucky. Everything went like magic and nine months flew in a twinkle. I was fully settled. Sending money home became a monthly routine, and one that I did joyfully. Even our family status at home was elevated. Dad utilized every dime I sent. School fees were paid on time, they had meals on a daily basis, and even did minor renovations on the four-bedroom bungalow Dad built before his retirement as the village headmaster. I also sent some posed photographs of me snapped at strategic places exhibiting London’s goodness. I had learnt some slang: ‘inni,’ and ‘alright mate.’ I tried as much as possible to twist my tongue while speaking to friends back home. I was tormented getting calls from home loaded with requests from people I didn’t know. It felt great to belong to the overseas class, to be consulted about important decisions in the family, not only as the first-born son but also as a breadwinner of sorts. It was a merited right. Then suddenly, everything crumbled.

That Thursday began like every other day. The sky frowned as if in alliance with the impending doom. We all signed in at 8 am, cracked a few jokes, checked the duty board and retired to our respective duties. We’d barely worked for thirty minutes when a white Mercedes sprinter minibus drove onto the premises. Twelve fierce-looking men and women walked into the manager’s office. A call from the Manager’s office was not unusual, but the call that morning was charged with anxiety and tension. It was the sort of call I’ve heard about from those lucky enough to escape the immigration net. From that moment, I knew it was my time to tell a story: whether it was good or bad. My whole system got the signal, and I became a river of sweat. My feet felt too weak to carry my weight. I wished I could fly, or evaporate into thin air. Instead, I did what we were asked to do: lumber into the general office, where we all stood like statues in the presence of mean-looking men and women from UK Border Agency. They ransacked every corner of the office and bombarded the store manager, Mr. Lian with questions. He mixed and changed his statements. Then we were asked to identify ourselves. The man that spoke to me seemed like wickedness personified.

‘Your name, please,’ he said to me.

‘Emeka Okolo,’ I replied.

‘Date of birth?’

‘23rd April, 1988.’

‘Address?’

‘56 Devonshire Road, London, SE6 2JR.’

As he confirmed my details in the system, I fought the flood of tears that surged to wet my face. I saw my plans crumble like a house of cards; I saw perforations on my mission and my vision. I thought about my dad, my younger siblings and all the people whose lives I had impacted in my little way these past few months. I thought of my kind hearted Uncle J.

‘God, if you are still on the throne and doing miracles, let me tell this story,’ I prayed.

After what seemed like eternity, they asked some workers to go back to their stations. But for six of us, as we took our seats in the minibus, our hands lost their freedom. UK border agents must be heartless to do their job. My case was hydra-headed. The man I impersonated was a wanted terrorist. I made my true confession.

As I climbed the stairs of the aircraft that was to take me back to Nigeria, I took a last look at London, my London. As I sat in my seat with a security guard behind me, I still believed that a miracle was possible. But then the plane taxied on the runway, and I knew it would be only a couple of hours before I would fit back into my old shoes. You can only see the bad side of darkness after you’ve tasted light.

 

 

About the author:Tina Festus

Tina Festus was born and grew up in Nigeria. She graduated from University of Port Harcourt with a B.Sc in Economics. She has a great passion for writing and has written many short stories and poems. Currently she lives in London with her family. She is doing her second degree in English Language and creative writing at the University of Westminster, as well as working on her first novel.

 

Photograph © Aero Icarus

Lost Boy by Fathima Ali

Dear The Side of Your Face,

I was a lost boy from Never-Help Land. I was a boy. Then a few strangers’ quarrels escalated to a full, blown-out war and my childhood skipped adolescence straight to adulthood.

I don’t know why this is happening and I don’t think we’ll ever get the real facts. I don’t know whom it is we can trust. Here we are, Syria, a nation sandwiched in between the Aliens and the Predators like someone’s sick, twisted sci-fi movie except the budget never runs out and the credit list of names of the dead keep on rolling.

If you can’t tell by now, I am a refugee and this is a snippet of my reality.

I won’t tell you my name. If I do, you probably won’t remember and even if you did you’d just butcher the pronunciation. I’m sorry but it’s true.

Let’s just call me John Smith so it won’t terrify any of the older readers.

I had a home like yours. Well, maybe not exactly. But I had neighbours, and both my parents, relatives I could barely stand to be near at annual family functions. I had a room. I had four walls that weren’t getting shot at, a door that wouldn’t break through so easily and a roof that could withstand whatever downpour God decided to add to the madness we found ourselves in.

I don’t think of them anymore – not because I’m as heartless as I’m making myself sound right now, but because I can’t. I have no time to wallow, to grieve, to even think. Instead, I march on. I walk from city to city for miles, being turned away at every corner by every shiny suit donning official and assault rifle-bearing soldier, eating scraps for food that we have to queue and fight for like dogs. A nation of scientists, teachers, academics and pious scholars all reduced to the barbarians the media portray us to be. The dirt has become us. And we have become the dirt everyone thinks we are. We are covered in it. My own stench is unfamiliar to me. Everything around me suffocates me. I’m drowning in a sea of helpless people whose difficulties reflect mine. I get off boats in far away lands and hide in the back of strangers’ crammed vans.

Foreign journalists come from time to time with their peculiar expressions, clean faces, and cameras gripped firmly in hand, watching us from the side-lines, the way you’d observe mammals in their natural habitat. I prefer those journalists to the other ‘pro-active’ foot-jutting ones anyway.

We are constantly engulfed in the hubbub surrounding us. Everything is loud and boisterous and hot and everyone is just feeding off each other’s negativity and desperation. The constant chatter, the crying of children, and the wailing of elderly women and sighs of disgruntled men. It never ends. I prefer it that way – I may be the only one. It’s when it’s eerily quiet when you know something truly awful has just happened.

I’m angry – they say that’s to be expected at my age. I’m hungry and cold too, which is to be expected from the condition we’re in…or so they say. The statistics say a lot, more than our dead ever would.

So now we run, with the shirts on our backs and the covers on our mothers’ heads that society secretly hopes will slip off, our siblings on their hunched backs, and in turn the fear that they carry on their tiny, trembling shoulders.

I live in London now, illegally of course hence the anonymity. I don’t quite know if I like it here yet. I don’t quite know if I like it anywhere anymore, but I have to try. The weather here is cold and the stares from strangers on the street colder still, but I’d take the apathy and loneliness over a boot in my face or a bullet in my chest any day. I’d take the hard labour and little pay, I’d take the insults and the comments comparing me to the very monsters I’ve fought so hard to evade. I willingly take it all like Shakespeare’s Juliet to the blade – because the alternative is always so much worse.

I miss literature. I hated it at the time, of course. It seemed so trivial, such a waste of time. I miss the stories we used to tell each other as boys. I miss the stories of the flying boys who never had to grow up. I miss the finality of stories; I miss the certainty and relief that Captain Hook would meet his crocodile.

I think of my friends some more. I wonder how many of them will die as prey, how many will evolve and how many will turn in to something else entirely. I wonder if they’ll ever make it out of there. I wonder if I’ll ever see any of them again. I wonder if I’ll ever recognize them if I do. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop thinking about them. I wonder if I’ll ever stop questioning why it was that I lived whilst so many perished. I wonder a lot.

I am grateful. I am tortured. Mostly, I’m just tired. I work. I work hard. I work for my mother. I work for my baby sister whose trials in life have started much too early. I work for the family we left behind and the dead we couldn’t even bury.

I work because I can’t afford not to like everyone else around me.

Maybe I don’t deserve to live in London. Maybe if I had a different name, a different god and a different home, maybe then I’d be worthy.

Others believe I don’t even deserve to live. All I know is I couldn’t live in the only home I ever knew.

I don’t blame you for turning your face away. I don’t resent the fact that all I’ll ever see is the silhouette of your back or the side of your cheek. I understand.

Why should you help me?

Why should you care?

You don’t have to, but thank you to the few who did and to the few who still do.

I’d never have made it this far without you.

I just hope those other lost boys will too.

Yours patiently,

Lost Boy.

 

 

fathimaAbout the author:

Fatima Ali is a first year student at the University of Westminster studying English Literature and Creative Writing. She enjoys writing short stories and novels from unique perspectives, and hopes to be a published author soon.

 

Photograph © Chris JL

 

Modern Slavery in the UK by Jhilmil Breckenridge

When you think of the term slavery, you probably think of African slaves in the cotton plantations of North America, a hundred years ago. You think of young men and women in shackles, being sold to the highest bidder, or you think of Filipino women being sold into prostitution and abused for years.

You aren’t as likely to think of slavery in modern UK or London. Yet it exists. From nail bars to construction sites, from prostitution to domestic workers, slavery is the unseen bane that exists today, right under our noses. For instance, in 2013, three women were rescued from a house in Brixton after being held as slaves for over thirty years. What may have looked from the outside to be a normal family was actually a disturbing story of these women held in captivity, being made to do menial tasks, and having been completely brainwashed.

Or consider the flourishing nail bars that have sprouted up all over the city. Reports say that a fair number of their staff are actually bonded labour, and are being paid less than minimum wages. Furthermore, because immigration and their status here is often an issue, they just keep quiet, and work for hours in exchange for a place to stay and very little money.

It’s likely that you’ve heard of poor families being coerced with fraudulent loans in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, made to work for years and decades in brick kilns or quarries. But it is also happening right under our noses in the UK today. Consider the case of Albert[1], newly arrived from Albania, who met two men while searching for a job. They promised him work, took his passport, and paid him 3 to 5 pounds an hour, laying concrete slabs in construction sites, until he collapsed of exhaustion.

Slavery in the UK is not limited to foreign immigrants, though it does happen to them more often. In recent news was the report of a thirteen year old, lured by a family member into sex and prostitution, while being given drugs and alcohol in exchange, and being made to feel older and sexier. This continued for four years, until she finally had the courage to go to the police. She now feels angry about being robbed of four years of her childhood.

Slavery is closer than you think. This term that evokes memories of time gone by is rampant today, not just in countries you think about when the term is mentioned – like Saudi Arabia and Filipino maids, or bonded labour in India – but right under our noses here in the UK. In 2013, there were 1746 cases of slavery reported, an increase of 47% from the number of cases reported in 2012[2]. Although victims in the UK come from many countries, like: Nigeria, Romania, and Albania, 90 of the victims were UK nationals in the cases reported in 2013[3].

Modern slavery is a reality. And for all of us to be aware that slavery is not just something that happens far away, in other countries, but right here, we need to actively question the places we frequent, buy clothes from, get manicures from, and engage with, changing the reality for some people. From agriculture to cannabis farms, brothels and nail bars to construction sites, slavery still affects vulnerable people and is a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 that states: ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’ It has been many years since 1948. But we have a long way to go before slavery joins the pages of history.

[1] Name changed

[2] https://modernslavery.co.uk/index.html

[3] https://modernslavery.co.uk/who.html

 

 

About the author:644677_10152082376660655_708559998_n

Jhilmil Breckenridge was born in a sleepy town in India and travelled most of her childhood. She was always found with a book in her hands and still is! She is currently enrolled in the MA Creative Writing program at the University of Westminster. She is filled with self doubt now that she has actually embarked on the arduous journey of crafting her first novel.

 

 Photograph © Nina A.J.

Creak by Shokhan Izadin

Creak!

The fucking door again. He breathed in the stale air, huddled at the corner in the back of the truck; the truck that was his ticket to eternal freedom. The truck with the creaky door every time it met violently with a hump or dent in the road. His uncertainties were ludicrous because every single time the bloody door creaked, even though they were driving rather rapidly and he knew it was the earth below them that was the reason for the racket, he thought it would be an officer; an official, ready to tell him to retrace his steps; back to the Diaspora and further away from ‘the land of Angles.’ It had happened in Turkey, after all. They had been seven men at first; now only four remained, in the ice cold truck, the only form of heat being their own breaths and hands, rubbing desperately against each other.

He needed to take refuge; the Middle Eastern region was gradually but undoubtedly becoming the antagonist in this somewhat (not) cliché story. His family was in danger and England seemed to be the only probable solution to his complications in this radical plan of his.

A few hours later and he was stirring from the slumber he was in, to the sound of the engines turning off abruptly. In his drowsy state he couldn’t hear the muffled voices outside but they seemed assertive and authoritative. A wave of panic rushes over him as his eyes widen, looking at the men sat opposite him, with the same fear in their eyes. It was two police officers asking about the contents of the truck, as part of their procedure. His heart hammers against his chest unbearably, as he hears the rattle of the padlock on the door. He gestures for the men to rush over to his side, feeling the stab of a sharp object to his waist as they huddle together. The door on the right is flung open and he could almost taste the anxiety on his tongue, waiting as the knot in his stomach tightens for the officers to finish this dreadful, obligatory check.

‘Yepp, that’s fine.’

The door is closed again, the pain in his waist dismissed as he sighs a sigh of relief, his breath staggering.

Fucking hell. That was close.

 

APPROXIMATELY 2 YEARS LATER

‘Another one?’ He asks, finding hilarity in the way his wife held the mousetrap so far from her body, given the subject was already dead. The mouse-infested flat they resided in now was a dime compared to their previous home in Kurdistan. They had been fortunate enough in the sense a bomb hadn’t deteriorated them in the warzone they called home. A few mice weren’t an issue, especially since they were going to move in a month or so, into an actual house (words can’t begin to describe how ecstatic he was; trust me, I’ve tried).

He had early shifts; late shifts; Pizza Hut shifts; postman shifts; but it was all worth it. At first, it was hard, having had no prior knowledge of the English language, or the culture. He didn’t know beans on toast, with a side of eggs (that didn’t really seem cooked to him) and sausage was a breakfast. He didn’t know a sandwich + a drink + a snack would suffice for a lunch and he wasn’t aware of the lack of dinner. The first time his daughter had had a Prawn cocktail flavored Walkers crisp, she had compared it, in a very unladylike manner, to vomit. Sometimes, kitchen, chicken and key-chain all sounded the same but his tongue was hungry to learn more. Sometimes, rather than yes, he would shout ‘ahh,’ but he was still learning. Sometimes the weird looks he received were disheartening but another individual’s encouragement would make up for it.

———–

As a young man in Kurdistan you couldn’t have aspirations, it was either the military or taking the role of ‘father’ in your family because your own had died in the military. In London, it’s different. You see faces of diverse cultures everywhere you go but you still feel somewhat misplaced and homesick. You weren’t discriminated against here or told to go back; the Refugee Action didn’t treat you like any less of a human. Their help wasn’t dependent on your race or the religion you followed. The simple fact you were a human in need, was enough for them.

When he had first arrived in London, everything seemed so surreal. It had taken him almost a month to take in the roads, the tall buildings, the almost identical houses, so unlike Kurdistan. The weather was the one thing he couldn’t get used to. No matter how many layers he wore, he was always still cold but maybe that was one of the penalties of his journey. That journey was forever lingering, undesirably, in the back of his mind.

If nostalgia were a human however, she and I would be in a long-term relationship. Kurdistan will always be my home, in my heart. Kurds have a saying, ‘our only friends are the mountains.’ He had come to realize, in this concrete jungle, that he had more friends than just the mountains.

 

 

About the author:

FullSizeRender (1)Shokhan was born in the midst of war in a city in Kurdistan, Kirkuk. She enjoys writing fantasy though she’s recently opened her heart to creative non-fiction, thanks to Nick, her professor at Uni of Westminster. She was forced to leave her father back home in Kurdistan because of the threats from IS, so she is currently living with her uncle in London.

 

Photograph © Chris JL