Auction of paintings by tortured Iraqi artist raises thousands for other victims in the North East
The work of an Iraqi artist, who fled torture in his home country and settled in Middlesbrough, has been auctioned to help others in the same situation.
Ausama Al Khalil was haunted by the trauma of being kidnapped, tortured, and seeing his business partner in Iraq executed in front of him.
Tragically, Ausama took his own life in Middlesbrough in 2017 aged just 49.
He left his collection of unsold paintings to his friend John Hinman, from Swainby in North Yorkshire, who decided to auction them for charity.
John said: "Ausama loved Middlesbrough, really loved it, it was his home.
"He used to say, although I live in Baghdad, I belong to Middlesbrough. So it was very sad that despite all this, ultimately things became too much for him."
Ausama had a successful interior design business in Iraq and had reluctantly worked on Saddam Hussain's palaces.
It is believed that may have been the reason he and his business partner were kidnapped by a rival faction and tortured.
Friends helped him flee from Iraq to the UK where he claimed asylum and lived in Middlesbrough for more than a decade.
His artwork has now been auctioned off, with proceeds going to Freedom from Torture's Newcastle centre.
The charity's services manager Mel said: "All of our clients are survivors of torture. Everybody's case is different and we see people from all over the world who have experienced lots of problems but Ausama's story is typical."
The auction raised almost £7,000, which will be split between Freedom from Torture and the Baghdad Children's Hospital.