Syrian shopkeeper's second chance at grocery store dreams after spate of racist attacks

Syrian shopkeeper Ahmad Alkhamran has finally welcomed customers into his Falls Road grocery store after being intimidated out of south Belfast.

Mr Alkhamran had fitted out a grocery store on Donegall Road last September but before it opened, the shop was the target of four racist attacks in two weeks.

Six months later, the shop owner has opened a new store on the Falls Road.

"It was very hard for me.... it was a nightmare to be honest but I left that behind me and always I look for positive, always look for the majority of people whose nice and they say you are welcome here," Mr Alkhamran told UTV.

Ahmad fled the war in Syria almost ten years ago, spending the last decade working in Belfast and saving money for his grocery store dream.

While initially feeling nervous about starting over after his first shop was destroyed, Ahmad was given a boost by the Falls Road community who gave him a warm welcome.

"The community here, they helped me. A lot of different people call me, some people they come to my house and show their solidarity. It gives me something very very positive to leave the past... to look for the future. When I see that, the support around me, I keep going and I find my place here."

Local SDLP councillor Paul Doherty helped Ahmad set up on the Falls Road.

"One of the first things we did when we got the keys to the premises was walk around the community and knock doors and the welcome he got from people in this community was absolutely heartwarming.

"It gave him a real lift, his head was down, he went through a traumatic experience on Donegall Road, Ahmad has gone through a traumatic experience throughout his life in terms of fleeing Syria as well, so he didn't deserve what he went through in south Belfast but for him to go through this here and this real positivity and a community really coming together and rallying round him, it's just such a beautiful thing to see."

Ahmad hopes his store will bring the diverse community of west Belfast even closer together.

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