The Syrian refugee on rebuilding his dreams, winning awards and knowing when it was time to flee his home

  • Watch the Welsh Lives report by Adeola Dewis 


A Syrian refugee resettled in Cardiff has won a Royal Television Society Award for a film he created documenting his experiences of fleeing his homeland.

In an in-depth interview with ITV Cymru Wales' Welsh Lives programme, Issa Farfour discussed his Syrian upbringing and how his dreams of becoming a journalist looked shattered by the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

Issa Farfour recalled the time he knew he had to get out of Syria

Issa, having only just moved to Damascus to begin his journalism studies when conflict broke out, said it was the behaviour of the army that triggered his instincts to leave the country; something that launched his perilous journey to the UK and its relative safety.

"I had a bad experience with the army when they came," he said.

"They didn't open my room, they broke the door and then they came in.

"[There were] a lot of attempts, a horrible time to be able to make it to the UK. It was tough, it took me six months of struggle every single day.

Issa was able to cross the border into neighbouring Turkey and ultimately reach the United Kingdom.

"I went through countries, went through a lot of bad experiences from crossing borders, meeting horrible people and being on a ship with like 700 refugees," he explained.

"I went through a lot of bad experiences on my way to the UK."

The Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 when the Arab Spring prompted uprisings across the Arab world

Issa successfully made it to the UK in 2015 and was sent to Cardiff after claiming asylum.

Even before being forced to flee his native homeland, Issa had dreamed of living in the UK.

He said: "I was a big dreamer, always wanting to go and travel, explore, meet people, learn languages and achieve my dreams.

"I remember when I was 15 years old I used to write in my notebooks, the UK is the country of my big dreams.

"I don't know why the UK if you asked me, but that's what I dreamed."

Looking back on his early years, Issa said he was fortunate to have a secure and stable upbringing in Syria.

He said: "I had a wonderful life in Syria, very simple, very peaceful , very nice. I grew up in a loving caring family. We had a little mini market. I used to help my Dad in there while studying as well. All my Dad wanted was for us just to do education."

Issa pictured in his earlier student days in Syria Credit: Handout

Once Issa fled his country, the civil war in Syria raged on, and he was accepted to study journalism at Cardiff University.

It was during his time at university that Issa created a film documenting his life and his family's struggle to be reunited in the UK.

Winning a student award from the Royal Television Society, Issa said it meant a great deal to him after everything he had come through.

"That film was a big part of me and means to me a lot," he said.

"I know it’s tough and difficult but means to me a lot because I have done this. I have achieved this and now I am filming, documenting my own family’s experience.

"It’s lovely, big dreams I am wanting to achieve and I’m doing it".


See more of Issa's story on Welsh Lives on ITV Wales 1 March at 8pm.