M came to the UK when he was 16. He is Kurdish but lived in Syria and talks about some of his experiences.
The Kurdish people have no country of their own so have to live in other countries.
In Syria I went on demonstrations calling for Freedom for Kurds. This was because we were not allowed to speak our own language, even at school. Kurdish people could stand for election but the Arab Government interview the candidate and will not put them on the ballot paper if they do not like them. In fact, my official name is not M because that is a Kurdish name. My father was not allowed to call me this, so he had to change my name when he registered my birth.
I went on demonstrations in Syria because I don’t think this is right. We were not allowed to celebrate our festivals, sing our songs or buy Kurdish books. No Kurdish music could be played on the radio, so we listened to Iraqi radio. The Kurdish language in Iraq is different but the style of the music is the same. Many Kurdish people were also refused passports.
When I first started demonstrating I thought it would be safe, as we were peaceful and just shouted and waved placards. We just wanted freedom and our rights.
The police began to get more aggressive and started throwing stones at us and once they fired guns in the air. Then, during one demonstration, the police trapped us by attacking us on all four sides. I managed to escape but my friend was arrested. He was in prison for several months and beaten until he gave names of the people he was with. I escaped the country. I later heard he was released from prison but had damage to his brain.
I now have permission to live in the UK but cannot vote until I have had refugee status for five years and am given ‘settlement’. I would like to vote because I want to make things better and help people. The Bible and Koran don’t say we should hate each other. We should all be one and sort things out.