TODAY |

Syrian refugees reflect on new life in NZ, but memories of decade-long war remain

As the 10-year civil war in Syria continues, refugees who have settled in New Zealand are reflecting on their new life and memories of their old one.

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Some who settled in New Zealand have spoken to 1 NEWS about their new lives. Source: 1 NEWS

Before war ravaged Syria, Maher Abboud's family supplied meat to much of Damascus. Now he's feeding Wellington.

The 22-year-old bought a butcher's shop after moving to Wellington six years ago as a refugee.

"When I moved to New Zealand, I wasn't speaking English at all, not even one per cent, so I worked a little bit hard on myself. I went to school and then after school I went to some courses," he said.

He was just 12 when the war started. The terrifying sights and sounds are still etched in his mind.

"I can still see the bullet, it's like that - that size of bullet, it's huge,” he recalled.

New Zealand has resettled more than 1200 Syrian refugees over the past 10 years.

On one Wellington street alone, three families have set up four businesses.

Bashir Al Hussein is another Syrian refugee; young, determined and grateful to be here.

"No power, no food, everyday like the bombs, planes, you know like it's very bad times for the Syrian people. I never forget this time because I have a lot of friends who died in Syria," he said.

Al Hussein moved to New Zealand in 2016, working two jobs to save enough money to buy a barber shop, fulfilling a childhood dream.

"When I was in Syria, when I was 12 years old I stayed with someone, he teach me. And then when I came here to this shop, I learn here in this shop," he explained.

Touches of Syria decorate the shop, his thoughts, still with home.

"I like to visit my country. I miss too much my house and my friends there."

This week marks 10 years since the brutal conflict started in Syria, creating this century’s worst humanitarian crisis.

It started in March 2011 as a peaceful protest against President Bashar al-Assad, whose family had ruled Syria since 1971.

It quickly escalated into a civil war that deepened into a complex conflict involving foreign powers and terrorist organisations.

At least 500,000 people have been killed or are missing according to a human rights operation in Syria.

And more than half of Syria's pre-war population of 22 million have fled their homes, including nearly six million as refugees to other countries.

Now the Assad regime has regained control of most of Syria, with the last remaining rebel stronghold in the north-western province of Idlib.