Refugee Week 2007 Friendship stories - Anne-Marie and Ahlam

20 May 2007

Anne-Marie Smith, 38, Pollok and Ahlam Souidi, 36, St George’s Cross via Algeria met in Pollok last year during Refugee Week Scotland.

Anne-Marie

“I met Ahlam during a project for last year’s Refugee Week, a play called The Flats. I held racist views. I can remember the first time I met the group of asylum seekers. I said ‘I’m not really sure if I should be here”. And Ahlam said to me ‘you’ll get to know us and you’ll change your thinking’. I didn’t think so, but I decided to give myself a chance. And I did change.

It would be great if everybody had the same opportunity as me. Now I see asylum seekers as they are, people the same as us. If Ahlam and I had come from the same country, I think we’d have been best pals before now. Ahlam has been a life-changing experience for me. It’s like we were meant to meet.”

Ahlam

“Anne-Marie and myself have many things that are different from each other.   We have different religions. We speak different languages. We’ve got different hobbies and different cultures, but the fact that we have totally different backgrounds doesn’t stop us from being friends.  

Anne-Marie changed her life when she met asylum seekers. She worked hard to know us and is now working hard to help local people understand asylum seekers. I changed as well when I got know local Scottish people. Glaswegians have been very friendly to me, often friendlier than people in my own country.

My immigration case goes up and down. I get very scared of being removed, but Anne-Marie always encourages me. Anne-Marie is family to me now. When you have good friends, you don’t feel alone. “