Freedom from Torture - "Please, keep this place." - Ali's story

"Please, keep this place." - Ali's story

Ali’s earliest memories of life back home in Afghanistan are happy. But the carefree innocence of his childhood disappeared when men with guns came to his village.

Ali and his family belong to the Hazara people, who are often persecuted for their ethnicity and religion. He finds it very difficult to talk about, but our medical experts saw straight away that he was beaten and tortured severely from the terrible scars on his body.

Terrified for his safety, his mum and dad arranged for him to be smuggled out of the country away from their persecutors.

Ali’s journey to freedom forced him to sleep in the cold and damp in makeshift refugee camps in unknown countries, surrounded by strangers who didn’t speak his language. Eventually he found himself in the UK, scared and alone, but relieved that finally he was in a place that would respect his human rights.

To his horror, he was immediately locked up in an immigration detention centre. He was locked up with many adults and all the time he was frightened, with all the sad and painful memories of the past always returning to torment him and no one to talk to. With no-one to support him or fight his case, he was forced to stay in detention for a year and a half.

Life started to change for Ali when he first came into contact with Freedom from Torture. This was the first time a professional health worker had given him time, patience and care. This was the first time he could open up and really tell someone all about the torture – and be believed.

Ali then started coming once a week for one-to-one as well as group therapy. He met other young people his age who had been through similar trauma. He finally felt safe and supported with others who understood him.

The therapist who treated Ali remembers when he first came to our centre. She says, “He was very vulnerable, very fragile. He used to ask us about everything because he had nowhere else to turn.”

We were able to offer Ali legal advice, to support him with the paperwork needed to find a place to live, and to help him go to college, study and learn English.

He says: “Freedom from Torture found me a good solicitor who could actually help me. I honestly think that without them I would have been sent back and I would have died.

Today, in his twenties, Ali is fluent in English and volunteers to help children at his local church. He loves boxing and is keen to teach young people how to box as a way of learning discipline and controlling their feelings in a positive way. He also enjoys cutting hair and earns his living as a barber.

As you may know, we can currently only help 1 in 3 people who are referred to our services – and that includes young people. The simple reason is lack of capacity.

“To the people paying for this, I have to say thank you for making this place. I am grateful that they have nice people to help a refugee like me. People like me need a place like this in the UK. They don’t have anywhere else to go for help with stress and sadness, writing letters, finding a solicitor, everything. I say: please keep this place.” - Ali

If you’d like to help us give every young person who has been tortured the chance of a better future, you can donate here:

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