Refugee Week
Face-to-Face Speaker and Refugee Week Ambassador Simon Shahin

Simon Shahin

I am a former refugee from Syria and have resettled in Australia in 2015. I fled with my family from the war back in 2013, when the situation was already catastrophic. We have been incredibly blessed and fortunate to escape that harrowing, near-death experience entirely intact—though burdened with traumatic memories.

I am part-Assyrian and part-Arab, having Syrian and Iraqi (Mesopotamian) lineages; I grew up in Saydnaya—an ancient town near the capital, known for its religious relics—and later moved to Damascus. In 2011, I began studying B.S. in Environment at Damascus University. Incidentally, during that same period, a domino effect of orchestrated anarchy started to sweep over the Arabian countries.

Struggles of Conflict

Indeed, it wasn’t long before instability and chaos overwhelmed Syria, starting with demonstrations and clashes between the government and opposition, and fuelled by external parties in the subsequent years into terrorism and bloody war. Additionally, prevalent bouts of blackouts, disturbance to essential living conditions, and incessant fear from the unbeknownst fate continued to exacerbate the gravity of the situation.

Syria, once known for its incredible safety, deep sense of generosity, and profound historical richness, was now literally razed to the abyss of desolation, destitution, and despair—an unfortunate destiny!

Becoming a Refugee

Upon imagining the foregoing picture, any rational individual would certainly advise of resorting to leave that place and seek a haven—but was this choice as easy and applicable as it sounds?

From the initial instants when I witnessed explosions and later underwent near-misses of mortar shelling and stray bullets, I was desperate to evacuate this entire region that was swallowing millions of innocent lives and in front of an international inaction and indifference.

I sought to travel to Germany, but I was rejected twice, despite studying the language. Moreover, my Syrian passport only enabled me to relocate to a handful of countries, which were already battling conflicts and insecurity. Still, in 2013, we managed to temporarily seek asylum in Lebanon and apply for refugee visas to resettle in Australia.

Precious Opportunity

In April 2015, I became speechless, to say the least, upon realising that we were finally accepted by the Australian Immigration to travel with my family to Australia—it was inexplicable because our lives had just been saved! In August 2015, after we embarked on that unique journey with a mix of emotions, valediction to many loved ones like my grandparents and welcoming to a new home in Sydney, we flew to and resettled in Australia after years of tormenting war, agonising fright, and excruciating wait—we were free at last!

Equally Contributing

In February 2022, I became an alumnus of UTS with a B.E. in Electric Power & Renewable Energy and landed a graduate job at TransGrid (after having already placed in the power/energy sectors at Endeavour Energy, AusGrid, and AEMO), pursuing my passion under the UN SDG. I have also collaborated with several organisations in the areas of Youth Empowerment, Refugee Resettlement, and Human Rights Advocacy, both nationally and internationally, while often connecting refugees and migrants of the society through sport, music, and art.

As a child, I never imagined that my life will one day take the course of surviving, stampeding, and eventually settling. However, I am forever grateful for being granted this priceless chance of resettling in Australia—and for that, I continue to give back…

You can book Simon for a speaking presentation via our Face-to-Face program here.

You can also read our Refugee Week media release here.

Please note that speakers are confirmed once a booking has been made and will be based on their availability.

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