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From Syria to Spain – meet Tarek

My name is Tarek. I am 38 years old and I come from Damascus, Syria. I have been living in Spain since 2015 with my wife and children.

Tarek, a Syrian refugee and IKEA Spain co-worker, smiling, wearing a brown and white striped shirt.

Back in Syria, I owned a small shop for computer and mobile repair; as a hobby, I studied economics. We left Syria in 2013 because of the war after I lost my job and home. When we left, we first went to Algeria – but the situation wasn’t very good there, either. I couldn’t get a residence permit.

With my wife and her family, we decided to go to Europe. So, we all moved to Spain together; it was the only option for us in Europe at the time. And truthfully, Spain is very good for us. We like the culture, and everything is very close.

When we arrived in Spain, we got involved with an organisation that helps refugees. This organisation gave me the opportunity to work at IKEA. And I am very thankful for that.

From the personal to the professional

IKEA is the biggest company I’ve ever seen. And everyone at IKEA has been understanding of my situation. The co-workers are willing to help and improve your skills. For example, I never thought that I could work in sales. But I do now! And I like my job. I think that IKEA lets you find yourself.

Tarek, a Syrian refugee and IKEA co-worker, smiles down at his colleagues from behind a yellow facemask.

I miss everything from home. I miss my family and my mother; I haven’t seen them for nine years. Back in the day, Damascus was a place where I was happy. And then, I left the city at 32 and started my life over. It’s like I was reborn.

In general, my family makes me happy. When I see my family is happy, I am happy. It was so hard to leave my country behind, but it’s getting better and better.

For Tarek, the future is full of hope

When we came here, I didn’t know any Spanish, was unfamiliar with the culture and didn’t have any friends. But with patience, hope and work, I am making it through. Hopefully, I can open my own shop here in Spain. It’s not easy, but one day I will achieve that goal.

Tarek, a Syrian refugee and IKEA co-worker with his wife and two children with the sea in the background.
My advice is to always have hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything. I have been through much in my life, but I always remained hopeful that tomorrow would be better. And it helped to know that I’m not only working to make life better for me – but for my family. They give me strength to carry on.

TarekIKEA Spain, Sales

I wish that people would understand that one day, all of us will experience an obstacle. But if you keep your goal in mind and go for it, you will get it. You just have to be hopeful, patient and willing to put in the work. This has worked for me so far.

If I were to emphasise one thing, it’s to believe in yourself. You can make things better.