Ahmed H, his wife and two daughters had found safety in Cyprus after escaping war-ravaged Syria. But he worried about his elderly parents and six other family members who were still inside Syria’s border. In August 2015, he left his young family at home in Cyprus and traveled to Turkey, intending to help the rest of his family escape from Syria too. They made their way to the Hungarian border only to find themselves stranded along with hundreds of refugees after President Orban closed the crossing from Serbia.
Tensions rose and clashes broke out. Hungary’s police responded with tear gas and water cannon, injuring dozens. Some threw stones, including Ahmed, but news footage also clearly shows him using a megaphone to call on both sides to remain calm. Of eleven people arrested, he was the only one charged under the counter-terrorism law.
In September 2018, a Hungarian court found him guilty of “complicity in an act of terror” and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. A retrial reduced the term to 5 years despite a glaring lack of evidence to back up the extremely serious charge. The United Nations, the European Parliament and the US State Department all expressed concern about Hungary’s deliberate misapplication of terrorism charges in Ahmed’s case.
More than 100,000 people took action against his conviction.
On January 19 of this year, Hungary released him from prison and asked Cyprus to take him back. He waited in a detention centre for eight months during which time Hungary threatened to return him to Syria.
24,000 people joined a #BringAhmedHome campaign urging Cyprus to allow him to return to his family. His daughter drew the “Ahmed’s wings” picture you see here.
On September 27, four years since he was separated from his family, the news we had been waiting for came through: he had been cleared to return home to Cyprus. He arrived at Larnaca airport early the next day for an emotional reunion with his family — and just in time for his eldest daughter’s tenth birthday.