The Syrian refugee giving back to Germany

A friend had uploaded a photograph to Facebook of Assali feeding homeless people on the streets of Berlin. The caption below read: “Acts of kindness: A Syrian refugee mans a food stand for the homeless, to ‘give something back to the German people’.”
The image went viral – it was shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook and nearly three million times on Imgur. Assali, 38, had become an overnight social media sensation.
Over the past 11 years, Assali has had to flee two countries – Syria and Libya -after speaking out against political corruption and human rights abuses. He has built up businesses, been successful and lost it all. He knows what it is like to be homeless and hungry.
When in Syria civil war soon broke out and, in 2013, groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) entered Zawiya. Everything changed.
“When ISIL arrived, people were killed for having an opinion. Every day I saw someone dead on the streets or in the sea,” he says.
Assali created a Facebook group to expose ISIL’s crimes. It attracted 25,000 followers. This led to his arrest. Three months later, he was suddenly offered freedom – in return for his house and car. Assali agreed and the man he made the deal with paid for him to reach Sabratha city, where he was to board a boat to Italy.
For days, he waited for the boat at a farm alongside hundreds of others. When they eventually boarded, there were 380 other people with him. The boat sank mid-way through the journey.
For two hours, he was drifting in the sea, unable to feel his own body. More than 100 people drowned that night, but Assali was eventually rescued by the Italian navy.
A few weeks later, he arrived in Germany, where, in June 2015, he was granted asylum. Now he gives back to his temporary country, who has given him a chance to live there for five years, while he hopes he can return to his homeland when it is safe.

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