One month ago, we received the happy news that Ahmed H was finally being flown home to his family in Cyprus, after four long years of being detained in Hungary.
We’ve been catching up with Ahmed on what it’s like to be home, getting back to family life and what kept him going in that cell in Hungary.
How it all began
In 2015, Ahmed had to leave his home, his wife and two young daughters in Cyprus to go and help his elderly parents travel through Europe after they fled the war in Syria.
They found themselves stranded with hundreds of others at the Hungarian border and clashes broke out as some refugees attempted to get through a fence. Hungary’s police responded with tear gas and water cannon, injuring dozens. News footage clearly shows Ahmed using a megaphone to call on both the police and the crowd to remain calm, but some people threw stones in frustration, including Ahmed. Ahmed and others were arrested but only he was charged with an “act of terrorism”.
It wasn’t just Amnesty that found the accusations absurd. The United Nations, European Parliament and US State Department all expressed concern about Hungary’s deliberate misapplication of terrorism charges in Ahmed’s case.
We were all shocked when Ahmed was convicted. It was obvious that he was being used as a pawn in the Hungarian government’s anti-immigrant campaign. His family was devastated. How could his attempt to help his family seek refuge in Europe end up this way?
Ahmed spent more than three years in a Hungarian prison, but upon release his ordeal wasn’t over. Cyprus refused to allow him back home and he had to endure another eight months in immigration detention.
People all over Europe took action for him. More than 100,000 people spoke out against his conviction and 24,000 people joined the #BringAhmedHome campaign, calling on Cyprus to allow him to return to his family.
Ahmed says it’s impossible to exaggerate what that support meant to him.
“My wife told me over the phone about all the news and the solidarity of all the people who supported me. I am so grateful to all of them. God bless them all and give them happiness and health.”
“I thank Amnesty International for fighting for my rights. Any action people took – big or small – for me it was of a big importance, because it helped to show the truth.”
Support like this keeps a person going in moments of despair. Ahmed says he always had faith he would get back to his family:
“I was praying every day to be reunited with my family as soon as possible because they were always on my mind. But I never lost my hope because I trust God.”
“My daughters have grown up too much, but they are still my little girls. I am four years older now and we have not seen each other for four years, but this is still my home.”Ahmed H
When the news finally came that he would be flying home to Cyprus Ahmed says it was an “incredible feeling”.
“Knowing that within a matter of hours, I would be able to hold my daughters again and see them and my wife in person, I could not wait to hug and kiss them. I was in heaven; I was very happy.”
For now, Ahmed is enjoying being back to family life and the simple joy of spending time together again. He returned home in time to celebrate his birthday with his family As well as his eldest daughter’s tenth birthday. She was only five when he left home in August 2015.
“My daughters have grown up too much, but they are still my little girls. I am four years older now and we have not seen each other for four years, but this is still my home.”
“Daily life now is simply seeing my family and friends, resting and eating nutritional meals again and playing with my children. I do all the favours they ask of me! I just enjoy being with them again.”
So what does the future hold now for Ahmed? He never should have been charged with an “act of terrorism” in the first place and we will continue to fight to clear his name.
For Ahmed, his purpose is simple:
“The next thing for me to do is to support my family and to be there for them again.”