ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Mevan Babakar, a Kurdish-British refugee originally from the Kurdistan Region, was reunited on Tuesday with a Dutch aid worker who gifted her and her a mother a bicycle 24 years ago.
Babakar, 29, fled the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province in the 1990s during the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath regime massacred the Kurds. She arrived in the Netherlands with her family.
“My dad decided there was no life for us here, and especially for a young girl in Kurdistan,” she told Kurdistan 24.
He decided to leave the Kurdistan Region and raise Babakar somewhere where she would have more opportunities. Her family was refugees for five years.
“The refugee journey took us through many countries: through Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, and one of the countries [was] Holland. We stayed in Holland [for] over a year,” Babakar explained.
Her family lived at a refugee camp near the city of Zwolle in the Netherlands. She relayed to Kurdistan 24 how much safer she felt there than anywhere else.
Babakar highlighted “the kindness” the people of Zwolle demonstrated to her and her family.“That really helped [to] build me as a person,” she said.
The 29-year-old recalled the generosity of a man named Egbert who worked at the refugee camp. He had bought her and her mother a bike when she was 5.
“I remember thinking: it was a beautiful, magical, and generous gift,” Babakar added.
She posted a photo on Twitter of the Dutch aid worker, whose name she previously did not know. After her tweet was shared over 3,000 times, she was able to find him in the Netherlands within 24 hours.
“He’s been helping refugees since the 90s. He was so happy to see me. He was proud that I’d become a strong and brave woman. He said that was his wish for me when I was small,” Babakar wrote on Twitter.
“He thought the bike was too small a gesture to make such a big fuss about, but he’s really glad that it was the key to bringing us together again,” she added in another tweet.
Her trip to the Netherlands was part of a journey she decided to embark on to revisit all the countries she spent time in as a refugee.
Babakar also traveled to the Kurdistan Region where she spent three weeks before her trips to Turkey, Russia, and the Netherlands. On Wednesday, she traveled back to her home in London.
According to Babakar, the journey was meant to help her understand the deeper meaning of being a refugee.
“I have a much stronger appreciation [of] how difficult that time was for me and my family in a way that I never really had as a child,” she told Kurdistan 24.
The story of Babakar’s reunion with Egbert has been shared all over the world, on social and traditional media.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this story would resonate so strongly across the world,” she tweeted. “I’m completely honored and humbled by the response. How we treat each other is everything, big actions or small. At the end of the day, it’s the measure of us all.”
“If anyone wants to give me a book deal to write this all up I’m really open to offers right now,” Babakar joked.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany