Below is a small article from friend of Silver Robin, Glenys Newton, about a refugee friend who has found success on our shores…
I have been volunteering with refugees in the UK, France and across Europe for the past two years now. In that time, I have been lucky enough to meet some of the most extraordinary people I have ever met in my life and to have come across the most extraordinary kindness and resilience. One of the people I met in the jungle in Calais was Majid.
Majid is from Persia (Iran) and is a talented cartoonist. Majid turned his back on the Muslim religion in which he was raised as he increasingly saw injustice being carried out in the name of the Muslim religion. He was vocal in opposing the harsh regime and expressed this through his art which is banned in his country. As a result of his beliefs, and in expressing them, Majid was targeted by the regime and tortured. His family was threatened and it was for his family’s safety that Majid made the tough decision to leave his country. He made the difficult journey across Iran and Turkey and then on a small boat to Greece. He made his way across Europe and, due to being able to speak English, tried to make his way to the UK.
I met Majid in France where I was volunteering at the time and we immediately became friends. Majid is clever, funny and kind and we would spend hours discussing art, storytelling and the world in general. There was never a time when Majid didn’t treat me, and those around him, with the utmost respect and courtesy and we stayed in contact.
In the Spring of 2016 Majid finally, after over 6 months in Calais, made it to the UK and at the end of 2016 was granted 5 years asylum in this country. When someone is granted asylum they then have 28 days to leave their Home Office accommodation, find a job, get an NHS number (which is an ordeal in itself) and find new accommodation. As most people can testify, or imagine, it is hard to find a job without a house and hard to find a house without a job and that is without having to wade through the quagmire of bureaucracy to reach that point. A kind and generous friend offered a room in their house, in London, to Majid until he got on his feet to be able to do this.
Meanwhile, Majid got straight to in trying to find work where he could use his art and also tell the story of refugees and what is happening in the world. No small order. Majid entered a competition, run by Elton John, and submitted an animation to go with the song Rocket Man. Elton John was looking for new, unknown artists to do an animation to this song that has never had a video to go with it. There were entrants from 50 countries around the world and Majid won. He spent 3 months working hard on fine tuning the animation with the help of experts with the knowledge and technology to be able to do so. What a huge success. The result is stunning. Majid tells the story of one man, Rocket Man, the story of loneliness that so many of us can relate to and also the story of one refugee’s journey.
Majid feels strongly that art is able to tell the story in a way that can reach people, to reach a wider audience and, although the story is, in part, biographical, it is also representative of the journey that so many people are forced to take.
The video was launched in June at the Cannes Film Festival and, ironically, it was looking as though Majid would not be able to attend as he does not have permission to travel. A permit was issued at the request of Elton John and he was able to attend the launch. Since that time there have been over 7 million views of the video and I hope that it has touched over 7 million hearts and minds.
Majid is working hard on another animation now and I am very sure that this is not the last that we will hear of him. I will be writing a book together with Majid which, hopefully, will be published early next year. I am so proud to be able to call this kind and talented man my friend.
In the meantime, below is the link to the video for you to make your own minds up. I hope that you enjoy it.