Edinburgh OAP, 90, runs 20k to help Syrian twins through university

Denis Rutovitz, chairman of Edinburgh Direct Aid, based in Granton. Picture: Jon Savage
Denis Rutovitz, chairman of Edinburgh Direct Aid, based in Granton. Picture: Jon Savage
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A 90-year-old aid worker has run 10k – twice – to raise £15k to put Syrian twins through university.

Becoming a nonagenarian may signify a slower pace of life for some but Denis Rutovitz is on a mission, and it’s speeding him up.

The chairman of humanitarian charity Edinburgh Direct Aid, who had his 90th birthday on September 1, is desperately trying to raise the money to see brothers Ahmed and Assad Katbeh through a computer and forensic science degree in Lebanon.

Currently living with refugee status, the Syrian twins face potential deportation if they can’t pay for the course.

Denis said: “As refugees this is an impossible task. But if they don’t pay the fees, they will be deported from Lebanon and sent back to a brutal regime in Syria, to conscription into the army, or much worse.

“These boys are great, they need three years of college fees to give them a chance of a future.

“They are hard working, well behaved, deserving lads, at a turning point in their lives, which can lead either to their destruction or to a fine future.”

Racking his brains for a way to raise money he decided that for his 90th birthday he would run 10km for them.

And to cheers from supporters he completed his second challenge, covering 10km from Silverknowes Parkway along Cramond Promenade to Edinburgh Direct Aid Warehouse on Western Harbour Road.

His only hope – that his athletic burst will encourage people to help secure a safe future for two young students.

“If we can raise enough to put them through college that would be the best birthday present ever,” he said.

The brothers studied at a school in Lebanon, following the Syrian curriculum, with both achieving over 90 per cent in the baccalaureate exam.

But things began to unravel as Ahmed and Assad struggled to have their qualifications recognised to move on with further study.

After various failed attempts in Turkey and Cyprus, being refused re-settlement in Norway and being traumatically detained for two days and threatened with deportation by the Lebanese government, they are hopeful they can now stay to study in Lebanon.

They explained some of the difficulties they have faced so far: “The UN Refugee Agency presented our file to study for resettlement, after one month they inform us that the Norwegian embassy accept our files and gave us an appointment but the day before the appointment the police arrested my brother because he did not have a resident card.

“After three weeks we receive a message from Norwegian embassy say that our file is refused because my brother didn’t make the interview. We stayed in Lebanon and were afraid of arrest again.”

But with nearly £4,000 already raised Denis is hopeful he can help change the boys’ outlook.

To donate, visit www.chuffed.org.uk and search Denis Rutovitz.