City baker shares his heartbreak over Syrian chemical attack

Abdullah Razzouk of Taza Bake in Edinburgh. Picture: Julie Howden
Abdullah Razzouk of Taza Bake in Edinburgh. Picture: Julie Howden
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Abdullah Razzouk has mixed feelings about the potential of US-led strikes against Syria in response to a chemical attack on Douma. While he doesn’t wish to see any more suffering on the part of his people, he knows only too well that it will take such drastic action to halt Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime as the Middle East crisis grows.

The baker and financial services contractor said: “Yes, we need the missiles to stop the killing and the torture but at the same time, this is my country, these are my people and I don’t want them to suffer any more.

“However, this war has to be stopped.”

When Abdullah, 40, left Aleppo in 2009 he didn’t know that he would never again live in the city in which he grew up. The son of two doctors, he was afforded a good education and the opportunity to travel and work abroad.

In 2011 he fled to Edinburgh, the city he is now proud to call home, but was forced to be apart from his then pregnant-wife and young son who remained in Syria. The birth of his daughter and 18 months passed before the family were finally reunited in Scotland for good.

Lots of Abdullah’s friends have been lost or killed during the civil war and his father, an eminent neurologist in Northern Syria, was kidnapped for 15 days in 2013 before being dumped in the middle of nowhere. He was forced to flee to Turkey without turning back, leaving his life’s work, his belongings and his family behind.

Abdullah, who opened Taza Bake in Leith in 2014 after struggling to source Syrian fare in Scotland, wanted to relocate to Scotland after studying a masters at Aberdeen University.

He said: “When I left Syria, I knew I only wanted to come to Scotland. I love the country, people are so friendly and there’s no danger here.

“My family and I feel very welcomed here. It really feels like home.”

Abdullah admires his father who has had to rebuild his life from scratch after he was hounded from his home. When Abdullah was returning from what was to be his last trip to Syria he was held at Abu Dhabi International airport where he was questioned by guards suspicious of the Syrian national. He knew then that the family’s move to Scotland would be a permanent one.

“It was the worst time of my life”, he said of the family’s separation. My wife had just had our daughter and they couldn’t be with me. They were alone and frightened and there was nothing we could do but wait.”

He and his wife shield their children, ten and six, from the worst news of the horror and heartbreak beamed from their homeland but are honest about the state of the war-ravaged country.

What concerns Abdullah is the involvement of Russia in the Syrian regime – he says that in businesses across the land official portraits of Putin are hung next to those of Assad – and he hopes that the UK will take action against the atrocities in the coming days.

When Abdullah saw the images of the chemical attack on Douma he wept: “Someone has to stop the insane system.

“It has been built on 50 years of killing people. When will it ever end?

“I don’t know if it will ever end.”