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Refugee in Edgware thanks UK with sculpture of the Queen
An Iranian refugee has spent four years creating a stone sculpture of the Queen as a way of expressing his gratitude to the UK for providing him with a safe haven.
Ali, 37, who lives in Edgware, arrived in the UK in 2005 after fleeing persecution and torture in Iran.
As a talented stonemason he decided that the way he could best show his gratitude to this country would be to create the sculpture of the Queen.
Ali said: “What I went through in Iran made me feel useless and people did not respect me for who I was.
“It is different here in the UK and I was shocked to find people apologising to me when I bumped into them in the street, or holding doors open for me.
“I started to think about what source this sense of respect might come from and I thought about the Queen as head of state.
“I wanted to show my respect and my gratitude for the wonderful way that people had treated me here.”
Ali’s problems in Iran began when he was a young conscript in the Iranian army.
At the age of 18 he was ordered to shoot dead a well-known alcohol smuggler but could not do it has he knew the man had a family.
Ali said: “I knew this man had a family, he had two daughters – I couldn’t do it because it would have killed me inside.”
For failing to obey orders the young conscript was taken to an army base in Tabriz which was renowned for torture.
He was held there for two months in a cell measuring 1.5 meters squared.
He was kicked by heavy boots and beaten with truncheons as well as being suspended from the ceiling by his hands.
After serving a year in a military prison Ali was returned to the same army base and the same army commander he had disobeyed.
This man made his life intolerable so he decided to desert.
This desertion was followed by ten years in forced military service, detention or in hiding.
Eventually he decided that the only way to be safe was to flee the country.
Ali said: “They would not give up on finding me and I had no future in Iran.
“I had not completed military service so couldn’t legally work, couldn’t marry and was always in danger of being caught.”
Ali spent two months journeying to the UK at a cost of 10,000 Euros.
He said: “Most of the journey was by lorry but some was on foot through the mountains - and Italy to France was by boat.
“Many people died along the way. We were like parcels being passed from one agent to another.”
It was more than 18 months before the Home Office granted him protection status and leave to remain in the UK.
He said: “My only worry was what they would do to me if I was sent back to Iran. When I received the decision from the Home Office I was so relived.”
While he was waiting for a decision Ali was refered to Islington based charity, Freedom from Torture, for support coming to terms with what had happened to him in Iran.
He said: “If I had not of come to Freedom from Torture I would have been like a wild animal – just like I was in Iran.
"Every time I went out of the house I would check everybody and everywhere around me – it was like I had lost my mind."
Ali is now able to look to his future with renewed optimism and his hoping to find a place where he can make a living from his talents as a sculptor.
He said: “I feel like I’m the same as people here and can enjoy the same rights – I’d never dreamt that would be possible. I feel like I have a bright and peaceful future in this country.”