THE man known for smuggling toys into Syria gave a talk about his experiences of the conflict.
Rami Adham, who is nicknamed the Aleppo toy smuggler, was in Portsmouth last night at an event hosted by Don’t Hate, Donate.
The Syrian, who lives in Finland, hit the headlines last year for smuggling into Syria and taking toys to children in the war-torn country.
Speaking to The News, Rami said: ‘I have to make sure that people’s donations go to the right place. I supervise projects on the ground to ensure the people who need the donations are getting them.
‘I feel the only way we can get the job done properly is to be on the ground.
‘But when Turkey shut its borders to Syria, the only way I could get the donations and the toys to Aleppo was to smuggle myself into my own country.
‘I decided to take unorthodox means to get into Syria – I had to find a way in.
‘I got the nickname the toy smuggler when the Daily Telegraph ran an interview with me and I explained what I did.
‘Some people call me the Syrian Santa.’
Rami got involved with Portsmouth-based Don’t Hate, Donate after meeting founder Chantelle Burton on Facebook.
I decided to take unorthodox means to get into Syria - I had to find a way in.Rami Adham
He said it was important for non-profit organisations like his and Don’t Hate, Donate to work together.
He added: ‘When I started looking into what they do, I was keen to work with them.
‘They are doing a great job and I wanted to support them.
‘I wanted to expand my work and what I was doing in Finland and the way to do that is to build bridges.’
During the talk at the John Pounds Centre, off Queen Street, around 40 people heard about the work Rami does.
They also got to listen to humanitarian worker Tox Sharif, from East London, who is currently in Syria.
The audience asked him questions via Skype.
During his talk, he said: ‘A lot of people become desensitised to what is happening in Syria.
‘We are used to seeing the graphic images and it doesn’t mean anything to people.’
He added: ‘The world forgets about the war crimes in Syria.
‘That’s why these events and groups like Don’t Hate, Donate are so important and getting the awareness out there.’
For Chantelle, the evening was a success.
She said: ‘In Portsmouth there isn’t a lot going on about Syria, which is why it’s important for us to hold these talks.
‘With people like Rami and Tox we can learn what is happening first-hand and learn from people who are so compelled to help others.’