Mohamed often walks up to the hill near his apartment overlooking the city to clear his head.

"I miss happiness:" A Syrian's journey from Mayor in Aleppo to obscurity in Saint John

Chris Donovan / The Globe and Mail 

Text by Cathal Kelly 

July 28, 2017 

At 2 a.m. in the midst of Ramadan in 2012, Mohamed Sharbaji got a call from a neighbour of his Aleppo home: “There are men with guns in your house.”

In the moment before that conversation, Mr. Sharbaji was a man of influence. A former business owner and land developer, he’d spent 15 years as an elected mukhtar(roughly, mayor) of his Syrian neighbourhood.

On many late nights, his constituents would bang on his door looking for counsel. He headed a large family and was renowned for his singing voice. He enjoyed the remarkably full life of a man in his prime.

In the moment after he got off the phone, all that had ended.

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Sedra hugs her father after he tells her his dream for her is that she can "look up at the sky and feel happy."
Mohamed takes his mother for her daily walk outside his apartment.
Mohamed, sometime in the 90s.
Mohamed's daughter Sedra sets the table as she prepares for lunch.
Mohamed had two parrots in Syria, Koko and Lulu that could speak and called him "baba." When the family arrived in Canada they could not afford parrots but purchased birds to remind them of their old friends who are presumed dead.
Mohamed's mother, Fakhria, is 90 years old and Mohamed is her caretaker. He is unable to work because he needs to be at the apartment to help his mother.
Sedra plays with the daughter of Mohamed's friend, Mahmoud Moussa Basha who is also from Aleppo. The two met on a plane to Toronto from Egypt and have been friends ever since. Mohamed said his children fill part of the void left in his heart when he had t
Sedra listens to her father speak about the day the family fled Syria.
Mohamed prays at the mosque during Friday prayers.
Mohamed sits in his vehicle at the top of the hill near his apartment overlooking the city. He goes there almost every day to clear his head. He said his mind is always thinking "from east to west," an Arabic expression meaning he cannot relax.
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