LONDON: A Syrian refugee tortured at the hands of the Assad regime is going viral after sharing a video of his elated reaction to being accepted into a prestigious US university.
Omar Alshogre’s 9-second video on Twitter has been viewed roughly 140,000 times. “I made it into Georgetown!” he exclaims in disbelief.
The 25-year-old refugee’s acceptance is an uplifting end to a long and tragic journey that began in the early days of the Syrian uprising.
When pro-democracy protests swept through the country in 2011, Alshogre was arrested multiple times for taking part in them, and when Syria descended into civil war, he spent three years in a regime prison.
There, he said, he was subjected to daily torture and starvation, which killed his two cousins arrested alongside him. While inside, he lost his father and brother to a regime massacre in his home village.
— Omar Alshogre (@omarAlshogre) November 1, 2020
While imprisoned, Alshogre was forced to remove the bodies of dead prisoners and mark their foreheads.
He was among the roughly 128,000 Syrians who disappeared after their arrest by the regime, 14,000 of whom were tortured to death, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Alshogre was released after his mother saved up enough money to bribe officials for his release. He then fled to Sweden.
He quickly progressed through the school system after learning English and Swedish, and aimed to fulfil his father’s dream of continuing his education.
“I grew up in a family where my father was really serious about education. He wanted me to go to the best school and have the top school in everything,” Alshogre said.
“I had to choose between fulfilling my father’s dream of finishing my education and going to the US.”
He chose to travel to Washington, where he testified to German lawyers and European war crimes investigators building cases against the Assad regime.
He also became a public speaker, human rights activist, and director for detainee affairs at the Syrian Emergency Task Force. But he worried he was not fulfilling his late father’s expectations.
“Every time I went home and saw my father’s picture it told me I had to study, and I felt guilty,” Alshogre said.
With his acceptance to Georgetown’s Business Administration and Entrepreneurship course, he hopes to one day return to Syria and help rebuild his homeland.
“I am one of few survivors who is really enjoying his life and benefiting from everything I went through,” he said.
“Now I got into one of the best universities. At every step I am taking, I am showing the Syrian regime that they could not break me. And that’s an honor for me and the (other) survivors.”