Syrian refugee marries Colombian via Skype, makes living after mum teaches him to cook online
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Syrian refugee marries Colombian via Skype, makes living after mum teaches him to cook online

After five years of video calls with his mother on Skype, a Syrian refugee living in Bogota has started an Arabic food business.

The idea began when a friend of the family intervened. The business was one of the unexpected consequences of the violence sweeping his country, Syria.

Bellah Almotaz Kedrou is one of six Syrian refugees in Colombia, according to the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR).

His wife Jessica, who is Colombian, also participates in the food business.

The 27-year-old is originally from Damascus, from where he arrived to Colombia after a long journey that took him first to Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Brazil and Ecuador.

He is one of the more than four million people to have fled Syria since 2011 as a result of the bloody internal conflict which has now left more than 250,000 dead.

“I decided with my mother and my father,” he told the BBC. “It was when the Syrian army wanted to add to their ranks.”

Online wedding

He decided to meet with Colombian Jaime Jessica Alejandra Diaz, with whom he maintained a distance relationship over a five year period.

Almotaz crossed into Lebanon to apply for a visa for Colombia, but they rejected it. He then decided not to return to Syria and went to Turkey.

The solution was to marry Jessica, by distance marriage.

“Imagine I got married by Skype. I got married in front of a screen,” he said.

On the day of the marriage, she called from a cell phone, and he was in a cafe. She wore a white dress, and he wore a T-shirt and white suit, which were also white.

“I put the ring on her finger, all the same, but via Skype, me in Turkey and her in Colombia,” he said.

These days Almotaz lives with Jessica in Bogotá.

Cooking time

When the couple finally settled together in Colombia on August 9, 2014, they began new challenges.

Almotaz comes from a well off family, his father owns a large supermarket in Damascus. But in Bogota he had no money and did not know what to do.

“I could not study, I could not get into university, I could not work because I could not speak Spanish,” he recalls.

He sold rice pudding sold on the street with his wife.

“Imagine selling this in English in Colombia, people looked at me and smiled.”

They lived in his mother-in-law’s house, until relations became strained and they had to leave.

After six difficult months, he got his refugee status, after the efforts of UNHCR and the Social Concerns Ministry.

His mother was the one who told him to undertake a food business.

“She taught me to cook, this is because of my mother.”

For months, via Skype, in the few moments that Damascus had electricity, his mother was teaching him the secrets of Syrian cooking.

UNHCR supported him at the beginning so that his business could get off the ground.

The business is now operating successfully and the couple are expecting their first child.

“I now I have two countries: Syria and Colombia; I love Colombians a lot and I am very grateful,” he said.