“My mother still gets nightmares and isn’t able to sleep at night after the incident,” Abdullah told Fusion about his attack. His mother was not the only one to see Abdullah bleed nearly to death: his nieces and nephew (ages 5, 6, and 8) walked in minutes after the attackers fled the scene. “The kids are afraid and traumatized from seeing their uncle covered in blood and pleading for help. They still can’t sleep at night,” said Abdullah.
It all started when Abdullah decided to become an active member of his new society, holding gatherings for locals in Brösarp, a village on the southwestern tip of Sweden. At the local post office, he posted a public invitation to a Syrian dinner at his home. Abdullah also reached out to the mayor of the village to invite everyone to the Syrian dinner. He and his family prepared the famous Syrian shawarma and hummus for their guests. “Out of 500 residents in the village, 100 people showed up to the first gathering at my home,” said Abdullah, in Arabic, to Fusion. Swedish natives got to eat Syrian food and hear Abdullah explain to them his Syrian culture and faith. “Many people appreciated the gathering, the Syrian food, and simple talk about my culture and Islam,” he said.
Over time, Abdullah held several other gatherings at his apartment, and his goal of being accepted in Brösarp seemed to have been achieved. “People gradually accepted my existence among them and carried out conversations with me,” he recalled.
But that was not entirely the case. Along with positive reactions came very hateful responses and reactions from racists in the village. “Because my family and I proved to the racists that we are normal beings trying to live in harmony with everyone in the village, their hate increased toward us,” said Abdullah, who speaks seven languages. “We are educated people. We did not come to beg for money, we are here to work and accomplish ourselves in Europe,” he added.
After the attack took place, people in the village organized a candle vigil for Abdullah. They stood side by side to support and protect him. “People on the streets came to hug and kiss me to show support and acceptance,” said Abdullah.But a week after that public show of solidarity, the Paris attacks happened. “And these same people that were hugging and kissing me completely changed,” said Abdullah. People on the streets ignored his greetings and stopped talking to him. “They gave me dirty looks and made me feel as if I was behind the Paris bombings. I felt as if I was going crazy. I still can’t understand how that happened,” he said.