The Mohammad al-Haj Ali Scholarship Award
Mohammad al-Haj Ali was the first confirmed victim of the Grenfell fire. On the evening of the 14th June 2017, Mohammad and his brother Omar fled their apartment as flames began to rise up the building. On the stairs, the brothers became separated and Mohammad found his way back to their apartment to try and contact his family in Syria in his final moments. He was unable to get through.
Mohammad remained trapped in the building for 2 hours before sending his final message “The fire is here now, goodbye”.
Abdulaziz Almashi, a friend of Mohammad, described him as “kind, charitable and full of passion for his family, he survived the war, survived Assad, only to be killed in a tower block in London.”
Mohammad was 23 and had fled Syria for his life 3 years before when war broke out. Arriving in the UK seeking asylum with his brother Omar, he was a driven student who worked hard to begin studying engineering at the University of West London. His family gave testament to Mohammad’s drive and resilience in a statement "Mohammad was a very amazing and kind person. He gave love to everyone. He came to the UK because he had ambitions and aims for his life and for his family.”
As we mark the second anniversary of the Grenfell Fire, RefuAid and the al-Haj Ali family are launching the Mohammad al-Haj Ali Scholarship award in memory of Mohammad. The scholarship will ensure Mohammad’s legacy lives on and inspires and supports generations of individuals who’ve sought asylum in the UK to access a university education.
The Mohammad al-Haj Ali Scholarship will be awarded to students in the UK who have arrived seeking asylum and are unable to access University due to financial hardship.
The first recipient of the Scholarship will be Younis Ali. Younis arrived in the UK in 2017, originally from Mosul in Iraq, Younis has witnessed unimaginable violence as ISIS took hold of the city and countless lives were lost.
Forced to flee in order to stay alive, Younis arrived in the UK where he was reunited with his parents. Due to his legal status he is unable to access student finance which has prevented him from restarting his life here in the UK and continuing his education.
Younis’s aspiration is to study Aeronautical Engineering at University and then become a pilot.
“I would love to join an Aeronautical Engineering course. From a young age, I have been fascinated by flying. I joined a flight school at the age of fourteen and earned my APPL international license to fly paragliders. I thoroughly enjoyed testing the limits of the aircrafts’ design as well as my ability as a pilot. I often crashed and had to find ways to repair the aircraft with limited tools. During the war and despite the possibility of capture, I would sneak out of the house and fly paragliders outside the city. It was my obsession and one of the only ways that I could enjoy myself during that difficult period. I would love to be given the opportunity to study more about the physics and science of aviation and to be involved in projects where I can test and improve aircraft but with better resources at my disposal.”
Younis joined the RefuAid language programme in 2018 in order to gain the required level of English language he would need to study an undergraduate degree. His teachers and classmates alike have commented on what a driven and well-liked young man he is. Without access to student finance there is no way for Younis to cover the cost of university tuition fees as his family lost everything when they were forced to flee ISIS in Mosul.
Younis’ drive, charitable nature and kind-heartedness make him an ideal candidate and Younis will be starting University this September as the first recipient of the Mohammad al-Haj Ali Scholarship.