Meet the Taekwondo warriors rising from the dust and ashes of Syria

“My brothers and I trained tirelessly, even competing among ourselves in the tent.”

SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.

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During a month-long aerial bombing campaign in Aleppo in 2016, the Russia – Syria coalition unleashed a wave of destruction on the opposition-controlled territory.

According to Human Rights Watch, nearly 500 civilians tragically lost their lives. Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, was home to 2 Million people. Cluster bombs and flaming weapons hit many institutions, including hospitals, cutting off those held inside the rebel-held areas.

Al Masris harrowing escape

Amid this devastating bombing campaign, families in Aleppo fled their homes, seeking safety and refuge from the relentless airstrikes. Among them was the Al Masri family, who, along with their three sons, set off on a treacherous journey seeking safety.

“I cannot forget how we fled in the car with my family while the plane was bombing,” recalls 17-year-old Mohamed Al Masry, the eldest son.

After enduring unimaginable hardships and dangers, the family eventually found solace in a refugee camp in the A’zaz area of Aleppo, just ten kilometres from their home in Tal Rifaat.

An extraordinary journey

The Al Masri family settled in the camp and began rebuilding their lives amidst the turmoil of war.

AbdelRahman Al Masri set out on a mission to create a sanctuary for all the children at the camp. The father of the three boys opened a space where children could heal from the traumas of war and build a bright future filled with hope.

Drawing on his own experience of martial arts, he founded a Taekwondo training club. He believed this ancient discipline would give the kids, including his own, the physical and mental strength to overcome their pasts and do well in life. But it didn’t come easily.

“We started with exercises on dirt, then gradually acquired a rug and more. We faced significant challenges in terms of equipment. We never had proper gear or clothing; we had to make everything by hand using simple materials,” recalls coach AbdelRahman.

“Through tremendous effort, we were able to establish a club that eventually became the top-ranked in Northern Syria, with more than 70 children playing this sport,” coach AbdelRahman told Scenes.

Training to Triumph: Al Masri brothers

Growing up watching their father skillfully play Taekwondo, AbdelRahman’s three children, Mohammad, Yazan and Tamer, naturally have a passion for martial arts.

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“My father’s experience has been invaluable,” says 13-year-old Yazan Al Masri, reflecting on his Taekwondo journey. He is proud of the nine medals he’s won in local and international online competitions.

“He provides me with tips and simplifies complex movements that would have taken me much longer to learn without his guidance,” Yazan explains.

Rising champions

Word of the centre soon spread across the camp, and many children wanted to join. Coach AbdelRahman told Scenes that he is filled with pride, and they’ve won many prizes and secured first places many times.

The boys’ determination propelled them to new heights in Taekwondo. Each kick, punch, and sparring session sharpened their skills, transforming them from survivors to true champions.

“My brothers and I trained tirelessly, even competing among ourselves in the tent,” says 16-year-old Tamer.

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“I have loved this sport since childhood, and my passion drives me to train daily, both at home and in the club, even on days when there are no formal training sessions,” adds Yazan.

The brother’s Taekwondo skills are impressive. “Yazan excels in ​combat, Tamer is a showmanship specialist, and elder brother Mohammad, 17, specialises in Poomsae,” explains Abdel Rahman, distinguishing their individual talents.

“I excel in fighting due to my agility and being the youngest, while my siblings have their preferred aspects,” Yazan told Scenes.

The Olympic dream

Taekwondo is more than a hobby for the trio. It is their very essence, their way of life. These young warriors have consistently demonstrated their capabilities, earning praise and respect from their peers and mentors.

“Many kids look up to us and are inspired to join the club and follow in our footsteps,” says Tamer.

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The boys share a common dream of participating in the Olympics. Yazan and his brothers look up to world champion Ahmed Abu Al-Ghosh from Jordan. Ahmed achieved Olympic gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, securing Jordan’s first-ever Olympic medal.

“I have watched numerous matches of his, and I aspire to follow in his footsteps,” says Tamer. “I eagerly awaiting my chance. I have the skills and potential to participate in Olympic tournaments, having achieved first place in national championships in Syria,” he adds enthusiastically.

Today, the Al Masry brothers stand as an emblem of hope for their community, proving that even in the face of adversity, one can rise triumphantly.

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