Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

Syrian defector reveals budgerigar hobby is a way to cope

Video blogging helps overcome the pain of isolation for former high-flier

Syrian diplomat has his own YouTube channel dedicated to parrots and budgies. The National
Syrian diplomat has his own YouTube channel dedicated to parrots and budgies. The National

Less than a decade ago, he was an ambitious diplomat representing his country in one of its most prestigious postings.

When the ambassador was travelling, Khaled Al Ayoubi would stand-in as Syria’s most senior representative in the UK.

Now, the former official has re-emerged to reveal a more humdrum livestyle, describing how spends his time ‘vlogging’ on Youtube in a small English town.

Mr Ayoubi turned his back on the Assad regime in 2012 after he could no longer tolerate what he describes as “violent and oppressive acts” by the Syrian government that plunged the country into a civil war.

At the time of his defection, the UK Foreign Office called his departure a “blow” to Bashar Al Assad.

David Cameron, then prime minster, hailed his resignation as “one in the eye” for the Assad regime, which was trying to maintain its standing on the international stage.

Seven years on, Mr Ayoubi spends his time filming pets and posting on his Happy Parrots YouTube Channel from his Barnsley home, a town in northern England.

The birds, tiny budgies that can fit in the palm of a hand, are a coping mechanism for the former diplomat.

“I was very stressed. I have good neighbours but you can't stay with your neighbours all the time," he is reported to have said.

“I sit alone; I have no one to speak with. So they are my friends, I feel relaxed with them. They are fabulous animals.”

Videos include how to bond with a budgie to recording birds speaking.

The Syrian lives in a town that houses many asylum seekers.

Barnsley provides housing to 415 asylum seekers, compared with none in Prime Minister Theresa May’s home constituency.

He has found job hunting tough as an asylum seeker, but plans to settle in Britain permanently by applying for citizenship and a British passport.

Mr Ayoubi longs for Syria, but says he may never return home.

"I would like to die there, but now it's not an option. I know politics, I know this regime has been rehabilitated, so (there's) no way I can go there.

Mr Ayoubi joined Syria’s diplomatic service in 2001. He started serving at the London embassy a month before Arab Spring protests launched against Syria’s government in February 2011.

Over 5 million Syrians have fled the country.

Updated: February 6, 2019 04:18 PM