Iraqi Mevan Babakar has been reunited with an aid worker at a refugee camp who bought her a bike 24 years ago after a Twitter campaign reunited the pair.
Babakar, now 29, left Iraq in the nineties amidst the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein’s brutal campaign against the Kurds. Her family journeyed through Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia before moving on to Holland.
As part of a journey to retrace her steps Babakar arrived in Holland earlier this week and wanted to find the man who made her “five-year-old heart explode with joy” by giving her a bicycle. She has said the gift and the man’s kindness shaped her childhood.
Her mother kept the photo of the man so she posted it on Twitter and asked for help:
Hi internet, this is a longshot BUT I was a refugee for 5 yrs in the 90s and this man, who worked at a refugee camp near Zwolle in the Netherlands, out of the kindness of his own heart bought me a bike. My five year old heart exploded with joy. I just want to know his name. Help? pic.twitter.com/XzUgHzllYb
— Mevan | میڤان (@MeAndVan) August 12, 2019
After 3,000 retweets, three news articles and one video a former colleague recognised the man, shared the photo with others they used to work with, and then reached out to Egbert on social media.
The next day Babakar and Egbert met. “He thought the bike was too small a gesture to make such a big fuss about but he’s really glad it was the key to bringing us together again,” Babakar wrote on Twitter.
She posted updates about their meeting:
This is Egbert. He’s been helping refugees since the 90s. He was so happy to see me. He was proud that I’d become a strong and brave woman. He said that was his wish for me when I was small. He grows orchids. He has a beautiful family. He said it felt like I’d never left. pic.twitter.com/WlDWm2seVh
— Mevan | میڤان (@MeAndVan) August 13, 2019
Babakar told the New York Times she was happy to share a positive experience about being a refugee against the backdrop of therefugee crisis and negative sentiment about asylum seekers.
“I think it’s really easy for people to forget or to feel really powerless in the face of these big, abstract problems that we hear about all the time. It’s really a comfort to remember we are all very powerful in the way that we treat others. Especially in the small acts, we are powerful.”