20 to 26 June is Refugee Week – a national week of awareness highlighting the struggles faced by refugees.

To mark Refugee Week, the Telegraph & Argus has spoken to people who were forced to flee their homelands and have since found sanctuary in Bradford.

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t understand the Yorkshire accent, but I’m used to it now!’

READ MORE: ‘For years, I didn’t know if my family were dead or alive’

READ MORE: ‘I couldn’t speak a word of English, now I’m going to be a barrister’

READ MORE: 'I didn’t see my mum for 10 years. The trauma is unimaginable’

READ MORE: ‘I was a teacher in my country. Then came the bombing’

Today, we hear from Awesar Abid. He is from Kurdistan, lives in Bradford city centre and is a lecturer at the University of Bradford.

In 2000, 17-year-old Awesar Abid left his home city of Halabja, northern Iraq, and embarked on a bold journey across Europe.

He ended up in London, eventually moving to Bradford.

20 years later, he is proud to have “given back” to the city he now calls home.

Awesar is Kurdish, an ethnic group native to Kurdistan, a region spanning parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Awesar as a child in 1980s KurdistanAwesar as a child in 1980s Kurdistan

He recalls the Halabja massacre of 1988, where between 3,200 and 5,000 Kurds were killed in his home city in the largest chemical weapons attack ever directed against a civilian area.

The Kurdish people were facing persecution under Saddam Hussein, while the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War saw further conflict between rival Kurdish groups.

Desperate for a better life, Awesar fled – alone and without his family.

“It was a very scary journey,” Awesar, now 38, says.

“It was heart-breaking to leave my parents at such a young age.

“I did everything by myself, without my mum, dad or siblings. I went through death row. I experienced foreign countries for the first time.

“But I don’t regret it, because I found peace in the UK. They helped me settle, now I have citizenship and I’m proud to be British.

“I’ve achieved a lot of things in Bradford which I never would have been able to achieve in my home country.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Awesar photographed in Bradford in 2002, not long after first arriving in the cityAwesar photographed in Bradford in 2002, not long after first arriving in the city

Awesar – who is engaged to his fiancé, who is also Kurdish – couldn’t speak English when he first got here, and also experienced racism.

“It wasn’t easy,” he explains.

“I was in London when I met some South Asian people who encouraged me to come to Bradford, which they said was a nice, multicultural city.

“I settled well in Bradford, particularly because of the South Asian community, as our cultures are a bit similar.

“But it was still hard, as I had to wait six years to get a decision from the Home Office. They didn’t give me a very good welcome – they refused my case – but later, they apologised to me.

“That’s when I started college. At first, I was subject to racism, but I never gave up, even if people behaved like that towards me.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Awesar during his early years in the UKAwesar during his early years in the UK

Today, Bradford has a very visible Kurdish community, with an estimated four to five thousand Kurds living here.

There are several Kurdish restaurants, cafes, barber shops and corner shops, particularly in the city centre.

But things were different in the early 2000s.

“There weren’t many Kurds in the UK back then, never mind in Bradford,” Awesar says.

“It was hard, but I managed to overcome that difficulty.

“After doing GCSEs and A-Levels in this country, I managed to complete my higher national diploma in construction engineering.

“I went to uni and achieved my bachelor’s degree in civil and structural engineering, before I started working as a civil engineer, both here and in the Middle East.

“I then achieved a master’s degree in the same subject, before I started teaching as a lecturer.

“I then gained a PhD, again in civil and structural engineering, and now I teach at both the University of Bradford and Bolton.

“I could have gone to London or abroad, but I had to be loyal to Bradford, as the city helped me so much.

“I’m the only Kurdish lecturer in West Yorkshire. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them my job – they’ve never seen Kurds at that level.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Awesar stands proudly outside the University of BradfordAwesar stands proudly outside the University of Bradford

His believes his journey is an example of how, through determination, the sky can be the limit.

“Kurdish people have been through very hard times, with conflicts, civil war and political problems,” he says.

“But we have a lot of Kurdish people in Bradford, and they work hard.

“If you come to this country and just rely on money from the Government, that’s nothing to admire. You have to stand on your own feet, work and study hard.

“Nothing is impossible.”