August 24, 2023

In Syria, few are unscathed by the conflict: countless lives have been lost and many people have fled the country to seek safety. Against all odds, Muhammad and his family were able to escape the deadly conflict in Syria and settle in Antakya, Türkiye, in 2011.

Muhammad endured many challenging years in Antakya. Leaving everything behind, Muhammed explains that he carried nothing with him but his expertise in renewable energy and electricity, which he had acquired during his university days in Syria. “Thankfully,” he says, “Antakya has a vibrant Arabic-speaking community, which eased our transition and allowed us to find a sense of belonging in our new surroundings.”

Hand-built electric car
With his background and passion in renewable energy, Muhammed pursued his childhood dream once he’d settled in Türkiye. “From a young age, I had always dreamed of inventing an electric car. In 2013, I finally set out to make this dream a reality.

In the following years, I poured my heart and soul into the project, gathering all the necessary knowledge and materials. Finally, in 2017, I completed my first electric car. It was red, with four seats, and ran entirely on solar power, in line with my strong commitment to environmental sustainability. It was also designed to be practical: the car could be charged through household electricity sources when needed.”

Following his breakthrough, the Turkish media became interested and frequently interviewed Muhammed, showcasing his hand-built electric car. “I became a well-known figure in Antakya!”

NAMA II competition boosts Green Solar
Boosted by the recognition of his work and with renewed passion, Muhammed was able to finally establish his company, Green Solar, which provides renewable energy solutions to homes and companies. “To fund it,” explains Muhammad, “I had to borrow money from relatives and friends. After two years of small scale output, I joined the NAMA II competition, organised by BINA Business Incubator and SPARK, financed by Qatar Fund for Development.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Muhammad joined the six month NAMA II competition. During which he attended courses focused on accounting, management, company establishment, and law, with the goal of becoming a well-rounded entrepreneur.

“By the end of the competition, I could sense that my skills and knowledge had greatly developed and I particularly noticed an improvement in my ability to network with business partners and potential customers,” says Muhammad.

“After the competition, I expanded my team to 13 individuals. Our mission was to provide comprehensive solutions for alternative energy, covering all devices which convert solar energy into usable household power. My renewed sense of confidence and creativity from the competition fuelled my desire to give back to the country that had welcomed me all these years and had now become my home.”

Business was going well until the devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria in February this year dealt him another cruel blow. His home, company and, most devastatingly, the lives of many of his employees.

“After 12 years of work, I had finally built the business of my dreams; but this dream suddenly became a nightmare when an earthquake hit,” says Muhammad.

The earthquake disaster
Muhammad explains: “Suddenly, at 4 a.m., the night was filled with terrifying sounds as the ground shook. Within 15 seconds, our building had collapsed. I stepped out into the dark and freezing cold and looked around me: the street was covered in debris, with people desperately crying out for help from under the rubble. I couldn’t believe it; I thought I must be dreaming.

That day, I lost everything: my home, my company and my dear colleagues. Out of my 13 employees, only two survived. I cannot find the words to describe the horrors of that night, but it was worse than what we had experienced in Syria. My heart aches for my team and neighbours, their absence weighs heavily on me; may their souls rest in peace. The memories of the earthquake still haunt me to this day but I had no choice but to begin anew.”

Rising from the rubble
After three months of rough living, Muhammad’s dear friend offered him and his family a small apartment in Istanbul. Once he was in Istanbul, he reached out to a contact who owns a factory.

“He generously offered me a corner of their factory to start my business again. Now, I’m trying my best to move forward and rebuild,” he says. Pairing up with fresh graduate, Omar, together, they focus on finding new energy solutions for farmers in Antakya and other earthquake-affected cities. “We hope to contribute to the reconstruction of Antakya and the other affected cities. Our vision is to transform them into smart cities, powered by renewable energy sources like solar power. This way, they can generate electricity sustainably, creating modern, forward-thinking communities. We aspire to be an integral part of this rebuilding process.”