‘I am the boy who runs, everywhere I hear guns’


Reason to cheer: Mohd Feroz (left) and Mohd Mwaffaq high-fiving each other after they won the top spots in the Migrant and Refugee Poetry Competition 2017.

Reason to cheer: Mohd Feroz (left) and Mohd Mwaffaq high-fiving each other after they won the top spots in the Migrant and Refugee Poetry Competition 2017.

KUALA LUMPUR: At just 11 years old, Rohingya refugee Mohd Feroz Said Alam knows more about outrunning death than many adults.

“I am the boy who runs ... everywhere I hear guns, guns, guns,” he wrote in his entry for the Migrant and Refugee Poetry Competition Malaysia 2017.

Held yesterday at HELP University in Bukit Damansara, the finals of the competition saw nine children and 14 adults competing.

Mohd Feroz, who drew on his father’s experiences of fleeing persecution in Myanmar for his poem The Runner, won first prize in the junior category for those aged 12 and under.

Writing about running past “mothers gripping their sons”, Mohd Feroz said he was sad that his father had to witness violence and run for his life.

“In my poem, I wanted to ask: Why is life so cruel? Not just for my father, but for all refugees,” he said after winning a trophy and certificate.

The winner in the adult category was Mohd Mwaffaq Alhajjar, 25, from Syria.

He took home a prize of RM300, plus a trophy and certificate.

A petroleum engineering graduate, Mohd Mwaffaq has been writing poetry since he was 12 and acting in theatre since he was 18.

Facing mandatory active military service upon graduation, Mohd Mwaffaq found that he could not bring himself to kill another human being.

“So, I left my home a year and a half ago.

“It’s been hard, mainly because I cannot work full-time,” he said.

He tutors part-time in Chemistry, Maths and basic English, and also teaches at a school for refugees.

Mohd Mwaffaq’s poem Asia was inspired by a beautiful girl he saw on the LRT, but it soon grew into a love letter to Malaysia itself.

“I ask if the country could embrace us ... and say thank you for the acceptance I have found,” he said.

In its third year in Malaysia, the Migrant and Refugee Poetry Com­petition drew 74 entries.

To read more about the poets and poems of the Migrant and Refugee Poetry Competition Malaysia 2017, check out Star2 tomorrow.