A Syrian dentist who fled the war-torn country to start a new life in Lisburn will be buried in Belfast today after being killed in a road traffic accident.
Father-of-four Mohamed Mahfouz Balid, 47, was cycling to work on Wednesday when he was involved in a fatal collision with a lorry at around 2.25pm on the Knockmore Road in Lisburn.
Today there will be a prayer ceremony for him at the Belfast Islamic Centre after which his burial will take place in the city.
“He was a qualified dentist in Syria but had to do further training and sit exams to be able to practise in Northern Ireland,” said family friend Dr Raied Al-Wazzan.
“But he did not want to be a burden on the state and apply for benefits so he took up a factory job and was using a bike to get to work to save as much money as possible.”
His wife, Abir, has British and Irish passports, he said, as her mother is from Northern Ireland.
Mr Balid and his wife brought their four children back to Northern Ireland last year to escape the civil war there.
“The children picked up English very quickly and were well integrated into the community as their grandmother and other relatives are from Northern Ireland.
“Their eldest child is at university while the youngest has just started primary school, one is studying GCSEs and the last is aged around 13.
“The children are really devastated, as you can imagine. To escape all that war in Syria and then to die like this in Northern Ireland – words cannot describe what they are feeling,” he said.
Mr Balid was due to complete his dental examination in May and hoped to be certified and practising by July.
He recently spoke about the horrors they fled in Syria.
“I told my wife because she has a foreign passport to go there and find safety for my children – anything, I told her – I’m ready to pay everything I have because there is no future in Syria within this war,” he told the BBC.
He said his family had left their native country because “there is no future in Syria within this war. No schools, no safe roads, no electricity, no drinking water, even the universities are broken.”
Mr Balid said he had found work in a local factory that makes window blinds because: “I find it good for me to busy myself – not stay at home, and to save some money for that exam.”