Filmmaker: Nasser Farghaly
Stories of Arab emigration often focus solely on refugees fleeing war and persecution. But this is only part of a much wider story. Over decades, millions of people from the Arab world have emigrated – some driven by conflict and persecution, others for economic and family reasons, settling in Europe, Australia, the Americas and Africa.
Al Jazeera World with a series of films titled Arabs Abroad sources emigration success stories from all parts of the world. While each documentary is different, common to all is the effort involved with migration as well as the connection between the diaspora and their Arab roots.
Dr Pedro Tobias is a Lebanese gynaecologist turned politician in Brazil. Tobias moved from France to Brazil in 1979 to work as a doctor in Bauru, a city northwest of Sao Paulo whose most famous son is legendary footballer Pele.
“I haven’t yet mastered the language like its native speakers,” Tobias says.
In addition to being breast cancer specialist, Tobias entered Brazilian politics not, he says, for personal gain but to build a new hospital for his adopted community.
“Being a doctor is my life. Anyone can become a politician but not everyone can operate on patients.”
Tobias has now built three hospitals and is a former regional president of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party. The film charts the choices he faces when supporting a candidate for Brazil’s highest office, choices with the potential to alter his life profoundly.
He was seeking specialist medical treatment for his baby son.
“I ended up in Norway by chance. When my youngest son was born he needed medical treatment that wasn’t available in Iraq. Doctors told me they couldn’t treat him and I had to find another way,” al-Kasim says.
Back in 1968, there were very few foreigners in Norway and he struggled to settle.
“Norway was like an island where people weren’t used to seeing foreigners in their country.”
But that changed dramatically with the discovery of vast North Sea oil reserves. Al-Kasim advised the Norwegians on how best to develop their natural resources and 40 years on, they have achieved what many countries have failed to do, using oil to create jobs in a blue-chip industry without damaging the environment. The documentary reveals how a softly spoken Iraqi geologist became a pivotal player in an oil boom that has delivered a trillion-dollar windfall for the people of Norway.
As a result, al-Kasim has a place in national history, honoured as a hero of Norway’s economic success.