The Al Barmawys: Building Cross-Cultural Bridges

Posted on March 26, 2010

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Al Barmawy men

Al Barmawy men

By Naveed Ahmad, Alia Turki Al-Rabeo and Ruzanna Tantushyan

The Al Barmawys

Maath Al Barmawy makes a daily impact on the lives of as many people as an average person does in a lifetime.

Being a Syrian emigrant living in Pakistan Al Barmawy is working to open the same doors for his new countryman.  While he welcomes us to his estate breakfast table is already set. His big family greets us. The living room is spacious with large sofas to accommodate the Al Barmawys.

Photos of Maath Al Barmaway and his family In Pakistan.

Business

As the coffee arrived, strong and thick as it is in this part of the world, the conversation shifted to more pressing issues, business.

Al Barmawy, born and raised in Syria, moved to Pakistan to help his father with his business. He founded MYB

Maath Al Barmawy in action

International, an overseas employment agency, over 20 years ago. Al Barmawy and his firm recruit talent and place construction workers, farmhands, engineers, and manufacturers with employers all over the world. His recruiting agency takes care of the visa application processes and makes sure their candidates receive dignifying compensation.

“One Pakistani does the work of three people on his own,” says Al Barmawy. “That is why Pakistani workforce is welcomed in emerging and growing economies alike,” he says as he lights up a new cigarette with the tip of the one still burning.

In addition to the demand for hardworking Pakistanis, certain socio-economic and safet

y issues contribute to the decision of many to leave their homeland.

The unemployment rate is rising with each year, currently at 7.4% and so does the percentage of people living under the poverty line, at 30% now, up from 18 % in 2007.

Terrorist attacks add to the rising number of emigrants.   The US State Department’s annual terrorism report says that there were 1,839 terrorist “incidents” in 2008, compared with 890 in 2007.  Despite these negative trends the reality is not so somber.  Pakistanis working overseas contribute approximately $7bn annually in remittances.  Last year Pakistan’s GDP was 168bn in USD terms, which means remittances comprise 4% of the country’s GDP.

“I was placed to work six years ago and my standard of life has changed for the better,” says Anwar Yuosafzai from Peshawar City in northwestern Pakistan whom MBY International placed with an electronic devises manufacturer in South Korea.  “I was able to afford to have weddings for my two sisters and help my brother open a grocery store,“ he says while handling dates and sweets and a cellular phone he brought for Al Barmawy as a token of gratitude.

Maath shares that he intends to sign an agreement with several EU member countries. He didn’t disclose exact dates, company names or courtiers he is partnering.

For Al Barmawy his business seems to be more than just about the bottom line. He says he has a mission.

“We would bring a new boost to Pakistani human resource (outsourcing) while helping improve the nation’s image as hard working and skillful people,” he says in fluent Urdu, national language of the country.

His Wives: Aisha and Misoun

Aisha Khan and Misoun, both beautiful and eloquent are Maath al Barmawy’s two wives. Yes, Syrian and Pakistani laws allows polygamy. However, Syrian Code of Personal Status makes sure the husband is financially able to support his wives.  In addition to that, according to Syrian traditions the first wife has to give her agreement for her husband to take a second wife. Al Barmawy satisfied both criteria.

“It was an arranged marriage,” says Misoun abruptly with the wisdom of an experienced lady in her tone.   Born

Misoun Al Barmawy

and raised in Syria, Misoun, then 16, married her cousin, Maath Al Barmawy and moved to Karachi, Pakistan in 1987.

“It was a new place for me. I was very young and was with my husband and that was just okay for us,” says Misoun in English. She is young and beautiful. Her dark hijab highlights her big and expressive eyes.

“Through the books, we knew about Pakistan but without many details at all,” says Misoun.

Misoun enjoys her life in Pakistan. The local markets with rich spices, beautiful dresses and the view on ocean all attract her. However, no one is immune to the fear of the attacks.

“Sometimes now I feel insecure because of recent conditions and uncertainty . . . Sometimes I feel that I should go from here with my children . . . Then I realize that I have memories here . . . It is impossible for me to leave Pakistan,“ she concludes with some sadness in her voice and eyes. It seems the love for her newly adopted home has overtaken any fear.

See photos of Misoun’s and Maath’s families in Syria.

Aisha Khan, Al Barmawy’s second wife, if very different from Misoun yet equally shares the

affection for Pakistan and Al Barmawy. They met in Pakistan and fell in love.

Aisha Khan

Her hair styled in a modern European flair Aisha represents the west.  Chocolate donuts are customary on her breakfast table. Aisha’s mother was English women while her father was a Yousafzai pashtun from Northwest of Pakistan. Born in England, raised in Germany and Belgium Aisha gave up her German citizenship to obtain Dutch

instead.

Because of her diverse background Aisha brings not only alternative looks and views to this household but also an assorted bouquet of languages.

“Maath, me and my son interact at home in different languages such as German, Arabic, Flemish, Dutch, English and Urdu. Maath speaks excellent Urdu,” she says proudly.

The Promise of the Future

Brick by brick Al Barmawy builds invisible bridges of cooperation by placing Pakistan’s hardworking people in companies overseas.  His two wives with multicultural backgrounds and forward looking sons may change the overall perception of an average Pakistani / Syrians.

Future

Aisha’s European touch, Misoun’s Syrian roots and the embraced characteristics of their

newly adopted home, Pakistan, testifies to the multicultural nature of modern day Pakistan and perhaps the entire Middle East.

As we leave the Al Barmawy estate their countryman Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, a Pakistani official who has the powers of finance minister, is in Washington pushing for access to western markets. Perhaps a new avenue for cooperation is on the horizon.

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