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17th Dec 2015

Hollywood star raises over £300k for the Syrian man who told his story to Humans of New York

Tony Cuddihy

One of the saddest stories in the history of Humans of New York.

A couple of weeks ago, Humans of New York – the massively popular Facebook photography page hosted by Brandon Stanton – told the story of a Syrian civil engineer looking to build a new life in America.

The man became known only as The Scientist – who also goes by the pseudonym Abu Ammar – found out that Oscar-nominated actor Edward Norton had started a fundraiser in his honour, having heard the story about how The Scientist’s wife and daughter were both killed by a bomb three years ago.

Norton managed to raise upwards of £3o0,000.

The Scientist has since been left to care for his five remaining children while he battles against stomach cancer, with his teenaged son still reeling from seeing his mother and sister die before his eyes.

“When a bomb drops you don’t know where it comes from,” The Scientist told NBC. “There is no question our lives changed after that … 180 degrees. I am mentally tired, in overwhelming sadness.”

His story also got the attention of United States President Barack Obama.

The Scientist – who can’t reveal his real name as he still has relations in Syria – and his family flew to Troy, Michigan to start their new life on Thursday, with the backing of the £300,000 raised by Norton.

“I’ve had ambitions since I was a child, and right now I’m still that same child with the same ambitions,” he said.

“But I still have a message — sometimes when I’m talking to myself I say, ‘No, I’m not supposed to die. I need to live long enough to realise my message to humanity.'”

Norton, meanwhile, has vowed to pay the man’s medical expenses.

BROOKLYN, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Actor Edward Norton visits East Flatbush Community Research School as White House's Turnaround Arts Program launches in New York with artists' help on September 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for NAMM)

“This man has suffered profound loss that would crush the spirit of many people and yet he still passionately wants a chance to contribute positively to the world,” Norton wrote.

On the demonisation of all Muslim people by Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, The Scientist was reticent.

“I don’t like to get into politics because I am a man of science, and I can separate science and politics completely,” he said.

“But as long as there are good people in the world, and everyone looks into his or her conscience, then we can stop this bloodshed.”