Omar Alshogre's remarkable journey to BCG via a Syrian prison

14 March 2019 Consultancy-me.com

Omar Alshogre works as business analyst at BCG in Sweden, but his path to the global consultancy wasn’t via an MBA.

Under the education section of his LinkedIn profile, Omar Alshogre lists Sednaya University. Sednaya, he explains in the following line, is a prison – literally, a notorious military prison outside of Damascus in Syria, noted for its brutal conditions, barbaric regime of torture, and extrajudicial mass executions. “Our time in the cramped cells was endless,” writes Alshogre, on LinkedIn. “We were not allowed to speak.”

“But we could whisper,” he continues. “In silence, we began to teach each other. Doctors shared knowledge on medicine. Lawyers described legislature. Someone knew smatterings of English. We formed a university of whispers.” That was a little over four years ago, and today, Alshogre is employed as a junior business analyst with Boston Consulting Group in Sweden – marking another step in a truly remarkable life journey.

Still just 23, the catalogue of horrors Alshogre has endured and witnessed in his short life are almost too unbearable to imagine. Perversely, he could also be considered one of the lucky ones, among the many tens of thousands of murdered and missing Syrian detainees – his mother able to secure his release through a bribe upon learning he was still alive. He weighed just 34 kilograms. His father and two of his brothers had been executed while he was in prison.

Three years earlier, during the Arab Spring of 2011, Alshogre had as a teenager joined the demonstrations in his home village, earning his first taste of detention. Shortly after, while still in high school, he was arrested along with his cousins once again, this time marking the start of a harrowing three year ordeal. “We were tortured, our nails were pulled out, we were hung up in the ceilings and electrocuted and mutilated.” That, the sanitised version, was just the initiation. His two cousins wouldn’t survive.Omar Alshogre - BCG Upon his unlikely release, and while still suffering from untreated tuberculosis, Alshogre’s mother arranged passage for Omar and his eleven year-old brother to Greece, during the 2015 European refugee crisis. “You’re going to go in a rubber boat with lots of people who die on the way,” his mother told Alshogre, when he had envisioned himself sunbathing on the deck of a cruise-liner. His first job in Sweden would be selling ice-creams at an amusement park.

Today, Alshogre attends a genuine university, and following a five month internship has for the past four months been employed as an analyst with BCG, where he has given talks in his adopted Swedish on diversity and trauma as a driving force. The organisation itself is not entirely unfamiliar with the atrocities in Syria, having worked on the ground in Jordan in partnership with the UN’s World Food Program to implement aid initiatives for displaced refugees.

In addition to his work with BCG, which he describes as a very good opportunity, Alshogre has become a noted public speaker, giving motivational talks and lectures around the world for both public and private entities (having also picked up Norwegian to add to his Arabic, Swedish and English-language skills). “I see it as my mission to bear witness to not only the atrocities of the Syrian war, but also the optimism and will to life that has by necessity stemmed from it.”

The French philosopher and essayists Michel de Montaigne once wrote that whether the events in our lives can be considered either good or bad greatly depends on the way we perceive them. Omar Alshogre, many might reasonably think, takes this notion to an extreme: “This prison was a prison, but it was also the best experience in my life. This prison has changed my entire life, a life that today makes me happy!” It’s difficult not to be inspired by this impressive young man.