STOCKHOLM – A 12-year-old Syrian boy is hoping for an audience with Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf after describing his family's perilous journey to the Nordic country in a moving letter to the figurehead monarch.
The royal palace confirmed Tuesday that the king had received the letter from Ahmed, whose mother asked that his surname not be published because he's a minor. The family is still waiting to hear whether it will be granted refugee status.
Ahmed wrote that his family lived happily in Aleppo, Syria, "until the war started with the sound of missiles, shooting and terror."
He described their escape to Greece in a "rubber boat" amid the cries of children and how his "heart was crushed" when he saw the tears of his mother.
"I wanted to talk about my journey from Syria to Sweden," Ahmed told The Associated Press. "And I wanted to talk to him about Swedish people. I like the Swedish people very much."
Ahmed wrote the letter in Arabic. Pooja Sharafi, a 29-year-old counsellor at the school in Malmo where Ahmed is enrolled, helped him get it translated into Swedish.
"I was very moved when I read it," said Sharafi, whose parents fled to Sweden as refugees from Iran. He also posted the letter on Facebook.
Royal palace spokesman Daniel Urso said the king replied on Feb. 11 but declined to disclose the details, saying it was a "private matter."
However, Ahmed, his mother and Sharafi said none of them had seen a reply. The reason for the discrepancy wasn't immediately clear.
Ahmed said he hopes to meet the king, who he had heard "is very kind to his people."
In the letter, the boy said he even brought new clothes from Syria to wear in case he's able to meet the monarch.
Ahmed said he is thankful that the family has found shelter in Sweden, one of the top destinations for asylum-seekers in Europe, and that he wants to repay the country when he grows up.
"I want to be doctor in Sweden, big doctor," he told AP. "I want to do something very good to Swedish people because they gave me a beautiful place."
Jan M. Olsen reported from Copenhagen, Denmark.