Yousif Al Halaaq has spent more than half of his life barbering, a trade he needed to put on hold for a few years after fleeing his home country of Iraq.
This month, he resumed cutting hair after landing a job at Sixth Street Barbers in Courtenay.
“He’s working out really well,” said Bob Turpin, who hired Yousif. “He’s very happy, and we’re happy that we’re able to give him work in his trade.”
Unlike other trades, barbers from other countries do not need to be licensed to work in Canada.
“The beauty industry has kind of deregulated itself,” Turpin said.
Yousif is a Palestinian Iraqi who, along with his wife Abitsim and seven children, fled Baghdad and spent more than three years at two United Nations camps between Iraq and Syria. The family now rents a house in Comox, thanks to the efforts of the Comox Valley Refugee Support Committee.
Yousif had owned a barbershop in Baghdad, where Palestinian Iraqis needed to carry identifying green cards. In an earlier interview, Yousif said when the war started in 2003 the Iraqi government started threatening Palestinians who did not leave the country. Muslim extremists would shoot barbers because they were shaving beards and cutting hair.
Yousif did not lose his touch with scissors and clippers while living at the camps. A couple of months ago, he demonstrated his skills by cutting his interpreter’s hair.
“Very quickly I knew he could cut hair,” said Turpin, who interviewed two other barbers along with Yousif. “At the end of the day he was the best barber.”
Yousif works Sunday to Wednesday afternoons after he and Abitsim attend morning English classes at North Island College. The routine can make for a fairly heavy work day at the barber shop when a steady flow of customers walk through the doors. He’s on his own on Sundays.
“We have customers who come over to him and shake his hand and welcome him to the Valley,” Turpin said.