A CELEBRATION of ‘love, sisterhood and unity’ saw an Oxford community come together to share a delicious spread of Syrian food.

Rose Hill Community Centre was filled with traditional dishes and tempting scents for the Summer Syrian Banquet, cooked by a group of Syrian refugee women living in Oxford called the Syrian Sisters.

The vegetarian feast on Friday was co-organised by the group alongside STAR Oxford (Student Action for Refugees) and city councillor Shaista Aziz, to coincide with National Refugee Week.

Former aid worker Ms Aziz said she was ‘proud’ of her home city of Oxford and the support Oxford City Council offers to refugees.

She added: “We are small in size but we as a city have made refugees welcome as we should.

“The Syrian Sisters is so important - it offers Syrian women and children an opportunity to come together and share their stories, hopes and fears.

“I am always struck by the love, sisterhood and unity amongst the group - it is impossible not to be impacted by the warmth and laughter in the room.”

The Syrian Sisters helps to support and integrate other Syrian families who settle in the city.

Founder Nuha Abdo, who moved to the UK two years ago, said: "Arriving in the UK and Oxford as a refugee wasn’t easy. At times it was overwhelming and isolating.

"Oxford has treated us with kindness and I feel welcome here.

"When we cook it reminds us of our home and beautiful country."

She said the community centre, where the group meets, has been 'very supportive'.

The banquet was funded by a £1,000 grant from Santander, given to STAR Oxford to match £1,000 of its own fundraising donations.

A STAR Oxford student said of the Syrian Sisters: “We were really inspired by their resilience and resourcefulness and happy to use our funds to support this event.

“The lunch was a lovely opportunity to meet members of the Syrian Sisters group, their families, fellow students, and other people who are involved in the refugee community, or those simply interested in tasting some Syrian food."

Comedian Ms Aziz, councillor for Rose Hill and Iffley, spent more than 15 years working with women and girls seeking refuge.

She said she worked and travelled across the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Syria and met people 'forced to flee for their lives'.

Earlier this month Ms Aziz volunteered with Oxfordshire Refugee Solidarity in Calais.

She said: “I spoke to unaccompanied minors as young as 13-years-old, who said they had fled terrorism and persecution."

Ms Aziz said women refugees are often isolated as they are expected to be ‘the glue that holds families and communities together’.

The Labour councillor added: “I have meet women refugees trying to process the trauma of their journeys to safety. They have to start their lives again.”

The banquet raised more than £300 for the Syrian Sisters.