A respected and highly decorated businessman has opened up about the horrific racism that he and his family faced growing up in the North East.

Tyneside entrepreneur Ammar Mirza has laid bare the issues of racism growing up in Newcastle - highlighting that he would be targeted by racial slurs when he was as young as five years old and having dogs set on him by some residents around him.

Mr Mirza was appointed a CBE in 2014 for outstanding services to business and the community, but on the PRsonal podcast, he said that as a boy living in poverty in the city’s West End, skinheads would chase him with an Alsatian whilst his family was subjected to vile racist slurs.

“Some of my earliest memories were of my parents having a gazillion bolts on our front door – there was literally a metal bar that went across the front door and there were bolts from top to bottom,” recalled Mr Mirza, who likened the family home to “Fort Knox”.

The Northern Echo: Ammar MirzaAmmar Mirza (Image: PRSONAL PODCAST)

“We experienced drunken individuals shouting abuse on a Friday and Saturday night, and this was when I’m under five – people would say ‘P**** go home.

“It didn’t happen all of the time but it happened.”

Having been raised in Beaconsfield Street, in Arthur’s Hill, Ammar would become one of the West End’s great success stories and has received scores of accolades for his efforts in supporting and promoting trade throughout the UK.

In 2019 he was named British Asian Entrepreneur of the Year.

As an angel investor and organisational growth expert, he’s also helped to establish thousands of businesses globally.

Currently, he’s working on the Inclusion by Default Campaign, which aims to help make the North East and Tees Valley the most inclusive UK region by the end of 2025.

Yet on the show, produced by the North East PR agency Harvey & Hugo, Mr Mirza admitted that growing up in an Asian household during the 70s and 80s posed a challenge.

“There were a couple of individuals who lived on the estate opposite, in Stanhope Street, who had an Alsatian and they would regularly set the dog on us,” he recalled.

“I remember walking through Leazes Park with my elder brother and having to climb us trees (to escape from the dog.

“I’ve always experienced racism but more recently, it has been bias. But it does still happen today, it just isn’t as prevalent.”

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On the show, he discussed his sadness at his late parents not being able to see him receive many of his accolades, as well as his charity work and having a premature baby.

However, he also told host Charlotte Nichols that just last year, he was mistaken at the civic event for Habib Rahman, Newcastle’s first-ever non-white Lord Mayor – and that despite his successful career, he still encounters unconscious bias today.

“Even working with colleagues on certain projects, as soon as there are two Asian individuals involved, they’ll regularly call me their name.

“That isn’t racism, but it is that unconscious bias that exists that there can’t be two Asian people in that role.” Despite this Ammar still believes the North East to be the best region in the world and is on a mission to help make it better.

The full episode can be watched here.