Refugees Within The US Share Their Personal Stories
While Germany took in almost one million asylum-seekers in 2015--an estimated half of them from Syria--the United States has planned to take in around 10,000, and even this small number is continued to be fought over.
This article tells different refugee stories from Syrians who left their home country in the last years and found a new home in the United States. In their personal stories, you can learn about their dreams and why they decided to leave, as well as their experiences with and attachment to the U.S.
"When I left Syria, Assad was gripping on every aspect in our life. You could only breathe as much as he allowed you to. Syria is a place where people are known to disappear just because of a joke they may have told about the ruling regime.
I came to the United States to pursue a better education in the medical field, and being here for the first time I was able to experience the right to freedom of speech. The very opposite of the awful, heavy feeling I experienced in Syria. The feeling of someone watching my thoughts, and being ready to imprison and torture me, just because I may say something he wouldn't like.
When the Arab Spring came, it gave me hope. I went to a rally in Washington DC (seven hours away from where I live in Cleveland). It was the first time I spoke without fear against Assad.
After a few days passed, the hope we'd had gave way to a nightmare. Nothing is more terrifying for an ex-Muslim than Islamism. The Islamists are pretty much as criminal as Assad. Once they've got you, your fate is sealed.
Your hopes will fade, vanish, and die a fast death.
Now, I'm here in the United States, in a country that's given me a chance to get. I got my dream job in medical research, where I can help more people and add knowledge to humanity. Were I in Syria, in one of the areas held by Assad, I'd be arrested and tortured. And if I were to survive I'd be drafted into Assad's army. Or, I'd be in areas where Islamic militants control every aspect of life. If they were to figure out I'm not a Muslim anymore, I would be killed. In Syria, these were my choices.
That's why I am glad I came to the United States, where the people of Ohio were awesome to me. They treated me nicely and they treated other Syrian refugees nicely as well."
Bilal Z., Ohio .............................
"My name is Lenah. Originally, I'm from Damascus, Syria and now I live in Texas, as a US resident. I have a bachelor's degree in computer science.
I fled Syria after the turmoil started, because of the Assad regime's brutal reaction to the peaceful movement toward democracy in the country, and because of what came next: the radical groups who used this period to enter Syria, which made the situation worse for peace-loving activists and civilians.
I fled Syria in 2013 because I feared for my life, and so headed to the U.S. where I applied for asylum when I arrived. The security check process, which usually takes six months, instead took two years. I was eventually granted asylum in early 2015.
I'm now a Syrian refugee in Texas who has a good job in a large enterprise as a System Engineer. Now I have all the rights that allow me to live a much more normal life, and that makes me more "at home" in my new home.
Even though I am a US resident I still have a few fears; maybe some of the same fears as you have. I lived with the worst of these fears in my home country and they are why I fled. And now that I live in the US, I fear any threat to peace for The United States is a threat to my life."
Lenah B., Texas
"The war in Syria in the summer of 2013 continued, but events were unfolding that would change the trajectory of my life forever. A small group of people at Illinois Institute of Technology and the Institute of International Education were working to support university students, like me, whose higher education was halted by conflict.
A life-changing scholarship was given to me by Illinois Institute of Technology offering me the opportunity I needed to finish my education in United States of America.
After leaving Syria for Egypt in 2012, my university and professional future seemed bleak. I was in my 4th year in Damascus University when I left Damascus, and due to the political circumstances in Egypt, it was hard for advanced undergraduate students from Syria to simply transfer to an Egyptian university.
For me, this struggle and disappointment would end months later. The course of my future was altered when I received the best email in my life (so far). It came from Illinois Institute of Technology and congratulated me on being accepted into their program to support higher education in Syria, and offered me the chance to continue my education in Chicago.
The support that I received upon my arrival to United States was amazing. Everybody seemed so welcoming, starting from the staff at Illinois Institute of Technology and ending with our American and international friends.
The incredible life transformation I had during the past two and half years is just astounding. I was in a place where I left my country at my 4th year with no plans. And two years later I am a Project Engineer at TERRA Engineering and am now doing a pre-MBA program at Harvard Business School. Living in the United States for more than two years has been the best experience I have had in my life; these days have taught me a great deal which I will carry forward. Along the way, I've learned several important lessons:
- Always dream big
- Work hard
- Expect the unexpected
- Be open to possibilities
- Never forget the past or current circumstances of home
- Start from where you are
- Initiate specific actions for change
- Remember that we are all peacemakers
- We shall return and rebuild our cities and Syria
All I maintained wouldn't have been possible without the good heartedness and the hard work of my American friends who helped me to change my life forever. There are people like me among the Syrian people who are victims of terrorist groups like ISIL and others. They are just looking and waiting for the right opportunity to demonstrate their full potentials as successful citizens of humanity.
God bless America for being the land where people have a chance to have their dreams come true with hard work and determination."
Suhaib I., Illinois
These stories have been collected by Ahed Al Hendi and have been told by the refugees themselves. These stories have been edited for clarity.
Crowdsourcing the struggle for human rights. Be part of the solution at Movements.org.