Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Syrian Blogger, Seeking US Asylum, Still Tends Homeland

 'Once, Taofik Alhallak made his living interviewing Syrian artists, thinkers and doers, and scripting children’s shows for his television production company. Now, the 65-year-old huddles at his laptop in northern Virginia, an asylum-seeker chronicling the devastation of his homeland while trying to help save it. "Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children [are] out of school today," with civil war disrupting classes and leaving youngsters poorly educated and vulnerable, he blogged a few days ago for his website. He urged parents there to guard against overtures from the Islamic State group, saying, "Daesh … turns them [youths] into thugs."

 The website –, Arabic for "Positive Negative" – gives Alhallak a voice in Syria, one that he says the Assad government has repeatedly tried to silence. "Every article is about the revolution," explains his son, Urwa Alhallak. Most of the posts "are spreading awareness of how society could move into democracy."

 "I feel this little wall every time I meet with friends," says Urwa Alhallak, 35, who arrived in the United States in 2007 to study filmmaking. "I say I’m from Syria, there’s this silence.... I feel like inside they will think: 'Syrian? Maybe terrorist?' It’s not going to change easily." He and his parents describe themselves as secular Syrians. They remember Damascus as a diverse and tolerant capital city. "We have Muslims, Christians Jews, we always lived together. It’s a mix,” says the younger Alhallak. "My parents didn’t really care about money or the house. They want a free, strong Syria, and they didn't care if they lose everything for this cause." '

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