Thursday, 21 January 2016
Why Is It So Difficult for Syrian Refugees to Get Into the U.S.?
'The al-Haj Ali family comes from Khirbet Ghazaleh, a town of 16,000. It is 15 miles from Daraa, where the revolution against Assad began, in 2011, after his security forces arrested and tortured a group of students for writing antigovernment slogans.
The al-Haj Ali twins were only 13 at the time. They had nothing to do with the protests. Nor did anyone else in the immediate family. Although they listened to news reports of the Assad government’s ferocious attacks on civilians, they saw little indication, at first, of the violence around them. There was the odd black helicopter in the sky. And once, when Waseem was taking Azizeh to driving school, they watched a group of protesters carrying olive branches stream out of Daraa. Only later did they realize these were people fleeing a massacre by Assad’s forces.
Then the airstrikes began. Government security forces raided the family’s home dozens of times. Their cousins, who lived next door, were imprisoned and tortured. Still, the al-Haj Alis hung on; they adapted to living in a war zone, spending evenings in the dark. Then, one morning in August 2012, they learned from a television news report that Azizeh’s brother, a high-ranking official in Assad’s military, had defected overnight to Jordan. His family would most likely be punished, with death, in his stead. He hadn’t warned them. He couldn’t: His phone was bugged, and sending a message would only have further endangered them. The al-Haj Alis never slept at home again. Within days, they left Syria for Jordan by car. Azizeh feared they’d be unable to make it across the border and was even more terrified that the names of her family members would be on a blacklist and that they would be arrested. Mahmoud handed their keys to a neighbor whose house had been flattened by airstrikes. ‘‘If we’re not back by sunset,’’ he told her, ‘‘you can have our house.’’
If Ahmad and Mohamed had stayed in Syria, they might be dead by now — either killed by the Assad government’s barrel bombs or fallen among the young men who have joined up with the Free Syrian Army. When one of their friends or cousins fighting with the F.S.A. is killed, the boys study the photographs of his death, often posted on Facebook in tribute, with a mixture of envy and guilt.'